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University President: Faculty Convocation Address - August 2006
Welcome back to The Bluff and to the beginning of a new academic year on the campus. I hope all of you had a great summer and that you return renewed and excited about the year that awaits us. As I was walking around the campus last week it struck me how it almost suddenly comes awake after a period of hibernation for a couple of months. While there were a number of things occurring on the campus this summer, it is not the same without a full cadre of students and faculty and the life and vitality that attends the start of a new academic year. More than any other profession, academia has a specific rhythm throughout the year. When I was teaching I was always grateful for the beginning of summer and the departure of the students. But, I was always even more excited to see them return and to see the campus come alive again with the enthusiasm and life that young men and women preparing to assume their place in our world bring.
We welcome 205 faculty to the campus this fall, the largest number ever. But, we also recognize that there are some empty seats among us. We are missing Pat Chadwick, who had attended this annual opening convocation for the past 40 years. I would ask that we pause in a moment of silent prayer to remember this very special woman and all that she did for the University.
We are also missing our friend and spiritual mentor, Fr. Ed Obermiller, who has left to become the Director of the Office of Vocations for Holy Cross. Our dean of the library, Rich Hines also retired after many years of dedicated service to the University.
But we have also added some new faces: Jason McDonald, new dean of admissions and Drew Harrington, dean of the library. In addition, we have filled a number of openings in the alumni and development offices, and are interviewing the finalists for the position of Director of Public Relations, Marketing and Communications.
It has been four months since were last together at the Faculty Awards Dinner in May. Since then, even though it was the summer when things are supposed to quiet down, we have all been very busy. (Whoever said summer was “downtime” at the University was crazy!) Many of you stayed close to home. We had a robust summer session on The Bluff. 220 classes were offered and we had over 850 students on the campus. Many others traveled to teach and do research – 111 of our students studies overseas this summer in the programs that we offered. And I thank the faculty who have been a part of these very special summer opportunities for our students.
I traveled myself with some other UP officers to the Baltic Sea to host 47 friends and benefactors of the University on a cruise that took us to
Summary of past few months:
While all of us were about our summer business, either here on campus or elsewhere, a number of things were taking place here on the campus. I would like to take a few minutes to share with you some of the things that have been done to get ready for your return and the beginning of the academic year.
The Events Office coordinated and hosted over 7,300 visitors to campus this summer for conferences, workshops and campus, plus tens of thousands for 14 high school graduations.
Information Services successfully completed the largest network upgrade in the history of the University. Termed the “forklift upgrade,” the project involved overhauling a network that had become outdated, hard to update, difficult and costly to manage, not sufficiently reliable, and not properly secured. The project affected 31 buildings on campus and was completed in less than three months with (while frustrating at times) minimal interruptions. Projects of this size and magnitude normally take over a year to accomplish. To give you some idea of the magnitude of this project – more than 200 network components were removed from the campus, 18 pallets were recycled with some equipment dating back to the 1950’s and 1960’s. Thousands of pounds of old cabling were removed by the IS staff. As part of the project IS consolidated the engineering network with the campus network and rewired the entire engineering building,
Physical Plant was involved in a number of capital projects including: the expansion of the Chiles Center to build new women’s locker rooms for soccer, basketball and volleyball; moving the Events Office from the Chiles Center to a house purchased by the University; re-roofing of Engineering Building, St. Mary’s, Old Science Hall, and the Library; plus the usual numerous summer projects such as repaving, re-carpeting, painting, etc.
Fund Raising – The Development Office reported that there were more than 500 President’s Club members for the first time in the University’s history; a $1 million charitable gift annuity was procured; six major grants totaling almost $2 million were awarded to the University and our faculty:
Swindells Foundation $100,000
Meyer Memorial Trust $300,000
Helene Fuld Health Trust $550,000
National Science Fdn. (2) $510,000
In addition, we are making good progress in working with prospective major donors to the University – people who love UP and who have enjoyed their involvement in the University over the years, as well as people who are being introduced or re-introduced to the campus after a long hiatus.
Update and report on the tactical plans developed by the individual departments on the campus – as you are aware a program was developed to enable progress on these reports to be communicated online. There were 344 expected outcomes, 54 have been fully met, and 280 are in progress.
Admissions – If you followed the admissions picture across the country last year, you recognize that it was kind of crazy out there. Like most schools, we struggled to make sense of our admissions applications. Obviously, we were excited by the more than doubling of our applications to 6400. What was the yield going to be? How many students would accept our offer of admissions for this freshman class? The final tally is in and we basically hit the number we projected in the budget for this year’s freshman class: 730 freshmen, new record GPA (3.67); second highest SAT (1181). Looking forward to next year and beyond, with what we learned this year about yield, etc., we project continued records numbers of applications, an academically stronger admissions pool than ever before, and the opportunity to address some imbalances in the makeup of our freshman class and student body overall.
Negotiations for the purchase of the riverfront property continue. These are complex and often frustrating negotiations involving, the city, state government, federal government and the current owner of the property. But, good progress is being made and we expect to be able to close on this deal in the next six months.
A Look Ahead 5-10 Years:
It has been an exciting few months. Now I would like to turn to next year and the five to then years beyond that and give some reflections about what I believe the future will be like.
First of all, we all know that, by its nature, a University should always be changing. To maintain the status quo on a college campus today is to fall behind. However, if we are to be true to what we are, to our mission, the
When we talk about what we want to do, or what we want to become, we must always begin with our
We are a Catholic university and we focus on the teaching of undergraduates with limited but strong graduate programs. Part of the education we provide is an education of character, and so in addition to the teaching of the arts, sciences, humanities, and certain professional programs, we are concerned about issues of justice and ethical behavior and service to God and neighbor. In the tradition of Holy Cross from the time of our arrival in the
And you, the faculty, are the central agents of that mission. It is why you chose to come to the
And what of our vision? I hear that from time to time – what is our vision? Our vision is what we want to become, what we aspire to be. The vision for the University of Portland was first expressed by Archbishop Christie and Father Zahm 105 years ago when they founded this place: to be the best school of our kind in the West. You have heard that over and over again during your time here. Like our
Our current Strategic Plan was developed three years ago. Have you read it recently? It is not very long, and I commend it to you. One of the great phrases in that Plan is this one:
“If the University is essentially expressed in its programs, then the central image of this purpose is seen in the faculty member leading the students in the learning process.”
The faculty leading the students in the learning process. That is a great image, and it captures the unchanging essence of our vision. And it is something we do together, faculty, staff and students, in an educational community, working together, partners in this great endeavor we call the
However, some of the things we do to achieve that vision will change from year to year. The achievement of the Tactical Plans, for example, which I mentioned earlier, are one of the ways we will become the best school of our kind in the West – and those plans, of necessity, will change over time.
As we developed our Tactical Plans over the past few years, we identified most of our needs and one way or another to prioritize them (including the day long sessions at the
First, additional endowed professorships. Last year we announced the first two Tyson Professors – Mike Snow and Lou Masson – who would receive additional support through an endowed fund. As we said then, this was just the beginning. These professorships provide great incentive and encouragement and support to some of the finest members of our faculty. The faculty member leading students in the learning process is essential to both our
Second, the library. As you may know, we have in place a fund of $3.5 million established a few years ago for the renovation of the Wilson Clark Library. Several months ago, a member of our Board of Regents, Brad Parberry, added a $1 million pledge to that fund. We are well on the way to raising the money for the full funding for that vital project.
In June, Drew Harrington joined us as our new librarian. She has had extensive experience in building and renovating libraries during her career. So, I am appointing a task force, chaired by Drew, to review the extensive research that Rich Hines did in the past few years and to put forth by next spring a plan and recommendation regarding the library. At the same time, I have asked the Development staff to make the library the capital project that is a high priority.
Third, Engineering Hall. We have made great progress in identifying benefactors who could help us renovate and add on to the engineering building, and our architects have developed detailed plans for the project. In addition, the potential purchase of the riverfront property could have an impact on this facility as we would likely eventually convert the current Physical Plant building to engineering laboratories if the purchase of the property is completed. As you know, benefactors do not always have the same timetable as we do. So we will continue to explore possible partnerships with our great friends and supporters, as well as corporations and foundations, to move this project closer to completion. It is also among our highest priorities.
Fourth, a new recreational center. During the tactical planning process, this was identified by you and by the Board as among the most important projects we could undertake. Certainly, our admissions staff has said a new recreation center is crucial if we are to remain competitive in our recruiting efforts. In addition, it plays a role in the retention of our students once they arrive on the campus. If we are serious about offering a complete education – mind and heart, body and spirit – then we must provide the facilities for our students (and our faculty and staff) to develop lifelong habits of good health. We have identified potential benefactors, and we are moving forward. But, this is an expensive project that will need additional time to develop.
Fifth, the purchase of the riverfront property. I have mentioned earlier the amount of time and effort that is being expended on this project, especially by Roy Heynderickx. Those of you who have followed this project for the past few years know that it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the University. It was among the highest priorities identified by the Tactical Planning process and it has the potential to change the University, and to secure it for at least the next 100 years. We will continue to work diligently to complete the purchase of this property over the next few months.
As you all know, our financial needs are many and large, and many of the greatest ones are expressed in bricks and mortar. But, we will continue to focus many of our fund-raising efforts on grants to fund academic programs and projects, scholarship endowments, endowments for additional chaired professorships, and endowments that will assure the financial future of this University and to help relieve the stress on tuition and the operating budget.
Yes, we have economic stresses at UP (not unlike those faced by most universities in the country). We must plan for the future looking at such factors as size of the student body, needed facilities, faculty size, infrastructure and support systems, control of costs and the ability to generate the revenue needed to support our dreams and aspirations. But, we must not let economic and market forces divert our attention and commitment from our lasting values:
The faculty member leading the student in the learning process.
Character and spiritual development.
Education of the mind and heart – preparing students not just to earn a living but to live a productive and fulfilling life.
Concerns for issues of justice and ethical behavior.
Service to God and neighbor.
If we are to be the University that is the standards for Catholic teaching universities here and elsewhere, then we will do it by emphasizing these things. But, we must first and foremost be a strong and vibrant university.
And we will be what we want to be by looking to you, the faculty, to set the example and to lead the way. We will accomplish this together.
Welcome back, again, all of you. May the Spirit fill you and guide you throughout the coming year, and may your days be rich and rewarding. Thank you for all that you do for UP!