University President: State of University of Portland - April 2011
Good to see you all here today. It’s always great to see familiar faces and to make new friends. Whether I know you or not, though, you are here today because you believe what we believe at the University and that makes us all part of the same extended family.
We have a few very special friends with us today. These are people who serve with me on our board and I hope you’ll seek them out and thank them for all they are doing for the University.
As you can tell from that video, we’ve been very busy out on The Bluff since the last time we all met here at the MAC. We’ve had Nobel winners visit the campus, built new residence halls, finished a new engineering building, restored a science hall, built a new Commons and a bell tower, received a top rating for the number of Fulbright scholars we’ve sent abroad, gotten a top rating for the number of alums who are Peace Corps volunteers, been ranked in the top echelon of Catholic universities, and the list goes on.
But let me take a few minutes to tell you about a couple of things we couldn’t fit into a five minute video.
We are financially sound. We all know the economic downturn took a horrible toll. Yet in spite of the dire financial conditions all around us, and with a few prudent adjustments, our budget has held steady and stayed in the black. In the last few year we’ve had more construction on campus than at any other time in our history. We’ve brought faculty salaries in the College of Arts and Sciences in line with our peer institutions. And best of all, we’ve been able to provide almost $50 million a year in institutional financial aid to our students.
Applications for admission and enrollment have set new records! Just last month we went over 12,000 applications for next year’s freshman class. That’s 12,000 applications for 830 seats! Young people are clamoring to be our students.
The percentage of our freshman class who return as sophomores jumped 5 percent -- from 85 percent to 90 percent in one year! The national average for retention of freshmen is 70 percent!
In 2004, we identified 11 challenges as our highest priority. Seven years later, we have completed nine! These were things like the expansion of our engineering facilities and our dining commons, the addition of new residence halls and increased financial aid.
The simple truth is that we have shown that we can establish objectives crucial to our mission and secure the funds with which to achieve them. That’s something I know all of you can really appreciate because this is the way that great businesses and institutions are built.
This sense of financial empowerment and our growing mastery of our enrollment has created an institutional self-confidence unlike any we have ever known.
We have the luxury and rich blessing to be working right now from a position of great strength. Our challenge is to build on that strength and elevate our work, and the University, to a new level of distinction. And this is not a pipe dream. If you remember only one thing from my remarks today, remember this: We now have the rare opportunity to shape our own destiny.
Here’s an important bit of information. There are about 230 Catholic colleges and universities in the
So, this is what we have been doing out on the campus.
But today what I really want to remind you about is: why. Why do we work so hard to find students who will truly benefit from four years at UP? Why do we put so much time and energy into major national conferences on water and food and sustainability? Why have we developed a top-rated health sciences program? Why have we launched the most ambitious fund raising campaign of any private college in the Northwest?
These are questions that are easy to answer.
We do it because of Rachel Pruzynski and Molly Hightower, who were mentioned in the video. And we do it because of Bob Maloney and Paul Steaheli and Tamara Faris and Katie Scally, who we are going to honor in just a few minutes.
Bob is involved in many, many things and one of them is Boise-Eliot Elementary School, a low-income school here in Portland. Every year he adopts a third grade class and provides meals, holiday gifts, fundraising assistance, and mentoring. He’s been doing this for 15 years, without fanfare or attention, and over those 15 years those students’ test scores have gone from the 33rd percentile in third grade to the 98th percentile in fifth grade.
Paul has devoted his life to serving us – you and me and all the other people who live in this country. He’s an airborne ranger in the Army and he’s been decorated with a chest full of honors, including the Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and he has served two tours of duty in Iraq.
During college, Tamara read that if children do not get help in dealing with loss and grief they often have delayed emotional and spiritual development. So she organized teams of volunteers around Portland into “Memory Book Clubs” and they created Memory Books that Tamara ships to orphanages in Africa. Last year alone she sent 7600 books.
Katie is a senior this year but she has already done service work in Nicaragua, coached the Special Olympics, and served as an intern in several government offices. She’s going to spend time with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after she graduates next month.
This is why we do what we do -- because of the hundreds of young men and women just like Bob and Paul and Tamara and Katie who graduate from the University every May. We relentlessly pursue excellence at the
The buildings and the conferences and the distinguished visitors are the means to an end for us. But the end, the entire purpose of the University, is to teach our students as Pope John Paul II said: to think rigorously so they will act rightly and serve humanity better. Our mission is to help our students understand that they can make a difference in the world, and then to give them the skills they need to do just that.
The president of a prestigious university recently proudly proclaimed that his faculty only taught facts, nothing else. We are different than that at UP. Moral neutrality is not something to which we aspire. Can you imagine what the world would be like without Bob and Paul and Tamara and Katie and the thousands of UP students and alums like them? It would be a much poorer and sadder place.
A gathering like this one today is incredibly important because it’s a time to celebrate and honor the University’s saints and heroes. But the people we recognize today are only a handful of the thousands of our alums who bring character and moral imagination to their lives every single day. This was the reason the University was founded, and our mission is as clear and pure today as it was 110 years ago.
There were about a dozen people who believed in us a century ago and gave the money to make it possible for us to educate and form young men and women. All of you are here today because you believe, too. You believe that quality matters more than quantity.
You believe that what UP does matters.
Each successive generation has added its own distinctive mark to the University and each has moved it beyond its previous station. Over the years the University has grown in wisdom and wealth, in size and stature because of the devotion and energy of people just like you. They met the challenges of their age with the resources that were available to them. That was their time.
Today, all of us who believe in the University – you and me – are being called to rise to our own challenge. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we will be guided by the Spirit and buoyed by one another. With your help, and the help of thousands of others who share our passion, and with the grace of God, the University will become greater still. And we will send out into the world even more people like Bob and Paul and Tamara and Katie.
Our vision is clear. Our mission is unambiguous. This is our time. I ask you all to join with me now so we can rise together!