State of the College
Bethany President Speaks of “Golden Past and Bright Future”

BETHANY, W.Va. — “This outstanding college, with a golden past, is poised for a bright future,” President Scott D. Miller told faculty, staff, students and other members of the Bethany College community February 26 in remarks in his annual State of the College Address.

To view Miller's State of the College Address, visit www.vimeo.com/3390470.

Dr. Miller’s second “State of the College” speech--a few days before Bethany’s 169th Founders Day observance—comes at the beginning of his second full academic year as the 19th president of West Virginia’s oldest college.

“In the national spirit of renewal, I echo our nation’s 44th president in saying that I believe there is nothing as a College community that we cannot do if we put our collective mind to it. The brainpower is here. The tradition of excellence is here. The leadership is here. And we are in the process of putting together the resources to integrate all of these into a vital whole,” Miller said.

He lauded momentum in the advancement and enrollment management areas as the College moves toward greater sustainability.

“Despite a challenging economy and largely flat giving to colleges and universities nationwide in 2008, Bethany College raised more than $17 million toward a five-year $52 million capital campaign, Transformation Now! Our goal in this campaign is to increase the College’s endowment by $25 million, enhance alumni participation and giving, and to raise significant funds for improved and additional educational and student facilities. This is good news indeed.

“Better yet, alumni giving increased from to 17 to 22 percent, tangible recognition of the transformational value they place on their Bethany education,” he stated. On the enrollment front, Miller noted, "For the coming year, we’ve had more contacts and inquiries than any single year in Bethany history. Applications are strong, and we’re confident that 2009 will be another banner year.”

New academic initiatives and student-centered facilities
Highlighting other areas of progress, Miller noted:

  • New academic and study abroad initiatives including the launching of study abroad partnerships with Harlaxton College of England and the InterAmerican Consortium as well as “Study in the City” opportunities with the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and a “two-two” agreement with West Virginia Northern Community College (WVNCC);
  • Enhancement of student-friendly amenities and facilities,including the acquisition and renovation of the Judith R. Hurl Education Center, renovation of the new Bison Stadium; renovations to the dining hall and student center; expansion of the Johnson Recreation Center; and a new 24 hour fitness center at the Cummins Community Center. In addition, Cochran Hall is being renovated in the upcoming year for occupancy in the fall 2010 as a suite-style residence hall to accommodate 72 students.
  • Recognition from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) that Bethany students have outperformed their peers in key areas of performance, validating our reputation as a highly effective undergraduate institution of national distinction.
  • Alumni surveys consistently reflecting that Bethany graduates feel “very well prepared” for lifelong learning and the responsibility of world leadership, as measured by studies of the Classes of 2001-2007 at the one-year mark.

Further, the most significant institutional changes since his arrival have come in the area of finance and administration, Miller noted.

“We have focused on greater institutional efficiency including an overhaul of business and finance processes bringing procedures to contemporary standards. This entire process will take two full years for implementation. It is important that we exercise ongoing fiscal discipline.”

The College is readying for its 10 year reaffirmation of accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association next month. The re-accreditation process and self-study come at a particularly opportune time, prompting a major re-examination of the mission documents leading to a re-affirmation of Bethany’s commitment to an education both liberal and useful, he added.

“The upcoming reaffirmation of accreditation visit in March presents the College with a rare opportunity to showcase the quality of Bethany College: our historic and scenic campus, our rigorous academic programs and outstanding alumni outcomes and most important of all, the quality and commitment of our people,” he added.

Self-study and survey highlight College strengths
Institutional strengths noted by the self-study study and preceding comprehensive institutional survey completed last year include:

  • A devoted faculty who put teaching first;
  • Bethany’s staff and historic, scenic campus;
  • Phenomenal alumni outcomes;
  • Academic programs in teacher education; economics, English, psychology and social work;
  • New McCann Learning Center; and
  • The distinctive PASS program serving students with a variety of special needs.

Survey recommendations have formed the basis for a comprehensive 10-year Master Plan being developed and implemented by Miller, senior management and the College Board of Trustees.

Special acknowledgements went to Professor of History Gary H. Kappel, chair of the reaffirmation of accreditation process and interim vice president for academic affairs/dean of the faculty. Kappel, a Bethany alumnus who also serves as director of institutional effectiveness, received a resolution on behalf of the College Board of Trustees signed by Miller and Bethany Board Chair Greg Jordan expressing “gratitude to Gary for his tremendous leadership, task orientation, and exemplary work.”

In other citations and announcements, President Miller:

  • Welcomed recently-appointed Academic Vice President Daren Fields;
  • Recognized Professor of Biology John T. Burns, a finalist for the Faculty Merit Foundation’s West Virginia Professor of the Year. Burns is an internationally-known researcher, Fulbright scholar and 2007 Allison Award for Excellence in Teaching recipient;
  • Thanked two retiring faculty members, Dr. Larry Grimes, the Perry E. and Aleece C. Gresham chair in humanities, professor of English and chair of the Department of Literature and Language, and Dr. Gale Thompson, professor and former chair of psychology. Both will conclude their tenures with Bethany in May. Grimes will remain on campus as director of church relations;
  • Announced establishment of two new President’s Awards for Excellence in Performance, one each for a member of the faculty and a second, for a staff member. Each will carry a $500 stipend. Eliciting nominations from all campus constituencies, President Miller said recipients will be announced before the end of this academic year.

“Daunting as they may seem at times, the challenges facing us today are surmountable given a historical perspective of how far we have come and the obstacles we have overcome in our 169-year history,” he noted.

“Our campus remains a vibrant and challenging educational community. The visiting team will see a small college of national distinction with the academics, financial, governance, admissions resources and strategic planning to ensure a sustainable and thriving future,” Miller concluded.