BETHANY, W.Va. — Bethany College President Scott D. Miller delivered the annual State of the College Address to a packed Commencement Hall and online viewers worldwide August 17. In his fourth such speech as Bethany’s 19th president, he outlined the College’s wide array of recent successes — as well as a strategic vision that celebrates Bethany’s unique identity.
“Since my arrival in December 2007,” Miller stated, “we have placed a strong emphasis on planning in all that we do. Our goal is not to ‘be all things to all people’; rather, we want to be the best of the best as a classical, residential, liberal arts college that has produced many prominent alumni and is committed to our current students’ success.”
Miller remarked that as a result of planning informed by Bethany’s rich tradition and resources such as The Institutional Review, the Reaffirmation of Accreditation Visit Report and Performa Master Plan, the College continues to see strong enrollment and solid financial positioning, areas of particular concern for institutions of higher learning confronting continued economic pressures.
“The past three new-student classes represent the best three consecutive enrollment years on record,” Miller noted. “This fall, we’ll welcome 350 new students — including approximately 280 freshmen — and will exceed 1,000 headcount with over 900 full-time students, a significant enrollment jump.”
Miller spoke of growth in other areas of the College as well, including the recent initiation of Bethany’s first accredited graduate degree through the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program.
Miller also announced that the College’s Capital Campaign has reached $30 million of a $52 million goal, referencing strong alumni participation and the enduring affection and loyalty so many Bethany alumni have expressed throughout their lives — and throughout the generations.
Miller recalled that at the conclusion of this year’s Beta Theta Pi 150th anniversary reunion, the brothers of Bethany’s Psi Chapter presented him with a $700,000 check. “As a result of this significant gift, the recently renovated amphitheatre is now named in honor of brother Dr. Fred Tilock, class of 1954, as a lasting memorial.”
Miller continued, “More significant than this generous gift was what it represents: the enduring pride that Bethanians through the generations have in their alma mater, their continuing engagement with it and with each other, and the remarkable resilience that has characterized the College since its inception.”
Also among Bethany’s loyal alumni are members of the Cochran family, who have served as founders of the College and continue to be actively involved in Bethany’s welfare through service on the Board of Trustees. “This month, 72 students will move into newly renovated Cochran Hall, again in use as a student residence, the renovation coinciding with the 100th anniversary of its original opening as a college dormitory,” stated Miller.
Looking ahead, Miller stated, “Although the future, as Prime Minister Winston Churchill pointed out, is unknowable, we can shape it by thoughtful, strategic planning as we discern larger trends affecting higher education.” This involves having a keen sense of the needs of contemporary students, including flexible scheduling and distance-learning options, as well as a means to support the concerns of a growing number of international students and those who are the first in their families to attend college. “Bethany must address all of these needs to thrive and prosper,” said Miller.
Miller also noted the changing role of college presidents. “Management experts refer to an innate aptitude displayed by successful leaders called ‘lateral integration,’ that is, the ability to integrate multiple lifetime experiences — not just one’s own personal experiences — into decision-making,” he stated. “That’s what college presidents are called upon to do today — to look beyond our own immediate horizons to successful models from other institutions. To thrive in today’s volatile and sometimes turbulent environment, we must continually be scanning the landscape, constantly alert to new possibilities and areas of vulnerability. The window of opportunity often closes rapidly, and the margin for error is increasingly slim.”
As Bethany moves into the future and enters its 171st year as a small college of national distinction, a number of synergistic relationships continue to be crucial. The College continues to foster ties with its sponsoring denomination with the establishment of Buffalo Seminary, which serves the continuing education needs of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergy in the region. Headed by Dr. Larry Grimes, the seminary utilizes Bethany’s unique resources and landmarks.
Miller noted that Bethany just completed its third year as host of the West Virginia Governor’s Honors Academy, resulting in the enrollment of several Academy graduates at the College. The Kalon Scholars Program is being strengthened and has also resulted in several Kalon Scholars enrolling in this year’s entering class.
The College is also expanding its relationships with institutions such as West Virginia Northern Community College, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Columbia University, Case Western Reserve University and Duquesne University, as well as building upon relationships with colleges and universities worldwide.
President Miller cited the College’s efforts to support the financial needs of today’s students. “It is gratifying that Bethany students placed seventh nationally in lowest student debt, according to US News and World Report,” he said. “Our efforts in the financial aid area also resulted in ‘Best Buy’ rankings from both Forbes and Barrons in 2009. Re-organization of the College work programs, Federal Work-Study and Bethany Educational Employment Program has provided over 500 meaningful jobs on campus.”
Miller acknowledged an impressive variety of recent accomplishments by members of the Bethany community:
Professor Kathy Furbee, chair and director of the College’s Social Work Program and adviser of the Kalon Leaders Program, who earned the President’s Award for Excellence in Performance for faculty and was nominated for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching/Council for the Advancement and Support of Education U.S. Professor of the Year.
Special thanks went to Dr. Kathleen Gaberson of Pittsburgh, the mother of the late alumnus Matthew Quay Ammon. As a result of her memorial gift, Bethany established its newest endowed professorship, to be held this year by Dr. Mary Ellen Komorowski, professor of mathematics and chair of the Department of Mathematics.
Miller also recognized the generosity of those who continually give their time, talents and resources to Bethany:
In addition, Dr. Miller spoke of the upgrades completed on a variety of facilities across campus, including parking additions, dining upgrades and an overhaul of all institutional marketing materials. “With a renewed emphasis on enhanced student facilities and amenities in the past three years, Bethany now offers the ‘wow’ factor to prospective students, a critical component of our recruiting success,” he said.
Enhancements to programs in Intercollegiate Sports and Recreation also continue to be essential, Miller noted. The College has implemented video streaming of athletic events and is adding lacrosse to its athletics offerings. Bethany will also host the PAC Track and Field Championships this year and has enjoyed a number of outstanding successes by its coaches, including Jan Forsty in softball, Courtney Kline in volleyball, Rick Carver in baseball and an ECAC semi-final appearance for first-year basketball coach Andrew Sachs.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t also recognize and thank members of our dedicated staff and volunteer leadership, both vital and often underappreciated members of the Bethany community,” he said. Miller noted the service of Ted Williams, director of the physical plant and recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence in Performance for staff.
Miller outlined a list of goals that included top priorities for upcoming year, including specific methods by which to insure the College continues to maintain and strengthen its endowment, which is first among private colleges in the state and is in the top 13 percent among all colleges in the country. Priorities for the 2010-2011 academic year include:
Developing the comprehensive enrollment management model, designed to reach 1,100 headcount and 1,025 full-time students.
“It’s an ambitious list,” Miller acknowledged. “But if we remain focused, innovative, proactive and true to our history and our mission, we can and will accomplish our goals. The momentum is on our side. We have the programs, the vision and the people in place — and, I believe, the courage to succeed.”
Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.