Excitement, expectation, energy—there’s nothing like the start of a new academic year. The air is gradually cooler, enveloping the campus in the first hints of autumn. Faculty members are back, refreshed and brimming with ideas. New students explore the campus while seeking promising opportunities and friends. Long-time Bethanians make their usual comparisons to the start of past academic years. It’s an exhilarating season of promise and possibility.
As we open the 2010-2011 academic year, Bethany College is literally bursting at the seams, continuing a pattern of qualitative growth outlined in the master plan “Bethany 2020.” For the second consecutive year, the College is operating at residential capacity, having grown by 200 students in the last three years, with increasing selectivity. It’s a nice problem to have.
This fall we welcome more than 359 new students, including 290 freshmen and 39 transfers, and 30 graduate learners enrolling in our new Master of Arts in Teaching program. Full-time enrollment is up 10.7 percent over last year’s figure, with a total enrollment of more than 1,050 anticipated during the academic year.
This marks the third consecutive year in which Bethany’s total enrollment has increased—a very positive note on which to open a new year. This qualitative growth speaks well of the people and programs of the College; Bethany continues to attract a national constituency.
Also heralding another momentous year are the just-released national U.S. News and World Report rankings, placing Bethany solidly among First Tier National Liberal Arts Colleges. Bethany is the only West Virginia institution to be included in the First Tier listings by this highly respected publication, following closely a similar announcement by The Washington Monthly and accolades by The Princeton Review (“Best in the Southeast” section).
As is our tradition, our new matriculating students gathered in the Dr. Fred Tilock Amphitheatre on August 21. This traditional ceremony, with the new students processing through Oglebay Gates, again provided an opportunity to reflect on our golden past, celebrate the present and welcome another record incoming class of new Bethanians. All was well at this year’s ceremony until, while anticipating thunderous applause, I heard the ominous roll of thunder instead. Within the space of a minute, the sky opened and we were all drenched. I announced that we would reconvene in Commencement Hall in a half hour, and we did. Controlling the weather, unfortunately, does not fall under our strategic master plan.
Returning students found a totally renovated Cochran Hall, refurbished as modern, suite-style housing for 72 students and reopened almost 100 years to the day that it first opened as College housing. It is gratifying to see this historic building, vacant for years, again reverberating with life.
The revitalized Department of Communications and Media Arts has moved to new, spacious and beautiful quarters in Bethany House, a hub of campus activity, bringing together in one location our radio station, production facility, graphic design lab, publications center, classrooms and faculty offices. A program very close to my heart and one of our most popular majors for years, the department will be led this year by our Renner Scholar, M.E. Yancosek Gamble. I’ll serve as the faculty advisor to the Bethany chapter of the Society for Collegiate Journalists (SCJ), an honorary with which I’ve been affiliated since my own undergraduate days.
Outstanding teaching has always been a hallmark of Bethany College, and this year we welcome four talented new faculty members in chemistry, education and psychology to the Bethany family. Dr. Kimberly D. Fisher, assistant professor of chemistry; Dr. Larry Fontanarosa and Carol Gant, both assistant professors of education; and Dr. Kelly L. Schuller, assistant professor of psychology, bring with them exceptional experience and accomplishments. At the same time, we acknowledge the significant contributions of long-time Professor of Business and Economics Randy Cooey and Professor of Biology Jay Buckelew as they prepare to retire this academic year.
On the staff side, Sharon Monigold joins us in an important post as director of Bethany Heritage Program and Archivist, under auspices of Bethany’s newly-established Buffalo Seminary, a continuing education arm of the College designed to strengthen its relationship with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Sharon’s genuine enthusiasm and warm smile as a host and tour guide are already enhancing our outreach.
Among the highlights of the fall season is welcoming back alumni from throughout the decades to attend athletic events, one of the many common traditions uniting Bethanians across the generations. We have reason for optimism this season: Volleyball, under PAC Coach of the Year Courtney Kline, returns a strong lineup from a record-setting team that included six 4.0 grade point averages. Soccer begins the second year under Coach Sean Regan, son of Bethany Hall of Famer Jimmy Regan. Women’s soccer returns a veteran lineup geared for a post-season run this year after a near-miss last year under veteran mentor Barry Christmas. The cross country teams have tremendous depth after an outstanding recruiting year by new coach Brandon Spalding.
In addition, football, under Coach Tim Weaver, looks to turn the corner with a solid recruiting year, new facilities, and a strong cast of returnees. Women’s tennis has a deep roster under record-setting mentor Jan Forsty.
One final note of thanks and optimism as we head into the new year: “Transformation Now! The Campaign for Bethany College” has hit the $30 million mark in gifts and pledges after just two years.
Equally impressive, I am proud to note that 100 percent of our trustees and Alumni Council members, more than 60 percent of our faculty and staff and 23 percent of our alumni have participated. There can be no stronger testament to faith in the future of the College than this demonstration of solid support from our key stakeholders.
This fall, on the cusp of a new season, Bethany is poised for another stimulating year of accomplishment and advancement toward our strategic objectives. Giving from alumni and friends makes much of that progress possible.
We invite you to join us for our Fall Convocation September 9 with Trustee and alumnus Bob McCann as featured speaker. Bob and his wife Cindy have been very special to the College, funding the McCann Learning Center and the McCann Student Investment Fund while truly embodying the best of the College’s spirit of enduring community and philanthropy.
Happy new year! We look forward to keeping you informed as Bethany rises to new levels.