Whatever happened to those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” of song
and memory? If they ever existed, they no longer do, at least not on
the Bethany campus this summer. Days are growing shorter. My appointment
book is filling up. Summer 2010 is rapidly coming to a close, the
2010-2011 academic year is upon us, and another recruiting year will soon reveal its solid results as we welcome approximately 350 new students (including enrollees in our first graduate program), with total headcount enrollment exceeding 1,000.
As we busily prepare for the fall term, and continue to position the College for the future, this is an opportune time to reflect on the recent past.
One of the highlights of the summer is welcoming alumni and friends from all over the country back to campus. In addition, it has been a privilege to travel to Long Island, Arlington, VA, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco and Atlanta to meet with alumni groups and donors, and to reconnect with our alumni in Wheeling and Pittsburgh, as well.
We’re blessed to have outstanding support from alumni and friends, who have advanced the “Transformation Now!” capital campaign to the $30 million mark. Alumni participation in giving to The Bethany Fund has increased from 17 to 23 percent over the past three years; we are well on our way to our goal of 35 percent. Despite the continuing recession, the College’s endowment also remains solid, a testament to good planning and fiscal restraint which are essential to our continuing growth and prosperity.
Summer also saw the renovation of historic Cochran Hall, which re-opens this fall as modern, suite-style student housing for 72 students. Ironically, the renovation coincides with the 100th anniversary of its original opening as a college dormitory. The “buzz” has swirled around this and many other contemporary on-campus features that position Bethany as a leading “student-centered” liberal arts college. Offering the “wow” factor to prospective students is critical to our recruiting success.
This was the third and final summer of Bethany’s hosting the West Virginia Governor’s Honors Academy on campus, enrolling 180 of the brightest and best rising high school seniors from all 55 counties. Several of these talented student leaders have already enrolled at Bethany. We also expect enrollment gains as an outcome of Camp Canyon, a residential youth camp co-owned by Bethany College, which grew to over 100 children this year. It is expected to double in size over the next two years. These programs and new articulation agreements in place with other “like-thinking” institutions are providing synergistic opportunities for Bethany throughout the country.
Bethany’s relationship with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),our founding denomination, remains an important part of our long-term planning, and it is rewarding to note that this year’s entering class includes several members of the Church, as well as children of Bethany alumni. The establishment of Buffalo Seminary, serving the continuing education needs of D.O.C. ministers in this region, represents another vital step in this initiative. Originally founded in 1818, the Seminary was a forerunner to what is now Bethany College. Headed by long-time Bethanian Dr. Larry Grimes, the Seminary will include sessions on church outreach, the Campbell Collection, College Archives, Historic Bethany, and the Campbell Cemetery.
Supporting contemporary needs of our state and region through our vibrant liberal arts tradition, we will offer this fall the newly-approved Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree, our first accredited graduate degree program. This new program will build upon Bethany’s already strong, high-impact education curriculum, enabling undergraduates to graduate in five years with a baccalaureate degree, initial licensure, and the MAT.
August 21 will mark the time-honored tradition of the procession for
new students through the Oglebay Gates, up the
hill to the Matriculation Ceremony to launch our 171st year. This year, the event (weather permitting) will be held in the recently-renovated amphitheatre now named in honor of Dr. Fred Tilock ‘54. The amphitheatre has special meaning because it was funded by the Psi Chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity as a lasting memorial to this brother.
Growing up on a college campus and now having served nearly two decades as a college president, I have always considered the real start of the year to be August, rather than January. We look forward to savoring our students’ growth and accomplishments as we work together to advance Bethany College. Summer has also offered me an enhanced opportunity to “manage by walking around,” a practice I plan to continue into the fall.
Bethany, one of the first accredited colleges in the nation, the oldest in the State of West Virginia and one of just a handful of true liberal arts colleges remaining in America, looks past a busy summer to another outstanding academic year. As we build on the achievements of the last three years, we know that now is the time to seize the momentum, the longevity, the rankings, the tradition and the stellar outcomes that have characterized Bethany College over the years.
Welcome to another memorable year.