Partners in Progress
It’s been nearly two years since I first visited Bethany College, and the progress we have since made together has reinforced my initial impression of the College as a place of great tradition and concurrent possibility. A new academic year is upon us. It is historic in nature, as West Virginia's oldest college celebrates 170 years in 2010. Now is the time to build upon our traditional strengths while adapting them to contemporary approaches.
Over the next few weeks students will begin arriving on campus, starting with our fall athletic teams. Enrollment is a real source of pride, as last year’s overall new class was the second largest in 32 years. We expect the same this year. At the traditional matriculation ceremony on August 21, more than 325 new students will walk through the Ogelbay Gates, up the hill and to the Quad for the first time in their Bethany careers. We have pledged to meet these students and their families at that same location in three years and nine months—for their graduation!
In 2009-2010, we will be building on this momentum, also evidenced by outstanding giving and alumni participation, formulation of long range plans, construction and renovation of new facilities to be more responsive to contemporary student needs and a very good reaffirmation of accreditation visit. Now we look to the new year, with its challenges and opportunities in three key areas:
- Academic programs and assessment: Our new Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty begins his first full year with us. A long time dean at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, Dr. Darin Fields will also serve as the Susan Cochran Professor of English. He will be assisted by long time Bethanian Dr. Gary Kappel ’74, who will serve as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Perry and Aleece Gresham Chair in Humanities. These two will provide vital leadership to our academic program.
Long known for the outstanding caliber of its teaching, the Bethany faculty will be enhanced by two new faculty additions including
Dr. Laurel Tangen-Foster, Assistant Professor of Education, and
Elizabeth Langemak, Assistant Professor of English. In addition, we welcome, The Rev. Scott Thayer, who comes to us from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he was senior minister at the First Christian Church and president of the Campus Ministry Association at the University of Alabama. Scott will serve in the dual role of College Chaplain and pastor of Bethany Memorial Church. We also welcome Andrew Sachs, the new coach of our men’s basketball team, who has served as the top assistant at College of Holy Cross and as a successful coach in all three NCAA divisions. While he has a strong history of success; most importantly, he has a background of leading programs with outstanding academic results.
As Bethany continues to build global living and learning opportunities for our students and faculty, with membership in several new consortia, it is exhilarating to note that 10 students are heading to study abroad opportunities this fall.
- Strategic Master Planning: The 10-year College Master Plan. The first three years focus on foundation projects, corrective maintenance, technology and spiked growth. As outlined last spring by Performa Higher Education, Inc., the Wisconsin-based firm with which we are partnering to guide our Master Plan, we have an opportunity to further distinguish the long history of Bethany College by continuing to address contemporary challenges, including the physical learning and living environment. This fall, we will begin to implement a few strategic high impact, low-cost initiatives to make Bethany more student-friendly and welcoming in support of enrollment and other objectives.
- Synergistic partnerships: As part of its service orientation, Bethany has reaffirmed its commitment to its sponsoring denomination,
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) by re-establishing the staff position of Director of Church Relations. Dr. Larry Grimes ’64, a recently-retired Professor of English with nearly 40 years of service to the College, and pastor of the Community Christian Church, Beech Bottom, WV, has been appointed to this post.
The opportunity to develop church leadership represents a contemporary vehicle for the College to honor the values of our founders while serving our denomination today. The College supports Dr. Grimes in his proposed travels to congregations to communicate the mission and programs of Bethany College, to aid in recruitment of students, and to explore funding opportunities through the local churches. This initiative is one of many new areas in which the College is partnering with like-minded national and regional organizations for our mutual benefit.
It’s a real testament to the dedication and commitment of Bethany administration and staff that, despite the economic downturn, we finished the 2008-2009 academic year with a balanced budget. Many stories of doom and gloom are being heard in education nationwide. Despite patches of positive news, the foreseeable three-five year period looks to be a time of economic uncertainty and intense competition for students. Bethany’s mountaintop location does not insulate us from these larger trends, but with continued sound strategic planning, we are positioning ourselves to flourish as the economy rebounds.
Here’s what you, alumni and friends of Bethany, can do:
- More than ever, we need your participation in increasing alumni support--our goal this year is 25 percent. We benefited from nearly $7 million in support last year;
- We need you to refer outstanding students to us;
- We invite you to attend educational, cultural and athletic events on campus and more than 30 alumni and friend events around the country;
- Stay in touch; sign up to follow the College on Twitter...my Twitter address is BethanyCollege1;
- Pass along the Old Main Journal to a friend and encourage them to subscribe...our subscriber list is growing every day;
- If you haven't already done so, drop Michele Rejoinis, Director of Alumni and Parent Relations, a note and join the online community. Stay in touch with me, with the College and with one another.
Hebrews 11:1 from the New Testament tells us that “. . . faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." In our 170th year, we honor our founder’s faith and vision by melding Bethany’s strong mission with contemporary initiatives and opportunities. Despite daunting challenges, 2009-2010 looks to be a year of growth and progress.
Scott D. Miller, Ph.D.
President of the College
To see Dr. Miller's biography:
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