What a thrill and honor to preside at my first Bethany
Commencement, with 163 graduates carrying on the tradition of receiving
diplomas in Latin featuring the same design as the first Bethanians.
Bethany College remains one of the very few colleges nationally requiring
its graduates to pass comprehensive exams before earning their diplomas,
underscoring its well-deserved reputation for academic excellence
and rigor. It is a privilege to serve as president of this historic
campus rich in tradition with numerous successful alumni in an historic,
This year, the College was especially fortunate, thanks to the efforts
of Bethany Board member Bob Nutting, president and CEO of The Ogden
Newspapers in Wheeling and chairman of the board, Pittsburgh Pirates,
to host Allan H. “Bud” Selig, the Major League Baseball
Commissioner, as principal speaker and honorary degree recipient.
Bud has been a visionary leader and advocate for our national pastime
far beyond its early years in the 19th century. Since taking over
baseball as interim commissioner in September 1992, he has reinvigorated
the sport and expanded its fan base by introducing the Wild Card,
three-tiered playoff and six-division formats while adding interleague
play to the regular-season schedule. At the end of 2012, when his
current contract ends, he will have accrued the second longest tenure
of any of his predecessors.
As a fellow former pitcher and outfielder and lifelong Pirates fan
myself, Bud’s comments, “I couldn’t hit a curve
ball…come to think of it, I couldn’t hit a fast ball,
either,” resonated with me. More than that, though, Bud’s
counsel to our young Bethanians about baseball as a metaphor for life
and the nature of change and risk were especially noteworthy.
“Preserving the status quo or following the path of least resistance
often is the most negative option because it requires neither vision
nor courage,” Selig told the assembled Bethany community. Bud
knows whereof he speaks, because, in addition to introducing many
unconventional changes to major league baseball, he brought the game
back to Milwaukee in 1970 after the Braves decamped to Atlanta.
“There were no road maps as to how to get this done,”
he told the Bethany community. “All I had was a vision and a
desire to see it through.”
The willingness to take calculated risks to achieve lasting change
is, in fact, a hallmark of successful leaders in all walks of life.
Be it in business with the transformations of such companies as IBM
or GE, or in higher education. A groundbreaking 2004 book, The Entrepreneurial
College President, by James L. Fisher and James V. Koch, featuring
17 transformational college presidents, emphasizes that effective
leaders today must be intelligent risk-takers. Transforming organizations
requires focus, and much like baseball, in life curve balls will come
your way. But if you are prepared and focused they can be part of
a winning formula.
During Friday evening’s Baccalaureate address in beautiful,
historic Commencement Hall, Rev. Tom Johnson, echoed this theme of
vision and faith in things “hoped for, but as yet unseen"—a
moving and stirring sermon that was responded to with a standing ovation
by a gathering of graduates, parents, faculty and staff. Co-founder
and head of The Neighborhood Academy in Pittsburgh, The Rev. Johnson
has seen a summer remedial academic program beginning in a church
basement thrive and become a nationally-recognized pilot for the college
preparatory academy. To date, the School has achieved a 100 percent
college acceptance rate among its first four graduating classes. Vision
and faith in “what lies over the horizon” have led The
Rev. Johnson and Academy co-founder Josephine Moore from an innovative
program for at-risk youth to one of the city’s most academically
rigorous college preparatory schools serving a cross-section of Pittsburgh’s
The spirit of this entrepreneurial vision has impelled Bethany College
to recently announce a transformative five-year, $52 million campaign
to secure the future of Bethany while incrementally raising alumni
giving from 17 percent to 35 percent. In addition, we have signed
an agreement with West Virginia Northern Community College (WVNCC)
to begin offering courses leading to Bethany degrees on the WVNCC
campus. You will read of more initiatives in the months ahead.
It’s been over six months since I moved into the Office of
the President in Old Main and they have been a whirlwind of activity
as we position this fine College for the future. Thanks to each of
you for the warm reception Annie and I have received since joining
the Bethany College family for your friendship, support, time, talent,
treasure and the instrumental role you have played. With your continued
participation, Bethany College will be well positioned for the future
as a contemporary national liberal arts college--a “Small College
of National Distinction”.
Scott D. Miller, Ph.D.
President of the College
To see Dr. Miller's biography:
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