Chairman Steve Bowen Reports on May Board Meeting
May 30, 2008
Board of Trustees Newsletter
Stephen S. Bowen ’68, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
May 30, 2008
In keeping with tradition, the Wabash College Board of Trustees met on Commencement Weekend to conduct its normal business and to celebrate the achievements of our graduating seniors. Although rain forced the Commencement Ceremony indoors, as President White observed, the "weather in our hearts" was "glorious."
In the paragraphs that follow, I will briefly summarize our strategic planning discussions and Committee reports then close with a few words about the Commencement Ceremony.
Strategic Planning Matters
The Board considered a revised draft of the strategic plan that reflected numerous discussions with Trustees, alumni, students, faculty, and staff in the months following the January Board meeting. The plan is grounded in the College’s mission and core values and calls for strategic focus in a number of important areas, including: recruiting and retaining qualified students; recruiting and developing excellent faculty; providing cutting-edge skills, knowledge and experiences to students; building or renovating academic, athletic and residential facilities; and cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with Crawfordsville and Montgomery County.
During the summer, President White and his team will prepare a "final" draft of the strategic plan and a first draft of an implementation timeline. The Board expects to approve the strategic plan at the fall meeting.
John Fox ’64, chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, reported that four professors have been granted tenure — Jennifer Abbott (rhetoric), Michelle Rhoades (history), William Turner (mathematics), and Rick Warner (history) — and that seven tenure track professors have been hired. In addition, the College has developed, under the leadership of Division III Chair Melissa Butler and Assistant Professor of Religion Jon Baer, a comprehensive orientation program for new faculty, the cost of which is covered by a Mellon Foundation grant. Finally, beginning in 2008/2009, the Freshman Tutorial Program will be restructured, and writing will be emphasized across the curriculum.
Mike Dill ‘71, chair of the Admissions and Advancement Committee, reported that the College’s Annual Fund is nearing its Hays Challenge goal ($2.85 million) for this year. (If you haven’t given to the Annual Fund this year, please do so by June 30, so that we can achieve our donor percentage goal of 40%.) Mike also reported that 263 men have made deposits for places in the Class of 2012, against a goal of (at least) 250 new students. This class is consistent with the last three or four classes in terms of GPA, class rank, diversity, and geographic breakdown.
Joe Turk H’00, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, reported that the College’s operating performance year to date is in line with budget. He also presented, and the Board approved, the College’s operating budget for 2008/2009.
Fred Wilson ’69, chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, reported that the condition of the campus overall is excellent and, in particular, that all but one of the College-owned fraternity houses are in compliance with the Board’s house cleaning initiative. (Fraternities failing to meet the cleanliness benchmarks incur a financial penalty.) Fred also reported that during the summer, the new TKE House and the renovated Delt House will be ready for occupancy and the Kappa Sigma house will be demolished. At the conclusion of his report, Fred recommended, and the Board approved, the construction of new baseball and soccer fields and the installation of synthetic turf on the football field (and football practice fields) with completion expected in the summer of 2009. Finally, the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion (a 4,000 square-foot building located on the former Kingery site) was dedicated on Commencement Sunday.
Gary Reamey ’77, chair of the College Life Committee, reported on conversations with students Patrick Smith, Gary Simkus, and John Kasey, professors Peter Mikek and Lon Porter, Pre-Health Advisor Jill Rogers, and Dean Tom Bambrey ‘68. A number of topics were discussed, including the Gentleman’s Rule, perceived trends in fraternity membership, increased student involvement in community service and politics, and the heightened visibility of events sponsored by the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies and by Unidos por Sangre, the Hispanic student group.
Dean Bambrey reported that there were 1,900 student visits to the Shroeder Center for Career Development in 2007-2008, as compared to 1,400 visits last year and 600 visits four years ago. This increase is due, in large measure, to the Center’s targeted efforts to involve freshmen and sophomores in career planning discussions. Tom also reported on the hiring of Erik Raeburn (from Coe College) as the new head football coach and of Clyde Morgan (from Thiel College) as the new head track and field coach. Morgan replaces Rob Johnson, who is retiring after 37 years at Wabash.
Finally, Ms. Rogers described her work with pre-med students and what it takes get into medical school. Twelve of our graduating seniors will attend medical school in the fall.
Bill Wheeler ’83, chair of the Investment Policy Committee, reported the value of the College’s endowment was approximately $365 million at April 30, 2008 (as compared to approximately $351 million at March 31, 2008). Referring to a number of articles in the financial press, Bill also reported a number of banks and other lenders had stopped making student loans. As a result, the College is planning to make loans in the fall to a number of incoming freshmen under a program to be administered by a third party. Whether the College will originate student loans in the future has not been determined. In the meantime, we hope that market conditions will improve and that lenders will resume making student loans.
Kevin Clifford ’77, chair of the Committee on Trusteeship, proposed and the Board re-elected the following Trustees to four year terms: Larry Hutchison ’63, Lee McNeely ’62, Joe Turk H’00, and myself. Kevin also updated the Board on the Committee’s ongoing evaluation and assessment of Board and Committee performance. One last note here: congratulations to Jim Kilbane ’84 and Ted Grossnickle ’73 on being elected (or in Ted’s case re-elected) as Alumni Trustees.
At the conclusion of the business meeting, we paid tribute to Joe Barnette ’61, thanking him for nine years of exemplary service as our Chairman. We also unveiled a portrait of Joe, which was commissioned by the College.
The College awarded Bachelor’s degrees to 186 students, including 33 cum laude, 28 magna cum laude, and 11 summa cum laude.
The College awarded honorary Doctor of Laws degrees to Joe Barnette and Major General Earl L. "Punk" Johnson ’38, and a Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Tim O’Brien, an important author whose novel Going After Cacciato received the National Book Award.
I wish you could have heard senior Chris Geggie’s commencement address. Near the end, Chris praised his fellow seniors for their achievements and their commitment to community service, and he challenged them in the years ahead to make good use of all they had learned at Wabash. Then he asked, four times in succession, "Who are we?" Each time he asked the question, the seniors thundered (literally) in unison: "WABASH." It was a stirring moment that made clear in an instant that our seniors are confident and ready to make their way in the world — indeed, that our seniors are as confident and as ready as seniors anywhere.
Rest assured, the Wabash spirit is alive and well, and there is nothing in the world like it.
All the best,
Chairman of the Board