October 4, 2006
Dear Faculty, Staff, Student Leaders, and Members of our Alumni Council,
This letter is being written as summer makes an unexpected, if brief, return, but we are already in the sixth week of the fall semester. Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Besides the opportunity to join together at the noontime liturgy, it is a good time to reflect with gratitude on the living heritage of the Bernardine Franciscans and on the core values that continue to guide the Alvernia Community.
With the auspicious debut of the Alvernia Almanac, we now have a helpful, timely source of campus news and activities. So my letter will be shorter! (Please send potential Almanac newsbits directly to Carey Manzolillo; remember that Gale Martin and her team rely on all of us to alert them to campus developments and accomplishments.) This newsletter will now focus more on updates of major initiatives; report on the work of our Board of Trustees; and, occasionally, cover important external trends and developments.
Important Announcement on Campus Planning: To give you advance notice, recall that November 3-10—is the second of our two Campus Planning weeks. Once again, I ask that no regular campus meetings be held, so that we can take maximum advantage of the numerous opportunities to participate in planning our future.
Our recent week was by any measure a great success. The Performa Team met with over 300 members of the campus and extended communities. In addition to the almost 200 who attended the initial SPC presentations, over 100 contributed oral feedback later that week, with others subsequently sending written comments.
Please note that for the next two weeks, October 2-16, additional on-line feedback is welcome on the three master planning scenarios. (Consult e-mail instructions from Marti Smith and Michele Spotts.) After that time, Performa will be preparing the “Preferred Scenario” for discussion in early November.
Exact meeting times for the November week will be announced well in advance. SPC is likely to hold sessions on Friday and Monday, November 3 and 6. Performa sessions will be concentrated on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 7th and 8th.
Board of TrusteesThe fall board meeting was held last week. It was an unusually busy agenda. As is the new custom, board members spent a full day on campus, including lunch with the academic deans and elected faculty and student officers. Plenary sessions provided briefings on the strategic and campus master plans. The Board was very complimentary regarding the initial work of the SPC. They were especially supportive of the new mission and vision statements and the overall direction contained in the priorities, while encouraging SPC to focus on the interconnections among a few top priorities and goals, especially those sharpening the distinctiveness of Alvernia.
A related briefing by Mike Pressimone focused on planning for Alvernia’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign. “Comprehensive” is meant in two senses:
First, a campaign that includes contributions to the annual fund, cash gifts received in the next five-six years, and deferred gifts (like estate commitments) received in the future;
Second, a campaign that includes funds to expand support for programs and priority initiatives help pay for renovations or new facilities, and increase our endowment.
For obvious reasons, we will time this campaign to follow the completion of strategic and campus master planning and to coincide with our upcoming Fiftieth Anniversary.
Over the summer, trustee committees finalized proposals that spell out the roles of trustees, including their responsibility for philanthropic support. They also identified three new trustees and developed priorities for upcoming recruitment of new trustees. (Profiles of new trustees will appear in the November newsletter.) In addition to “philanthropic capacity and commitment,” the two other priorities for new trustees are racial, ethnic, and religious diversity (to match our student profile and region) and geographic diversity, with emphasis on the Mid-Atlantic region.
In addition to a previously approved budget allocation to fund the improvements in Bernardine Hall and the new Admission Visitors Center, the Board approved the transfer of a small (1%) budget surplus to increase net assets. This is a major step in strengthening our financial base. The Board discussed and endorsed goals proposed by the Board Chair and the President and re-endorsed the timeline for completing our various planning processes. All these actions, along with several routine items and approval of the 2006-2007 budget, were passed unanimously.
One key report covered current enrollment and initial goals for 2007-2008. The Board’s Enrollment Management Committee was particularly impressed with the energy and new initiatives of the undergraduate enrollment team and the continued growth of our enrollment and reputation in graduate education. There was also considerable discussion of the academic and faculty quality priorities initially identified by SPC. As you would expect and hope, the Board is keenly interested in ensuring faculty excellence through effective faculty recruitment, expanded support for faculty development, and rigorous standards of evaluation. The Board also received a written report from Faculty President Tim Blessing and an oral report from me reinforcing the pressing need to clarify expectations and criteria for faculty performance. They look forward to a progress report in December and recommendations next spring.
New Leadership: Update on the Enrollment Management SearchesA preliminary pool of about twenty strong candidates has been identified for the position of Vice President of Enrollment Management. Our search consultants have talked to each, and a packet of information has been sent for their review. The initial list of candidates for the Dean/Director of Undergraduate Admissions is also being developed. The search committee will hold its first screening session on October 31, with semi-finalist interviews scheduled in mid-November.
If the results of these interviews are positive, finalists would visit campus in early December.
Honors and AwardsAs mentioned in my State of the College address, Alvernia was honored with two high profile awards in the last month. The United Way bestowed their Silver Award for generous past support. This award was richly deserved, as we again met an ambitious goal under the leadership of April Cunningham and Jessica Hinkle.
The awards dinner for the prestigious Guardian Award received from Mary’s Shelter, Mary’s Home was a memorable event. A large delegation of Bernardine Sisters, lay trustees, and campus representatives attended. Many alumnae were also in the audience.
The first two women to graduate from Alvernia under our scholarship program spoke movingly on film of the transformational impact of their educational opportunity at Alvernia. Two current students attended the dinner and also stole the show with their inspirational stories and public appreciation to Alvernia.
October brings Alumni and Family Weekend (October 13-15), and this year we also have a significant Alvernia presence in the Film and Literary Festivals. Of special note are the many events in the Literary Festival organized by Sue Guay and featuring Alvernia folks.
Admission is well into their busy season, and as always faculty and staff and current students are critical to our enrollment success. October 21 is the first of several big campus recruitment days.
Our fall sports teams continue successfully. Especially notable is the performance of Women’s Field Hockey, which has impressive wins over some Joisey powers, and Men’s Soccer, which continues its rise to prominence in our conference and region.
In the years ahead, we will look back on September 27 as a historic day for Alvernia, one filled with inspiration and gratitude as well as anticipation. The O’Pake Science Center was officially dedicated, with a large crowd in attendance. Bishop Cullen presided over the blessing of the building, with our honoree, Senator Michael O’Pake, the featured guest. There was ample eloquence. We were well represented by Board Chair Jim Boscov, Shirley Williams, Kevin Burns ‘06, and Elaine Schalck, Chair of Science and Mathematics. Elaine celebrated devoted science faculty, past and present, evoking the names of Sisters who pioneered our science program. We were mindful of Larry Mazzeno’s leadership in making this day possible. (Larry was with us in spirit from Germany where he and Cindy were entertaining their new grandson.)
While anticipation of improvements and expansion in science education was in the air, it was a time also to reflect on generous service and generous philanthropy. Zena Cenerazzo and her late husband and trustee, John, were honored. And Alvernians thanked our adopted son, Senator O’Pake, a trustee for many years, and paid tribute also to his late mother and brother who shaped his life of public service.
Perhaps Senator O’Pake put it best. The opening of a new science center continues the extraordinary momentum of Alvernia, with many similar improvements soon to come. I wish all of you could hear regularly, as I am privileged to hear, the tributes from countless, diverse individuals to Alvernia’s growth in enrollment, quality, and reputation. At a recent civic gathering, a maintenance worker and parent of local high school students and one of our most prominent community leaders—neither connected closely to Alvernia—each expressed profound admiration for our growth in stature and our contributions to the area.
Amidst the busyness and business of our work, and on St. Francis Day, let’s all take a moment to reflect on the call to service, embodied by Mike O’Pake, and the contributions of each of us to Alvernia and our students—the reason we are here.
Cordially, Tom Flynn
P.S. As this newsletter goes out, I have just come back from the exit interview conducted by the ACBSP, the Business accreditation agency. Besides providing a very positive assessment of our business programs, they singled out two “best practices”: the mission-driven nature of our business programs; the “extraordinary” level of faculty collegiality—among faculty, between faculty and their students, and between faculty and their alumni and community advisory board members. Final decision on accreditation will not occur for a month or two, but today was a good affirmation of some good folks.