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Welcome Back Greetings --Shippensburg University
Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thank you Barbara and good morning everyone. It’s nice to see everyone back, rested and ready to go.

I know everyone had a great summer vacation and had time to reflect and prepare for the upcoming school year. I spent part of my summer at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting in Chicago where I had the pleasure of being both a discussant and session chair. After reviewing seven paper submissions in the Spring, it was great to hear some of the presentations. I always value the opportunity to get back to my academic roots and participate and engage the discipline and well as my colleagues. The chance to discuss academic topics of current interest is always something that I have valued. This trip was truly another opportunity to renew my passion for learning.

I continue to be honored to serve as the 15th President of Ship and am committed to your success as we move forward into a new and challenging academic year. We are a premier residential university --nationally recognized for our student centered approach to learning. Much of this success is due to YOU – the dedicated, supportive, and talented faculty that leads us here at Ship.

Tomorrow morning, we will welcome to campus more than 1,700 members of the class of two thousand and thirteen. Let me say that again: the class of two thousand and thirteen. Now, for our newest faculty members, or even some of the younger faculty members in the audience, that’s hard to think about. For those of us who have been in higher education for a while, I remember how hard it was to say class of two thousand, and here we are welcoming the class of two thousand and thirteen. That just goes to show that every year, the new students are the same age — and every year we’re OLDER and hopefully a little bit WISER!

Mark Twain is quoted as defining optimist as “DAY-DREAMER, MORE ELEGANTLY SPELLED.” I think we at Shippensburg are optimists, not because we dream, but because we work to make dreams come true. Those could be the dreams of our students for a quality education that will change their lives. Those could be the dreams of our faculty to help their students and to share their passion for learning with them. Those could also be the dreams of society and the realization that only through education can we build the world in which so many other dreams come true.

I have said many times that I have to be an optimist – you know – I am the half-full glass of water guy. How could I not be when I see you and everyone else on campus who have made a commitment to Ship and its mission? It is also easy to be optimistic because, even with some big challenges that I’ll discuss in a few moments, we begin this academic year by being able to build on our many successes and to take advantage of whatever opportunities we can to make Ship even better.

Earlier this summer we received what I consider to be one of the finest reports ever issued by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. If you go to the Middle States website under the listing for Shippensburg University, it simply says, “To reaffirm accreditation and to commend the institution for the quality of the self-study process.” These are 15 words that reward much cooperation and success. Not only did the commission members approve our re-accreditation, they commended us numerous times in the report. It was wonderful to read that report and to know that what we do is being recognized by our peers and that we do what we do VERY, VERY WELL. I want to again thank the co-chairs, Sara Grove and Tracy Schoolcraft, for their leadership and guidance. In fact, they did such a marvelous job, that later this semester they will lead, at the commission’s invitation, a program at the commission’s self-study institute. Please join me in thanking Sara and Tracy.

Just last week, it was also announced that we were — again — listed among the best institutions in the North region by U.S. News and World Report in the 2010 edition of its America’s Best Colleges publication. There is some controversy and discussion about these so-called beauty contests, and I agree that the methodology may leave a bit to be desired, but it is a publication that has certain credibility and is one that prospective students and their parents look at when discussing colleges and universities. When you look at the categories, graduation rate, class size, percentage of faculty who are fulltime, you realize that — year in and year out — we do very well and continue to maintain our standing as a first or second tier national university. I thank you for all that you do every day to enable us to maintain our quality.

Every summer, President’s Cabinet has a retreat to review the previous year and discuss what we want and plan to do for the coming academic year. The retreat this summer was a bit different. Instead of just the regular cabinet members, it was opened up to include more than 100 individuals from throughout the campus community, including many of the faculty in here today. Using the technique of looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – a SWOT Analysis --, we had a great day of debate, discussion, agreement and even a little disagreement on where the university should go and where its resources should be allocated. I will share those ideas with everyone as we look toward the future and plan to meet the opportunities and challenges that will come our way. I will be reconstituting the Strategic Planning Committee from 2003-2005 to help finalize our findings from the summer so that we can move forward with our Strategic Plan.

In addition, one important part of the planning for this year will be our focus on preparing an academic master plan to help guide us in planning programs and related services. In this ever-changing world, we must be prepared to continue our excellence and to meet new demands as we help our students to eventually become leaders in their respective areas.

I also hope you have had the chance to get your tickets for the programs at the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center. We’ve already sold out shows and many other shows are also proving to be very popular. I’m proud not only of the center’s success, but that it has become a cultural hub of the region by providing a diverse and outstanding range of programs from singers Loggins & Messina, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, America, the Ten Tenors, as well as noted physician Dr. Benjamin Carson, and several programs for children. Please take the opportunity to attend as many of these performances as you can. I know you’ll enjoy them.

We are also looking at additional opportunities to partner with off-campus agencies or groups to offer additional experiences for members of the campus community. For example, we are waiting for final approval for an exciting new joint program with the Borough of Chambersburg in which students in our criminal justice department will serve as an intern with the borough helping in non-law enforcement work such as code enforcement. We are excited to be able to provide our students with the opportunity and to support one of our regional communities. Many thanks to Stephanie Jirard, Jim Johnson and Barbara Lyman for their hard work on this project.

I mentioned there will be some challenges, and I’m sure you know what’s coming next. We still don’t have a state budget and the out years for our state budget have some challenges. These include the deregulation of energy in 2011 – could go up as much as 30% and the Commonwealth’s underfunding of the state retirement system. I will leave the political analysis and punditry to the members of our fine political science department, but let me say that the longer it takes for a budget to be approved, the more difficult and challenging decisions we face. This is also true for our students. For example, without a state budget, PHEAA – the state’s financial aid program -- is in a challenged budget situation. This means some challenges to our students at a time when our current economic situation makes such aid even more important. While we are working on contingency plans to help those students, their dilemma is real, and is one of the unintended consequences of the budget battle.

Throughout the summer, members of the executive management team have spent countless hours looking at, reviewing and fine-tuning their budgets to ensure that we will make the best use possible of whatever funds we receive. Cuts have already been made and it is possible more cuts will be made based on the final budget and other factors such as the level and speed of the economic recovery. These decisions were and are hard, and will continue to be very hard. Any decisions we make, however, will be made in the best interest of our academic programming and be done in such a way to have as little impact as possible on that work. I’ll keep you informed on what’s happening with the budget through our regular EMT and Cabinet meetings as well the individual and small group meetings that I have with various groups on campus and just hope that we will soon have a budget that will allow us to maintain the quality for which we are so justifiably recognized.

You have or will shortly receive information from the Provost’s Office related to the H1N1 virus, or swine, flu. During the summer, we experienced a handful of cases, but like institutions throughout the country we are waiting for what is anticipated to be a large number of cases. We don’t know how many cases we will have, just that we will have some. Thankfully, we believe the strain is still somewhat mild, but we are encouraging everyone who is ill to see their doctor and take the appropriate precautions. As individuals who deal with students on a daily basis, please be on the alert for any ill students and encourage them to be treated and to stay away from class. We will be following the CDC and state health department’s recommendations and guidelines, but we will also keep you informed as needed about vaccinations and other updates.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not talk about many of the successes of the last year.

  • Our SAT scores and profile are again up. We have gone from a mean SAT score of 1016 in 2007, to 1020 in 2008 to a mean score of 1030 for the fall of 2009.
  • At the same time, our enrollment numbers continue to go up with an important increase in retention of students, the number of freshman and the number of transfer students – many have finally realized the value of the educational opportunity at Ship.
  • Our Fundraising, Capitol Campaign Visioning, and Planning continues with new opportunities in electronic scanning that will allow us to have a more robust pool of donors. In addition, even in an economy that all of us would say was challenged; our foundation was able to raise $4.7M last year – Thanks to John Clinton and his crew. 
  • In the area of energy, not only have our various controls allowed us to save significant dollars is the last several years, but our new efficiency efforts saved us nearly $12,000 over the holiday break in 2008 and so far this summer we have saved over $31,000. We also believe that we can add another $40,000 in savings as we continue to modify our control systems. We will most likely continue or savings programs over the holidays and the summer and are always looking for new and unique ways to save – so please let us know if you have ideas.
  • We are very pleased about our recent agreement with the HACC Honors Program Partnerships—that allows full transfer status through signed agreement.
  • We have begun discussions regarding both engineering programs and a 3/2 or 4/1 program with a teaching certification in science with Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.
  • We are pleased with the relocation of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Geographic Education at Shippensburg University—a Joint Project with National Geographic to be housed in the Geography/Earth Science department under the able leadership of Professor Jan Smith.
  • We are in the process of development of an I-81 Corridor Coalition Project modeled after the I-95 Corridor Coalition Project at the University of Maryland. It would involve six states, 32 counties, and a delivery system that stretches from Quebec, Canada to Knoxville, TN. Professor George Pomeroy has taken the lead on this project.
  • Hopefully a good thing for Ship will be my service as President and Chairman of the Board of the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Universities – know as PACU-- for 2009-10 PACU includes all public and private universities in Pennsylvania -- 116 member schools.
  • We continue discussions with the University of Economics, Wroclaw, Poland (16,000 students). Our first visit was in the summer of 2008 with an exchange of two Polish faculty in October 2008. Our visit for 2009 was cancelled due to economic challenges and a revisit is scheduled for Spring 2010 by their President for a two week period. In the Fall 2010/Spring 2011, we hope to begin an exchange of faculty. 
  • I again am pleased to congratulate Dr. Kim Klein and her faculty team who lead the PASSHE Summer Honors Program to Belgium and France along with 28 outstanding students.
  • We will be implementing our new Student Information System soon and now that we have solved some of our SAP challenges, this new system we again add to our success. 
  • We continue implementation of the First Phase of the Facilities Master Plan:
    • Reisner Dining Facility -- Completed May 2009, on time and ahead of budget, fully open for business for Summer 2009 and Ribbon Cutting Fall 2009. It has been designated as a Dining Hall of Distinction by University Business Magazine.
    • The Ceddia Union Building -- Planning Complete 2009; Bidding Fall 2009; Construction begins 2010 with completion in 2011.
    • Huber Arts Center – Planning completed; Pre-bid in June 2009; Bids opened in July 2009 with best bid for all items at $5.7M ($1.1M under the $6.8M expected price)
    • Lehman Library remodel is done ahead of schedule and ready for use this fall ahead of its scheduled October completion. (Original bid of $1.7M came in for all items at $1.4M a $300,000 savings). Please stop by and visit and partner with your students to use this great facility.
    • In addition, I look forward to a successful MSW accreditation visit in October and thank Dr. Deb Jacobs and her colleagues for all of their hard work.
  • I also am excited about our September CUR (Council on Undergraduate Research) visit during the third week of September. Dr. Cynthia Botteron and her colleges have put together a great schedule that will allow us to continue on the path of excellence with our great signature program in Undergraduate Student/Faculty Research. To that end, we have again increased the available funding for both our C-Fest Program and Our Undergraduate Student/Faculty Research Programs for 2009-10 – so please participate.

As you can see the Ship family has accomplished much, has a lot on its plate, and has some significant challenges out there in the sea of higher education in 2009-10.

I must offer my heartfelt thanks to our Executive Management Team of Barbara Lyman, Jody Harpster, Rick Ruth, Roger Serr, Denny Terrell, and the support of John Clinton and the SU Foundation. I also want to thank Brendan Finucane for his great leadership of the faculty here at Ship. He is always there to make sure our faculty are getting the best that they deserve and is a great colleague who brings all the issues to the table – I appreciate your leadership, Brendan. All of these people clearly help me sort things out and move things forward.

In closing, I thought a lot about some inspiration to give you as we face the most challenging budget time of my 34 year career. It didn’t come from the old saying that, “It doesn't work to leap a twenty-foot chasm in two ten-foot jumps.” And even though we do have big budget challenges, it did not come from the Japanese Proverb, “You must fall seven times and stand up eight.” Or, as I have thought many times, one from Yogi Berra didn’t do it when he said, “I wish I had an answer to that because I'm tired of answering that question.”

So, I ended up going back to Mark Twain with a quote that goes like this:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.” So:

  • Throw off the bowlines. 
  • Sail away from the safe harbor.
  • Catch the trade winds in your sails.
  • EXPLORE. DREAM. DISCOVER.”
  • Explore something new, learn more, and keep asking why.
  • Dream and share those dreams with the young men and women we are privileged to serve.
  • Discover or rediscover the love you have for knowledge and education and life.

And remember YOU are the reason that we are the flagship of the State System of Higher Education in Pennsylvania.

My best wishes to all of you for a successful 2009-10 academic year, THANKS FOR ALL YOU DO FOR SHIP, and I look forward to seeing some of you again at lunch and all of you at the BBQ tonight at 6:00 pm at the Martin House with you and your families.