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Annual Fund Leadership Benefactors--- Celebration Dinner
November 1, 2008 --- West Shore Country Club

Good evening and thank you for the opportunity to share this wonderful celebratory event with you.

During my more than thirty years in higher education I have had the opportunity to learn a lot of "things." I learned lots of facts and figures and pieces of information, some of which is better left to the challenges provided when playing Trivial Pursuit. The lessons that I have learned that are the most important are those that deal with leadership.

I have served in the military and seen how a leader can inspire men and women to offer their lives in service of their country. I have seen political leaders help instill in citizens a sense of community and compassion. I have seen educators pass their passion for learning to successive generations of scholars.

And, as a university president, I have seen how leaders like you have shared your time, your financial resources and, most importantly, your heart and soul so Shippensburg University students will have the opportunity to earn a degree from our magnificent institution. You here tonight are the true leaders in this effort to help our students, to enable them to reach their dreams and, ultimately, to make valuable contributions to our world.

As a member of the 1871 Visionary Society, the Hilltop Heritage Society, the Board of Fellows and the Tower Associates, you have made significant financial contributions. Just this past year, those gifts have enabled the Shippensburg University Foundation to provide more than three million dollars ($3.0M) in support to the university and, most impressively, almost one point one million dollars ($1.1M) for student scholarships or low-interest loans.

These students, and I---ll talk about one shortly, are succeeding as students -- as individuals --and as leaders. They are your living legacy and I know each of you take great pride in their personal and collective successes. Long after we leave here tonight, your impact on Shippensburg and its students will remain, and for that we are all deeply indebted.
In January of 2009, I will celebrate my second anniversary at Shippensburg. Though I had been a senior administrator at several other universities, it is different when it is your hand that is on the helm of the Ship, and the course you help set will have long-term impact on this noble endeavor of higher education.

As someone who treasures the opportunity to learn, I have found that in these two years I have learned --yet again --some great "things!"

I have learned that the more than 55,000 alumni of Shippensburg have a deep and abiding passion for their alma mater. They remember their years here fondly, the friends they made warmly, and the experiences that made them who they are with fondness. They ask about their classmates, and their faculty. They want to know what---s new.  And they want to know how they can help. Every day, I receive an e-mail or note, thanking us for our increased communication with them - they like hearing from us.

I have learned that our current students, too, share a love for Ship that I find unique to this institution. They are eager to learn, eager to serve and push me --push all of us at the university --to help them be better, academically and personally. When James Heiess (HYSE) wanted to intern at NASA---s Wallops Island facility, he didn---t let the fact that no one had ever done it before stop him.

With the support of his faculty member Dr. Sean Cornell in the Geography - Earth Science department, he spent a year making the arrangements and became the first Ship student to ever have such an internship. By the way, his internship used global satellite technology and geographic information systems software to construct a plan to prevent water contamination in the event of a fuel leak at the facility. Not bad for a first-time effort.

He is just one of example of the great students we have at Ship, and many of those students are here because of your support and the support of thousands of others. Thanks to all of you, our students join with faculty in research projects, they attend conferences and they succeed.

I have learned that our faculty are second to none. They are the best, period! You see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices when they share the results of their research with students or when they can use a new piece of scientific equipment to help their students advance. They share their knowledge. They share their information. And they share their love of learning.

I have learned that the greater Shippensburg community, especially the Harrisburg to Hagerstown corridor - and, hopefully the Hershey to Harrisonburg corridor, and maybe the Harrisburg to Hanover to Hagerstown triangle -- looks to Ship to be a leader in outreach programs.

  • Our extended studies office continues to expand and offer new education services throughout the region.
  • Our Small Business Development Center and the Frehn Center for Management helps small business grow and helps new businesses begin - with new partners like Volvo and future initiatives to help our new Green economy.
  • Our students --and other members of the campus community --volunteered more than 14,000 hours of community service last year helping such organizations as the local food bank and helping at-risk children in the region.
  • Our College of Education and Human Services is participating in the America Read Challenge literacy program.
  • Our Center for Land Use recently completed a research project on the geographic and economic assessment of trucking and warehousing for Rural Pennsylvania. This important project will be used by the State Legislature to assist in its policy-making decisions.
  • Our Growing Edges Community Counseling Clinic had a very successful first semester of operation. This is an initiative of the graduate program in the Department of Counseling and College Student Personnel and is the only - yes the only -- on-campus community counseling clinic in the State System of Higher Education.
  • And, of course, the Luhrs Performing Arts Center continues to provide thousands of people from throughout the region --and beyond --with outstanding cultural programming and serving as an economic generator for the area.

Earlier, I mentioned one of our many student success stories. I want to share another one with you to show how your donations to the Annual Fund truly make a difference.

Jennifer Bly graduated in May of 2008 with a degree in English and minors in Spanish and Art. The H&H Chevrolet and the Shirley Fry Fox scholarships provided her valuable financial assistance she needed to get through Ship.

While she was here, she was a member of the Honors Society, Chair of the Service Committee, and a member of the intramural volleyball team.  She organized service projects for the Honors Program such as the Rails to Trails clean up, Reading to Students at Nancy Grayson School and the student Relay for Life. She also helped create SHIP IT: Textbooks Go Global that sent thousands of used textbooks to a university in Kenya.

She had internships with Exxon-Mobil Community Summer Jobs Program in Dallas and with Camp Fire USA, Lone Star Council as public image coordinator. And, in conjunction with a faculty member did a service learning project titled "Applying Service Learning Concepts in the Creation of Non-Profit Organizations" when they presented at the International Partnership for Service-Learning and Leadership in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Ask her about her inspirations and she answers simply her professors. "They are amazing and encourage me to see the world beyond the immediate." What a wonderful compliment to our faculty.

Jennifer has received a fellowship to get her master---s degree in rhetoric and political culture at the University of Maryland where she is studying with a goal to becoming a professor in rhetoric and cross-cultural communication. I really hope she will someday return to Ship to teach and become an inspiration to a new generation of students.

Two years is not a long time in the 137-year history of Shippensburg University, but it has given me time to listen, to talk with the campus community and beyond, and to work with a great group of senior leaders from throughout campus. What has come from these collaborations is a vision to which we aspire -- ideas, goals, and hopes for the future of Ship.

Among those are:

    • Increasing enrollment carefully to be able to provide more students with the opportunity to share in the Ship experience. So far this year, applications are up about 15 percent, including an increase in applications by students of color of about 30 percent. We continue to attract the best and brightest students from Pennsylvania and beyond.
    • Last year, we started offering scholarships to valedictorians from high schools in six counties and several did enroll. We have now added four more counties to that list and I---m sure this next class will include even more valedictorians.
    • We remain committed to finding and hiring the best faculty possible, talented individuals who can make a difference in the lives of our students. While this means we are losing some of our best to retirement, we do have the opportunity to bring on new faculty who will follow in their predecessors--- footsteps.
    • New programs will continue to be reviewed to meet the current and future needs of our students and the region. For example, this year we expanded our MBA program through a cooperative program with Snyder---s of Hanover. That program has been a great success and we are looking to replicate that in other areas.
    • I mentioned earlier how the area has embraced the Luhrs Center as its own. Since its opening in 2005 and up through September 26 of this year the Center has had 71 professional performances attended by more than 65,000 patrons.  In addition to the professional performances, more than 50,000 people from University-sponsored events and conferences have used the Center. The Luhrs Center has had 14 sell-outs since its opening, including two shows its first half season, four in its first full season, seven in its second full season and four shows that are already sold out for this current season. We have had patrons from Philadelphia, Williamstown, N.J.; Fairplay, Md.; Round Hill, Va.; Gerradstown, W.Va.; Ashburn, Va.; and even San Diego, Calif.
    • Our recently completed facilities master plan has given us a facilities blueprint for the future that includes all new residence halls, updates or expansions to such buildings as the new Student Recreation Center that we officially dedicated this morning - known as THE SHIP REC, Reisner dining facility, Dauphin Humanities - home of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Ceddia Union Building, Huber Arts Center - with a new Kauffman Gallery,  the Lehman Library, and, hopefully, more new academic buildings.
  • And finally and maybe most importantly, as a major part of our overall strategic plan is the formulation of our Academic Master Plan.   The Academic Master Plan must be the core of the university---s planning process. The master plan will guide the faculty and administration as we seek to:
  • Ensure that the academic mission, goals, and success strategies connect to our values, vision, mission, and strategic planning;  
  • Translate our vision and  mission into effective programs; and
  • Set priorities for the use of university resources so that budget does follow strategy.

Using our Middle States Accreditation successes to inform us, this cooperative effort among faculty, staff, students and administrators, led by our new Provost, Dr. Barbara Lyman, will create and build a solid vision for the future of our great university.  A future that will make sure we have the right academic programs for the success of our students and faculty.

These and other ideas will continue to be discussed, worked on and, with your help, come to fruition in the near future.

Many of you know that I am fond of saying that while our full name is Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, that what we believe is we are Shippensburg University, The University FOR Pennsylvania. While our history sustains us, our future excites and invigorates us. I am excited at the many possibilities --and probabilities --that I know will make Ship---s future a bright one. And it is a future made possible by you.

Thank you again for all that you have done for Ship and thank you for being here tonight.