I write with my customary summary of the spring Board of Trustees meeting, which took place on campus from Thursday, April 27, to Saturday, April 29. Please allow me to begin with a series of reflections and announcements pertinent to the work we do each day.
During the annual Faculty Recognition Dinner, which is among one of the most special events we hold each year, we gathered to celebrate the promotion of 22 faculty colleagues who either received tenure or achieved the rank of full professor. Please join me in congratulating our colleagues who reached this milestone. We also paused to recognize six faculty colleagues who are retiring from Bucknell. Each has contributed to the mission of our institution in profound ways that quite literally cannot be measured. One of these individuals, Professor Leslie Patrick, history, deserves special recognition.
Leslie was the University’s first African-American woman to receive tenure. As I said during the dinner, and as noted when she recently received this year’s Diversity & Inclusion Award for Faculty, Leslie has inspired countless underrepresented students to believe in themselves and to aspire to be great. She not only championed the liberal arts, but also served as a tireless ally, advocate and friend to Bucknell students, faculty and staff of color. Whether we realize it or not, all of us have in some way been touched by Leslie’s commitment to Bucknell, and we should all be thankful for her and her good work over the past 31 years.
With the University on the cusp of officially establishing our third college — the College of Management — we also recognized the important role Interim Dean of Management Michael Johnson-Cramer has played in shepherding this process. We have reached this point only through a significant investment of time and energy, deep debate and discussion, and careful planning, all of which were made possible by Michael’s hard work and dedication. He was instrumental in the School of Management’s successful accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which laid the foundation for the school’s transition to a college. Michael also guided what were sometimes challenging discussions and decisions on campus that ultimately led us to this historic moment in the life of the University. I am grateful for all Michael has done for Bucknell and for our students during his time as both director and interim dean of management.
Friday night also offered us the opportunity to say a collective thank you to two alumni — a mother and daughter — for their immense generosity to our University. As I shared with you last month, Dodie Detmer ’52 (daughter of Bucknell’s ninth president, Horace Hildreth), and her daughter, Zareen Taj Mirza ’79, recently made a significant seven-figure gift to the WE DO Campaign that both supports the renovation and expansion of the home for our Humanities Center, and establishes an endowed professorship in Islamic studies. You may read more about their gift to Bucknell. We were fortunate to have Dodie and Zareen join us at the Faculty Recognition Dinner and a small groundbreaking ceremony for the building project the following morning. Those of you who were able to attend can appreciate how special Dodie and Zareen are and how passionate they are about Bucknell. In honor of their commitment, we will rename the facility Hildreth-Mirza Hall. We look forward to celebrating its completion in spring 2018.
Board Chair Ken Freeman was also able to share with the attendees at Friday night’s dinner another significant gift to the University — a $7.5 million dollar pledge by Jim and Libby McDonnell P’94, and their daughter, Kitty McDonnell Pipoli ’94, which will provide financial support to students studying abroad, thereby helping to reduce the financial barriers that keep some of our students from participating in such an experience. Through the vision and leadership of donors such as the McDonnells, Dodie and Zareen, the WE DO Campaign has crossed the $461 million dollar mark — putting us within $39 million of our half-billion-dollar goal, and, more importantly, helping to strengthen the educational experience we offer our students.
Finally, for a variety of reasons, some of which I discuss below, this recent meeting highlighted and emphasized the many opportunities and challenges before us as we continue our work together in building the best, most authentic version of Bucknell. In service of that effort, and considering all that lies before us, I have been looking for ways to increase my own efficiency and effectiveness. With that in mind, I am pleased to announce that I have asked General Counsel Amy Foerster to assume additional responsibilities as my chief of staff. Those of you who have had the opportunity to work with Amy have an appreciation for her diverse abilities, spirit of collaboration and commitment to Bucknell. With these added responsibilities, I have empowered Amy to provide direction, follow-through and coordination, and to carry out other tasks on my behalf. My thanks to Amy for agreeing to take on this important role.
As it does throughout the year, the Board invested considerable time reviewing the University’s budget and financial resources, and approved the fiscal year 2017–18 budget, which includes a 3.9 percent increase to the comprehensive fee, a 3 percent merit and equity salary increase pool for staff, and a 3.25 percent merit and equity salary increase pool for faculty. As previously communicated, merit salary increases will take effect July 1. Thanks to good stewardship of our financial resources and careful planning, operating budgets will remain consistent with fiscal year 2016–17 levels. We do, however, continue to operate in a heavily constrained fiscal environment, and we must continue to exercise fiscal prudence while also continuing to make strategic investments that strengthen the University and the educational experience we offer our students.
One such investment is the continued planning for Academic East, a proposed 78,000-square-foot facility that would provide much-needed space for student and faculty research, laboratory instruction, design studios, and offices in both engineering and education. During its meeting, the Board approved moving forward with completing construction documents for Academic East, which is the final phase prior to approving building the facility. Once approved, construction will be contingent upon fundraising.
The Board also continues to explore the concept of collocating our College of Management and Department of Art & Art History into a new facility. As I’ve previously stated, there is great enthusiasm around this interdisciplinary approach, which offers potential to strengthen connections between the programs and provide Bucknell with another point of distinction. The Board approved the expenditure of resources to move forward with schematic designs for such a facility, the second of four phases in the process. As is the case with Academic East, construction of this facility will ultimately be contingent upon adequate fundraising.
Among the many other discussions and University business attended to by the Board was the status of our transition to Workday, a modern software solution that will address human resources, payroll, financial and operational needs in ways our current systems cannot accommodate. You have heard on several occasions from me and others on this initiative, and may learn more about it online. In March, we decided that a successful adoption of Workday would benefit from moving the launch from this summer to later in the 2017–18 academic year; our colleagues who are working in earnest on this project daily expect Workday to go live in early April 2018.
During its annual business meeting on Saturday, the Board unanimously elected four new trustees, including alumni Sunil Gulati ’81; Donald Isken ’75, P’12, P’20; and John Reynolds ’92, along with Bucknell parent Lisa Detwiler Cramer P’18. It was also announced that the following trustees were re-elected to new terms: Michael Flowers ’76; Steve Holmes ’79, P’06, P’08; Kirsten Schubauer Heinemann ’81, P’12, P’15; and Chris O’Brien ’80, P’18, P’20. Our re-elected and newly elected trustees will commence their five-year terms on July 1.
In addition, the Board announced the election of Jeb Bachman ’78, P’12; Craig Mills ’76, P’06; and Glenn Steele as emeriti trustees. The University has benefited greatly from the service of each of these individuals, and I’m pleased that all three have agreed to accept the emeritus designation.
Finally, this meeting was the last for one of the University’s longest-tenured trustees: Alan Walker ’66, P’97, P’00. Alan has served on Bucknell’s Board for 37 years; few have dedicated more time and energy to this institution. For perspective, Alan’s time on the Board equates to more than one-fifth of the University’s 171 years of existence. As you might imagine, having given so much of his life to Bucknell, it is impossible to provide a full account of Alan’s contributions and the many ways in which he has advanced this University. But allow me to quote from a resolution read during our meeting:
“The Board of Trustees extends its utmost gratitude to Alan Walker, Judy and their children, Derek ’97 and Courtney ’00. Alan will forever be known for his leadership and wise counsel, coupled with his deep historical knowledge of his beloved Bucknell. His fellow Trustees hold him in the highest regard for his years of dedicated service, and for the immeasurable impact he has had on strengthening Bucknell University and helping to make it the exceptional institution it is today.”
On a personal note, I have benefited greatly from Alan’s wisdom, leadership and friendship. I am a better person for knowing Alan, and Bucknell is a better institution for having the good fortune of counting him among its most passionate community members.
During his farewell, staying true to form, Alan parted with some inspiring guidance:
“Please continue to be aspirational and set aspirational goals. It’s just a great, great institution, and we all love it dearly. … Take some risks … it’s the only way we’re going to move forward.”
Though the academic year is coming to a close, I hope Alan’s words continue to echo across campus: aspire to greatness, be prudently bold, and continue in our shared mission of building an ever-stronger Bucknell.