Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,
I write to share with you a brief summary of our recent Board of Trustees meeting, which took place on campus from Thursday, April 24, through Saturday, April 26.
On Thursday evening the Board attended the re-dedication of the recently renamed Samek Art Museum, which encompasses the physical spaces of the Samek and Downtown Galleries. We are so very grateful for the continued generosity shown to Bucknell by Ed '58 and Martie Samek '60. We were also fortunate to be joined by several student artists whose work was on display as part of the Annual Senior Art Exhibition.
On Friday during the first plenary session, Vice President for Finance and Administration Dave Surgala delivered an insightful overview of the University's finances. The presentation provided the Board with some historical comparisons to where we now stand, and contextualized some of the challenges we face moving forward. Because our financial realities are so important to much of what we do, we will soon share with you the highlights of that presentation.
As I discussed with the faculty during a meeting in February, and will do so with the staff next week, we are as a University entering into a period of strategic planning. In thinking about what that means for Bucknell, there are five two-word behavioral attributes that I believe are critical to successfully guiding us forward. To achieve long-term sustainability, we must be all of the following:
- Forward looking
- Data driven
- Highly intentional
- Prudently bold
- Student centered
In the second plenary session on Friday afternoon, the Board considered these five short phrases that are so important to our future, and engaged in a lively exercise to contemplate how each might apply to and guide the Board as it carries out its fiduciary responsibilities, as differentiated from how we on campus might do the same. The aim of this session, of course, was to further clarify the separate roles of the Board and those of us here.
In what has been an ongoing conversation about the changing demographics in America, and the resulting impact on how and where we recruit students, Vice President for Enrollment Management Bill Conley led a discussion with the Board regarding the role that national rankings play in how we compete with peer and aspirant institutions. While nearly all the data suggests that colleges and universities refrain from investing significant resources for the sole purpose of climbing in the rankings, the conversation with the Board provided useful analysis of areas upon which we might seek to improve that could have the added benefit of increasing our standing relative to some of our peers.
As I first shared with you in May 2013, two trustee emeriti, Bill Dearstyne '62 P'89 and Bill Graham '62, made major gifts totaling $9 million toward a new facility that would serve as a wrestling and athletics leadership center. You may recall that in October 2013, the Board decided to not move forward on this non-core project, given concerns about the ongoing operations and maintenance (O&M) expenses associated with it.
Over the past several months we have worked with both donors. I'm pleased to announce that Bill Dearstyne has designated his gift toward an endowment to fully fund -- and then some -- a position in leadership development within the Athletics department. I'm also happy to share with you that Bill Graham has increased his gift from an original $4 million to more than $7 million. This will go toward the construction of a modified version of the original wrestling facility, which will be built as the second floor of a new campus health and wellness center that will replace the thoroughly outdated Ziegler facility. The gift includes funding for an O&M endowment. This is only the second endowment for O&M at Bucknell (the other is for Rooke Chapel). I want to be plain that the endowment amount will not initially be sufficient to cover all O&M costs, but also that Bill Graham intends to do more. With this latest gift, Bill is now Bucknell's second most generous living donor.
It is anticipated that construction of this building, which will extend from the east side of Sojka Pavilion (toward 7th Street), will be completed in spring 2016. Our thanks to both of these trustees for their extraordinary support on behalf of Bucknell.
During the Annual Business Meeting on Saturday, the Board elected three new trustees, effective July 1, 2014: Brenda Earl '81, Erika N.D. Stanat '90 and Robin G. Zafirovski '79. As of July 1, 2014, the active (voting) Board will comprise 40 percent women.
In keeping with the Board's policies on trustee service, this meeting marked the retirement of Ronald L. Benjamin '67, P'94, P'98. After a unanimous Board vote, Ronald was elected trustee emeritus. We greatly appreciate Ronald's 19 years of valuable contributions to this University as a member of the Board.
The Board committees also met throughout the three days. You can read summaries of the other business conducted in those meetings.
My thanks to Prof. Kim Daubman, faculty chair; Prof. Roger Rothman, secretary of the faculty; and Profs. Steve Buonopane, Peter Brooksbank, Tim Raymond, Joe Meiser, Jessica Newlin, Linda Smolka and Jamie Hendry for taking the time to attend these important discussions.
I would also like to thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for this great institution and, more importantly, for our students. With the end of the academic year upon us and Commencement just weeks away, I know the demands on your time are great. But many challenges and opportunities lie ahead. I look forward to meeting those challenges and seizing those opportunities together as we continue to strive for a stronger, everlasting Bucknell.
My best wishes as the semester comes to a close,