Alumni Weekend 2007
Remarks of President William G. Durden
DICKINSON TODAY: ATTITUDE
The Same and Not the Same
In some very fundamental and gratifying ways Dickinson is still recognizable as the college we attended. But in some very defining ways it is not the same college you or I attended—nor should it be!
The mark of a truly great college is that it becomes better with every generation—a progression that is applauded, supported and inspired by its alumni. The rising excellence and high profile of our alma mater enhances the value of our own degree and enhances our self-worth as Dickinson is part of our definition forever. By that measure, it is one of the soundest engagements and investments each of us ever made.
What you will find at Dickinson today, I believe, is a college that has enthusiastically assumed a robust, public profile. While appropriately modest about achievement in keeping with our historic personality (but not so modest that we do not let the world know about what we are doing—we are no longer satisfied to be known vaguely as that “little gem” that (secret of a college in Central Pennsylvania), there is at Dickinson today absolutely no feeling of inadequacy or being “second-rate.” Those days are over (most alums of certain generations know precisely what I am talking about). Additionally—and best of all—we are seldom these days confused with Fairleigh Dickinson.
Confident in our historic legacy and resolute in our purpose to provide a distinctive liberal arts education to our students, we are increasingly assuming a leadership position on national issues of great importance. We have stood firm and argued effectively to sustain our Early Decision admissions program. In a particularly bold move, we recently joined eleven other colleges and universities to ask higher education institutions to refuse to complete the most subjective portion of the U.S. News & World Report survey and to refrain from using these rankings in marketing materials. In another sign of collegial engagement to achieve excellence, Dickinson recently joined with Middlebury, Smith and Barnard to pioneer nationally a new way of managing endowments. And, finally, we are engaging a national issue locally and that is urban revitalization. Dickinson has launched the High-I, an endeavor in which we cooperate with Carlisle organizations and their leadership to advance the appeal and functionality of High Street and parts of Hanover .
The ability to assert leadership in these critical areas comes from new-found confidence and a clear sense of institutional identity. We have closely examined the vision and intentions of our founder, Dr. Benjamin Rush and it is he who gives direction to our leadership narrative.
THE DICKINSON DISPOSITIONS
Just as our institutional identity has crystallized, those unique qualities and habits of mind that distinguish us individually as Dickinsonian s have also become more evident. Over the past year, we have begun to articulate more intentionally for our students and alumni those distinctive dispositions that each of us acquired through our Dickinson education. While our effort to better articulate these dispositions may be of recent origin, the qualities, like our institutional profile, are woven into the very fabric of a distinctively American liberal arts education handed down to us by Dr. Rush. Deeply rooted in our history, these qualities and habits of mind are shaped further by our present and serve as guideposts for our future.
What are these dispositions we all share as Dickinsonians?
- Develop a Global Sensibility; Listen to Appreciate Others
As a Dickinsonian, you have developed a global sensibility that affords you a deep appreciation of languages and cultures and informs your intellectual interest in international affairs. You have learned to engage the world in every sense of the phrase, recognizing that you must practice leadership in useful service to society locally, nationally and globally.
- Engage the World “Near and Far”and Make a Difference
As a Dickinsonian, you are distinguished by an intellectual flexibility and nimbleness that allow you to connect the dots among ideas, disciplines and people. Where others see only a blank slate, you see patterns, meaning and intent.
- Seek Connections Among Seemingly Disparate Ideas; Practice Civility
You have also learned the power of civility. You know that, as a Dickinsonian, you have a responsibility to speak out on issues of importance but in a voice that is tempered by reasoned reflection and a firm grasp of the facts.
- Strive for Accountability and Sustainability
And finally, as a Dickinsonian, you recognize that you must always be accountable for your actions to others beyond yourself if our global society is to become ecologically, financially and socially sustainable.
DICKINSON TODAY: FACTS
Fully articulating these dispositions has also given our College an unprecedented confidence and momentum that is reflected by virtually every measure. This year, for example, we attracted a record number of applications”5,840 to be exact” from highly qualified prospective students who sought the opportunity to call themselves Dickinsonian s. Only 12 or so liberal arts colleges have more than 5,000 applications. For the majority of these outstanding students, Dickinson is their first choice.
The profile of our current student body, moreover, reflects ”as it should” the changing world in which we live ”thank goodness! The incoming class for the fall of 2007 will include nearly 100 students of color (principally African-American and Latino)”a number that approaches 15 percent of all first-year students. This class will also include over 30 international students who will comprise roughly 5 percent of their class. In addition, 22 percent of incoming students come from areas of the country outside our primary Virginia-Maine category and less than 25 percent come from Pennsylvania ” California is our fastest growing area for applications.
As I mentioned earlier, this is not the college you and I attended. In fact, when I returned to Dickinson eight years ago, these numbers were well less than half of what they are today.
Make no mistake. Dickinson is on a roll and thus, increasingly profiled among the best and most enterprising colleges and universities in the country. We are now known nationally as a college with abundant energy, attitude and temperament ”the defining personal qualities of our founder, Dr. Rush. We have a place and a voice at the table in American higher education.
Our current momentum is also reflected in the progress of our capital campaign. As most of you know, earlier this year we launched the most ambitious capital campaign in Dickinson 's history. Our goal is to raise $150 million by 2010 for four specific priorities. The funds we raise will be dedicated to support faculty excellence through new endowed chairs; to increase student financial support through new endowed scholarships; to construct a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary science complex; and to augment significantly the Annual Fund.
As of today not yet one year into the public phase of our campaign "we have raised over $100 million” two-thirds of the way toward our goal. This is frankly astonishing in higher education. We have broken ground on our bold, new science center and, as you see, it is already transforming our campus landscape. And we have added 10 new faculty positions, with the goal of adding an additional 10 before the close of the campaign.
I am most pleased by the astounding support our campus employees have given to the Annual Fund. To date, we have achieved an 81 percent participation rate among our employees, with five divisions registering 100 percent participation. Think about it. Our employees are the individuals who experience Dickinson on a daily basis. They are in a position to witness first-hand the impact we have on our students. They are the dining service workers, faculty, facilities employees and secretaries. And they have chosen to step up in whatever way they can to support our shared endeavor.
Many of the gifts to the Annual Fund are modest amounts. But it is here that you can make an impact no matter what the size of your gift. In fact, last year gifts of $50.00 or less amounted to a total of $250,000.
If the endowment is the backbone of the College, then the Annual Fund is its heart and soul. It is the catalyst for creating Dickinson 's future by having an immediate impact on scholarship, academic programs, student life and campus facilities. It is the collective power of the Annual Fund that makes all gifts ”big and small”individually important. These are the gifts that demonstrate confidence in Dickinson from those who know it bestâ€”current employees, graduating seniors, and our network of over 20,000 alumni.
And please remember something about our College that is not often discussed but I intend to do just that. Dickinson has always been a most generous college towards its students and many of us here have been the direct beneficiaries of this generosity. For example, Dickinson currently expends 27 million dollars annually of its own monies gained from the Annual Fund and the endowment on financial aid. Williams College expended 15 million until recently and, because of a robust capital campaign, increased to 28 million this yearâ€”just one million more than Dickinson . But Williams has an endowment of over $1 billion while Dickinson currently stands at $315 million. You see, it's all about priorities and values and we have it straight! It's not always how much you have, but what you do with what you have. Of course, it is good to have more”please don't misunderstand me. We'd just do more good things and help more students including, as some wealthier colleges are doing, more and more of the very pressed middle class families and students.
ALUMNI AND DICKINSON'S FUTURE
As alumni, we must never forget that we have a life-long obligation to advance our college the place and community that gave us a lifetime of accomplishment, fulfillment and friendship. We must join the chorus of voices who speak so highly of a Dickinson liberal arts education. We must creatively seek ways to elevate the profile of our alma mater. And we must follow the example of those loyal employees who have personally stretched to make a financial contribution to secure Dickinson 's future.
We are our own caretaker; we control our own reputation. This is the little secret known and practiced for centuries by the likes of Williams, Hamilton, Bowdoin, Middlebury , Washington and Lee, and Amherst. It is why they persistently excel and garner the highest respect in liberal arts education. But Dickinson is now on to that secret and we will never let it go. What we wish to accomplish is not to imitate these other fine institutions, but to have the where-with-all "the reputation, confidence and funding” to proclaim ourselves distinctively and truly Dickinson .