February 2, 2009

Volume 3, issue 23
February 2, 2009
The Fountain

President, CFO lay out budget impacts; share good news

At meetings last week with staff and faculty, President Bridges and Peter Harvey, CFO, presented what’s known at this time about the impact to the college budget as a result of the financial crisis that’s affecting organizations, families and individuals worldwide.

But they also reported on some really good news for the college:

  • There are 32 confirmed new students this semester (compared to 21 last spring), and enrollment numbers for fall 2009 are strong, including early decision applications up 32 percent over last year and individual campus visits up 9 percent.
  • The total of gifts to the college this year, including a recent $1.7 million endowment gift, exceeds the total at this time last year.

“The reputation of Whitman College is strong and solid; it’s part of what keeps us in a position of strength compared to many other institutions,” President Bridges says. “News like this from admission and development is very positive.”

As the economic downturn has worsened over the last several months, it has become clear that Whitman must take steps to address the financial impact. Losses in Whitman’s endowment are at the heart of the college budget situation. Reduced principle means reduced earnings; those earnings provide a revenue source that contributes about 1/3 of Whitman’s annual operating budget. The goal now is to create as much stability as possible in the endowment payout — to stabilize over a multi-year period how much income from endowment will go to operations. This becomes easier, of course, if the markets bounce back. But there’s no indication that this will happen any time soon.

Later this week, the president will present to the trustees a proposal that includes a range of possible budget reductions. In developing the proposal, the strategy was to “embrace this unprecedented challenge while protecting the core mission of the college.” The proposal will include operations cost-savings measures, deferral of searches and no salary increases for staff and faculty. The president will also propose salary reductions for budget officers.

“This downturn is not something from which we can recover from overnight,” President Bridges says. “Our plan is designed to manage Whitman for the long term. There have been times of even more severe financial hardships throughout Whitman’s history. Managing this current challenge prudently and for the long term will enable us to come out even stronger on the other side. It is not easy, but we will continue the legacy of Whitman just as our predecessors did.”

New York Times columnist found Whitman to his liking

Timothy Egan, a New York Times columnist and an author who has won a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, spent Jan. 27 at Whitman College, giving classroom and public talks on the state of journalism, the nation’s economy and the fascinating political times. To a capacity crowd in Maxey Auditorium, he predicted that everyone in the room will bookmark 2008 as a time “that shook the world.” Click here for video. “I think we’re living through a historic moment,” said Egan, whose book on the Dust Bowl, “The Worst Hard Time,” won the 2006 National Book Award for nonfiction.

Egan also commented that he found Whitman students to be “terrific… really smart, really engaging,” and he liked Whitman’s intimate setting, the small class sizes.

Pictured: Susanne Beechey, assistant professor of politics, introduces Tim Egan to her first-year politics students for whom the 2008 election was their first as voters. He told them, “Seventy years from now, if you’re lucky enough to be alive, people will say to you, ‘wow, you voted in the Obama election.’”

Faculty and staff accomplishments

Michelle D. Acuff, assistant professor of art, recently opened a solo exhibition of her work at the Pendleton Art Center. View some images from the show online here.

Mike Osterman, WCTS middleware analyst, has been selected as a 2009 Frye Leadership Institute Fellow. Admission to the program, which focuses on leadership and the qualities needed to take on strategic changes in higher education, is both prestigious and highly competitive. As an added honor, Mike has also received an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation scholarship that covers all his expenses for the residential portion of the fellowship. The Frye Leadership Institute begins with an intensive two-week residential program held in early June for faculty, librarians, and university information technology professionals who aspire to more significant leadership roles. Once the residential portion is completed, participants conduct a year-long practicum at their own organization. “This fellowship will be of great value both to Mike personally and to Whitman College,” said Keiko Pitter, chief technology officer. Read more at the Frye Institute.

Faculty/Staff Profile: Virginia Grantier
Writer, Office of Communications

  • Birthplace: Denver, Colo.
  • Education: Vocal performance major/journalism minor at Adams State College, Alamosa, Colo; bachelor’s in journalism from Metropolitan State College, Denver.
  • Years at Whitman: Three great months.
  • Favorite…
    • Film: “Lonely are the Brave,” a ’50s flick that Kirk Douglas has said was his favorite role.
    • Book: Too many to mention. But it’s hard to beat the beautiful creation that is James Agee’s “A Death in the Family.”
    • Play: Most memorable play was a local theatre production of “Frankie and Johnny” in Portland. I was in the front row of an intimate little theatre when the lights came up on the lead characters getting out of bed about five feet from me. They were wearing only what they were born with and stayed that way for quite some time.
  • Favorite sculpture on campus: I’ve owned horses; I collect horse paintings, sculpture, place mats and so on. And I aspired through childhood to be a woman jockey. So, you can guess…
  • Best travel experience: Any place new. I don’t like to go down the same old roads.
  • Interests/pleasures: Write songs, play a little guitar and piano; like to ski, bike and dance — have discovered NIA dance classes here in Walla Walla.
  • Recent accomplishment: Have started a new song.
  • What people don’t know about me: That the only thing I really consider an accomplishment is being a good parent. I hope I was. (My two daughters are grown.)
  • A day in the life/on the job: interview, write… repeat.
  • Favorite aspect of Whitman: People are so caring, amazingly generous with their time and talents.
  • What I’ve learned here: How much I don’t know and would love to learn.
  • Quote: “There are three things in life to be: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

Former “first lady” of Whitman has passed away

Genevieve Perry, wife of former Whitman president Lou Perry, died over the weekend. She had suffered from dementia the last few years. Her daughter, Donna Jones ’76, former assistant in the president’s office, said the end came quickly. A memorial service will be held in mid-February. Watch campus e-mail for more information and the Union-Bulletin for an obituary.

You can take the trainer out of the gym, but…

Julia Dunn, former athletic trainer and current director of academic resources, recently moved into her new office, Memorial 205B. Her treadmill-for-a-desk runs her world at 1.4 miles per hour. “It’s addictive,” she says.

Campus Climate Challenge hosts Global Climate Change teach-in

The Whitman Campus Climate Challenge (WCCC) is coordinating the college’s participation in this week’s nationwide teach-in on climate change and sustainability, which is a follow up to last year’s Focus the Nation event. The purpose of the local event, said Jesse Phillips, WCCC’s chief coordinator for the teach-in, is to raise awareness of the current climate situation as seen by local business owners, professors, students and politicians.

Monday, Feb. 2, will feature Sustainable Food Systems; Tuesday, Feb. 3, will focus on Our Energy Future; Wednesday, Feb. 4, looks at issues On Campus; and Thursday, Feb. 5, the teach-in will end with keynote speaker and Nobel Prize-winner John Frye, who will discuss The Science of Global Climate Change. Highlighting the week is Wednesday’s live campus-to-congress video dialogue with Senior Washington Senator Patty Murray, from 1:30 to 2 p.m. in Olin 130. For a complete listing of events, see the Whitman Campus Climate Challenge Web site

Job hunting in this economy

“Whitman students who are seeking campus or community jobs are already realizing how difficult the job market has become,” says Susan Buchanan, director of the Career Center, “and our seniors will be facing stiff competition for jobs very soon.”

In a pre-emptive move, Buchanan and her staff have developed a special program of events to provide “guidance, assistance and networking contacts” to students and alumni.

“The Career Center staff is here to help regardless of what the job market is,” she added. “We will continue to pursue up-to-date information on hiring trends, job search strategies and continuing education opportunities for students and alumni.”

The complete list of events, which include collaborations with both the Alumni Office and Financial Aid Services, can be found here.

Coming Events
All free unless otherwise stated

Monday, Feb. 2
Lecture: Kyra Nourse, a specialist in ancient Rome and Greece, will present the annual Kimball lecture, 7 p.m., Kimball Auditorium, Hunter Conservatory.

Tuesday, Feb. 3
Lecture: Michael Rohd, specialist in collaborative theater and civic engagement, will speak about “What an Obama Age Means for the Arts; Needs from the Arts-Theatre; Collaboration and Building Bridges.” 6 p.m., Olin 130.

Thursday, Feb. 5
Lecture: John McKay, former state attorney who was "fired" by the Bush administration, will present "Ethics and Transcendence in American Politics" at 8 p.m. in Chism Recital Hall, Hall of Music.

Friday, Feb. 6
Recital: Fridays at Four recital series presents the U.S. Army Brass Quintet at 4 p.m. in Kimball Auditorium, Hunter Conservatory.

Sunday, Feb. 8
Lecture and banquet: Mark Denbeneaux, professor of law and attorney for two Guantanamo Bay Detention Center detainees, will speak about the problems and solutions of the Guantanamo Bay facility at the Whitman in the World Banquet, 6 p.m. in Young Ballroom, Reid Campus Center. With Whitman ID, $10; general admission, $15. Contact Derek Thurber.

Wednesday, Feb. 11, through Sunday, Feb. 15
Play contest: Harper Joy Theatre Annual Student One Act Play Contest; students write original plays, those judged the best three will be performed and the audience will vote on which of the three wins the contest for a cash prize. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Ticket info and reservations, x5181.

Thursday, Feb. 12
Reading: Whitman's Visiting Writers Reading Series presents Linda Bierds, who will read from her works, 7 p.m., Kimball Auditorium, Hunter Conservatory.

Parting Shot
By Greg Lehman, photographer/communications officer

Winter is hanging on with a brisk intensity, but fear not, the sun remains on high and will put in a beautiful appearance every now and again! Here, a couple crosses the Class of 1908 bridge above the ducks of Narnia, backlit by that golden light. Click for full size.

Whitman College
In This Issue
Budget recap
Timothy Egan
Faculty and Staff Accomplishments
Staff Profile:
Virginia Grantier
Genevieve Perry
Juli Dunn Treads
Climate Teach-In
Job Hunting
Coming Events
Parting Shot

Past issues

The Fountain is published by the Office of Communications. Send news to Editor Lenel Parish at thefountain@whitman.edu. Photos are accepted. Submissions are due by Tuesday at 5 p.m. for the following week's issue. Director of Communications: Ruth Wardwell. Online: www.whitman.edu/fountain