May 26, 2009

Volume 3, issue 38
May 26, 2009
The Fountain

Commencement honored 350 seniors under sunny skies

President Bridges welcomed about 4,000 Whitman seniors, family members and friends, staff and faculty to Commencement Sunday under sunny skies. He noted that he and the graduates had completed four years of challenging work at Whitman and made it their own. To celebrate the occasion, Bridges handed each graduate, along with a diploma, a small blue and gold bow tie pin. Commencement speaker Ryan Crocker ’71, former ambassador to Iraq, urged the 350 graduating seniors to “seek causes larger and greater than yourselves.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Words of gratitude and affirmation

Something that doesn't seem to happen enough in life is affirmation of the good. The following letter to President Bridges from Whitman parents Mary Logan and John Stellberg (Sarah '09), reprinted here with their permission, does just that and reflects credit on all aspects of the college:

Dear George,

It was about this time four years ago when you wrote a compelling letter to our daughter Sarah, convincing her why Whitman was the place of choice for her college years. I wrote a letter back to you at that time, because I was so personally moved by what you wrote to a young woman you knew so well when you had not even met her.

Fast forward four years and here we are poised for this weekend’s graduation festivities and ceremonies. I want to hit freeze frame at this moment, so I can savor this special time. I also want to hit rewind, so I can go back and relive the last four years of Sarah’s Whitman experience through her mom’s eyes…   Click to continue reading…

A look at the Class of 2013

With the Class of 2009 having departed, in a blink of an eye the Class of 2013 will be on campus. With only the final details to be wrapped, such as a few transfer students, here’s a look at the numbers that reflect the work of the admission staff for the past 12 months. The stats hardly even begin to define the entering student body, which will become the Class of 2013, but they provide a glimpse of the ever-increasing talent and diversity of Whitman students:

  • Total completed applications: 3,437
  • Number of applicants admitted: 1,498
  • Admit rate: 43.6 percent
  • Total students enrolled: 427 (As of May 26, 2009, pending a few transfers)
  • Median GPA: 3.85
  • Percent ranked in the top 10 percent of HS class: 66
  • Students of color: 19.6 percent
  • First-generation: 13 percent
  • International students: 2.9 percent

Other facts of note:

Eight Walla Walla High School students are enrolled making it the most represented of any high school in the entering class.

Five sons, daughters or grandchildren of staff and faculty are members of the entering class:

  • Jordan Ely – son of Margaret Ely, career services
  • Jennifer Lopez – daughter of Ema Lopez, physical plant. Jennifer will join older sister Jasmine, who will return for her senior year.
  • Sierra Tinhof – daughter of Tamara Tinhof, development
  • Yifan Yang – son of Wencui Zhao, visiting instructor of foreign languages and literatures
  • Eva Reich – granddaughter of Dr. George Ball

Staff coffee recap – thanks a “brunch!”

President Bridges opened last week’s staff coffee with words of appreciation: “Thank you. You have worked very hard to maintain the high quality of service and support for students and faculty and demonstrated a sense of unity in what has been a very difficult year. In that spirit, I am happy to announce that Staff Appreciation Day will include a brunch at 10:30, followed by the staff recognition and awards ceremony. Special thanks go to the Personnel Advisory Committee members for the work they have put into the staff recognition event. Also discussed at the gathering:

Tracee Anderson, counselor and Pandemic Response Team chair, provided an update and wrap-up to the H1N1 flu situation. While the virulence of the strain of virus proved to be mild, the fact that it was unexpected – pandemic planning has been focused on avian flu, H5N1 – and that it originated in Mexico as opposed to Asia raised early concerns by national and world health organizations. Whitman will continue to monitor the situation, as future waves are possible. Among the key actions individuals should continue to take: wash hands and use hand sanitizer, stay home if you are sick, and seek medical attention if you display high fever and other flu symptoms. For the most recent update, click here.

The president announced the new student and community summer read – ironically, it’s “The Last Town on Earth” by Thomas Mullen, which is about a pandemic. Both Penrose Library and the public library have copies available for staff and faculty to borrow.

Anne Thatcher, assistant director of admission, reported on fall enrollment figures. (see previous story)

At their recent meeting, the trustees approved the Maxey renovation, moving forward with the planning process for renovating Harper Joy Theatre, launching searches of some of the deferred faculty searches for the 2010-11 school year and a new sexual misconduct policy.

Whitman’s club cycling team won the USA Cycling Collegiate Road Division II national championship, and the campus community is urged to wish good luck to the Ultimate Frisbee club team for their games at the Division III nationals May 30-31.

Campus bids farewell to Lori Bettison-Varga

Though Provost Lori Bettison-Varga doesn’t officially leave Whitman for another month or so, a reception last week gave campus community members a chance to bid the next president of Scripps College farewell.

“Whitman College is a wonderful institution and it will forever hold a special place in my heart,” she says. “Only the Scripps presidency, which has been my career dream and aspiration, could have pulled me away. My regret is that my time with all of you and with Whitman has been so short. Because of the talent and dedication of so many Whitman faculty and staff, this college will continue to thrive and excel. I value the relationships I have been able to build and wish you all the best.”

Staff accomplishments

Sam Norgaard-Stroich, assistant director of outdoor programs, has been approved to become an American Canoe Association (ACA) Level 4 Whitewater Kayaking Instructor Trainer. “This is not an easy thing to do, and it will greatly strengthen Whitman’s paddling programs and allow us to offer even more training opportunities and certifications in house for students,” reports Brien Sheedy, OP director. Sam is already planning an ACA training for OP whitewater kayaking leaders this summer on the Klamath River.

Pat Spencer to direct Center for Teaching and Learning

Effective July 1, Pat Spencer, professor of geology, takes over the directorship of the Center for Teaching and Learning, following a year of interim service by Kurt Hoffman, professor of physics. The mission of the CTL is to promote a campus-wide environment that values, respects and encourages excellent teaching.

CTL programs are designed to:

  • Explore how the diversity of student interests, goals, backgrounds and learning styles impacts the classroom at Whitman.
  • Offer faculty opportunities to reflect upon and critique their pedagogy in light of advances in theories of teaching and learning, as well as advances in classroom/instructional technology.
  • Provide a forum for faculty to continually learn from each other about the myriad ways of offering an excellent education to students.
  • Promote sound pedagogical practices of the past, while developing and disseminating new pedagogical resources for the future.

“The Center for Teaching and Learning is engaged primarily in helping the Whitman faculty become more effective teachers, through the recognition that all of us can benefit from incorporation of new strategies, techniques and technologies in our classrooms,” he says. “This in turn directly benefits our students by offering them a diversity of opportunities to learn. I am personally looking forward to serving the faculty and the college as director of the CTL, and especially to working with new faculty members, helping them make the transition from graduate school or another institution to the unique academic culture of Whitman College.”

Comings and Goings

The college bids a fond farewell to Jamie Palmer, data entry assistant, admission; Debbie Conklin, America Reads/Counts coordinator; Michael Baird, technical specialist, development; and Devin Yamanaka, admission officer.

Summer Events

Friday, June 5 – Sunday, June 7
Alumni Reunion: The 50-Plus Reunion for classes of 1958 and earlier will be hosted by the Alumni Office; special events for the classes of 1944 and 1945; 1949 and 1950; 1954 and 1955; Kappa Kappa Gamma alumnae banquet Thursday, June 4. More information available here.

Sunday, June 7 – Friday, June 12
Summer College: “Survival” is the theme for Summer College 2009, which will bring alumni to campus for a week of intellectually challenging classes, lively discussions and entertaining experiences. More information here.

Parting Shot
By Greg Lehman, photographer/communications officer

Brand new graduate Valerie Lopez ’09 studies her program while classmates behind her reflect the joy of a perfect day to move on from college life to real life.   Full size.

Whitman College
In This Issue
Letter from Parents
The Class of 2013
Staff Coffee Recap
Farewell to Lori Bettison-Varga
Staff Accomplishment
Pat Spencer to Head CTL
Comings and Goings
Summer Events
Parting Shot

Past issues

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