Remarks at 2009 Staff Breakfast

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Good morning everyone.

This time of year is one that, for me, is exciting. Each fall I return in my mind to those precious moments in my childhood in which I would approach the new school year with great anticipation and always the joyous prospects of reconnecting with school friends missed over the summer. 

First, let’s thank Roger Edens and Theresa Maddess (and the Bon Appétit team) for hosting this wonderful meal. 

This week we are welcoming more than 400 new students to campus and 15 transfer students.  New students will move in Thursday morning.  

Each year our students grow younger:

Recall that most members of this incoming class were born in 1992. Within the lifetimes of these students:

They have been preparing for the arrival of high definition TV their entire lives.

They have never used a card catalog to find a book.

Salsa has always outsold ketchup.

They have never had to “shake down” an oral thermometer.

The “green giant” has always been Shrek, not the big guy picking vegetables.

Just as we welcome new students, let us welcome new staff members (since staff development day)

Thank Cindy Matern and the team in human resources for helping to hire these new staff.  

Introduction of budget officers:

  • Provost and Dean of Faculty – Tim Kaufman-Osborn
  • CFO and Treasurer Peter Harvey
  • VP for Development and College Relations John Bogley
  • Dean of students Chuck Cleveland
  • Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Tony Cabasco

President’s remarks:

My hope for this morning’s breakfast is that it is a celebration of our community and a celebration of the college and its mission. I feel very honored to be a part of this community.

Whitman continues to be an astonishingly agile and effective institution:

We continue to have dramatic increases in applications and our enrollments remain very strong.

We continue to recruit talented staff and faculty from every point in the country.

Unlike many schools, and many known more widely than Whitman nationally, we weathered last year’s economic storm without major consequences for the institution. 

Whitman is the only school in the country where three students received prestigious Udall awards for their interest in environmental issues. 

According to all of the college reviews and indices, Whitman is among the very strongest and best valued schools in the  nation.

There is no bad news.

Yet we know last year was difficult. The country’s financial crisis hit us like a punch in the gut from a stranger passing by. It wasn’t easy. and I want to thank all of you again for your support and dedication to your jobs. 

I applaud you.

Over the summer I devoted a significant amount of time thinking about Whitman and about the great work you do.

In the minutes that remain I want not to extol Whitman as an institution but to espouse and affirm the cause that brings us together. It is a cause devoted to the success of others and thereby the success of our communities and our country.

I ask you to renew your commitment to ensuring that our students receive the finest education that any college in the country can deliver. 

I ask you to renew your commitment to ensuring that their experiences here prepare them to lead our communities and our country in the future.  

This is the cause that brought me to Whitman and that sustained me through the stress and pressure of last year’s difficult economic crisis. This is the cause for which Whitman has stood steadfast for more than a century.

A challenge our country faces now and in the years ahead is ensuring that the public is well-informed and fully educated. It is ensuring that our leaders can think critically, ask intelligent questions and discover answers to our world’s toughest problems.

What we do here – at this great college, day in and day out – is shape the future of our country – one student at a time.

Our nation’s founders believed that an enlightened and educated citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of our republic and that self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently. 

I believe that the education we offer is one of the keystones of democracy and a ladder of social and economic mobility.

The education that we offer will continue to ensure that our democratic form of government will thrive for generations to come. Whitman graduates grasp complex issues, reason through problems, and become strong leaders.

The education we offer will continue to ensure that talented young men and women from families with limited means have the opportunity to achieve their dreams.  Whitman college has always found a place for capable students regardless of their backgrounds or financial capacities.

In the days and weeks ahead, let us all remember that our college is not an abstraction, an institution detached from the people who comprise it – Whitman is the mosaic of our daily actions and us as individuals.

We are Whitman. 

In the years ahead, let us pledge to welcome others and those in need with a huge, outpouring heart.

Let us pledge, in years good and bad, to respect one another, despite our differences and to ensure that everyone on our campus feels respected.

Let us pledge to support one another so that each one of us – each one of us – is successful in his or her job. 

And as we welcome new staff members today and a new cohort of students on Thursday, let us renew our commitment to embracing these new colleagues with the enthusiasm we have for our cause and historically important mission.