Staff Breakfast Address

Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2011

I hope you’ve had an enjoyable summer. Many have worked very hard these past few months to prepare for this week. This transition from summer to fall is always one of the most exciting times of the year.

On Thursday, cars packed with suitcases and boxes will be pulling up, and our students will be spilling out, once again resuming their role at the center of campus life.

Thanks to all for preparing Whitman for the upcoming year. The campus looks fantastic and continues to be an exemplar of beauty and organization

As we enter this new academic year, I am immensely proud to be a part of our college and community.

I am proud to partner with you in advancing our college.  Together – together we are the current stewards of Whitman’s legacy.

And I am proud that we are united in advancing this legacy. The creation of Whitman College was conceived by Cushing Eels 155 years ago.

This summer, Cushing Eels’ great-great-grandson visited Whitman with his wife. They were immensely proud and impressed with the campus and assured me that Cushing Eels could not have imagined how beautiful and impressive the campus and its people are at this moment in its evolution

The secret to Whitman’s success – the secret to any institution’s success – is its people – in all of us.

In you, I have witnessed dedication and commitment to one another and to our noble mission that I have witnessed nowhere else in my career.

Whitman is an exceptionally strong college. We do so many things very, very well. At points I have asked myself, “What is it that makes a college truly great?”

Some might argue that wealth makes a college great – with a large endowment, a college can recruit the most talented faculty and staff, as well as the most capable students, and build the most impressive facilities.

Others might argue that an historic legacy of strong leaders, dedicated faculty and staff and accomplished graduates reflects greatness. Many believe that impressive leaders and graduates perpetuate strong traditions over generations that represent a mark of greatness.

And while I agree that significant wealth, talented  faculty, staff and leaders and generations of influential  graduates are desirable – acquiring these qualities or attributes is not sufficient to move a college or any organization from being very good to being great.

Branch Rickey, perhaps best known for breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier by signing African-American player Jackie Robinson, asked a similar question about baseball players.

In a speech Rickey gave in 1926 to a group of Chicago executives, he asked rhetorically,  “What is the single greatest thing in a successful enterprise, in the character of a boy, in the character of a baseball player … I think it is the desire to be a great baseball player, a desire that dominates the player, a desire so strong that it does not admit of anything that runs counter to it, a desire to excel that so confines him to a single purpose that nothing else matters.”

I believe, like Rickey, that achieving greatness is, first and foremost, the product of an unrelenting desire to excel.

A consuming desire to excel will enable a school like ours to become great.

A relentless desire to excel will enable us to achieve the goals of our comprehensive campaign.

A tireless and determined desire to excel will enable us to achieve a graduation rate consistently higher than 90 percent.

An unyielding desire to excel will enable Whitman to produce graduates who become national and international leaders.

This coming year and in the years ahead, I want us to pledge to ourselves and one another that we will pursue greatness for our college. That we inspire one another to excel in our positions, in our commitment to our students and to Whitman.

When I think of the generations of Whitman staff and faculty who have come before us, who worked for periods without pay, of Stephen Penrose, who lead the college for 40 years and in his last years was blind, I believe their desire for Whitman’s greatness, their unrelenting desire to excel, enabled the college to be as strong as it is today.

This is my pledge to you this year and every subsequent year – in every way that I can, in every task that I do, I will seek greatness for Whitman.

I ask you to join me in making this pledge. United in this commitment, we can ensure that Whitman becomes the great college we all want it to be.

And let’s have a very great year.

Thank you.