State of the College Speech by President Rokke


Thanks Dave…good afternoon to all of you and welcome back.

Let me first congratulate Jeanne Guaraldo, this year’s Medallion of Merit recipient. We’ll hear more about Jeanne’s considerable contributions to our college in a few minutes. Suffice it to say at this point that Jeanne is a remarkable woman who has been involved in virtually every alumni-associated event at Moravian during my 7 years here. She is a leader who has brought incredible energy, ideas, and action to our campus, from the boardroom to the ballroom.

In my remarks today, I would like to do two things. First, briefly review our current situation as we complete one academic year and move toward another, and second, set forth the broad outlines of the major strategic initiatives that we will work over the next several years. Together, they might be called a “state of the college” presentation…and for those of you who prefer simply to get the bottom line, I’m delighted to assert that the “state of Moravian College” is very good indeed.

Current Situation

Let me begin by offering some rationale for my optimistic assessment. Once again, during Academic Year 2003-2004, we set a new record for student body size…1441 young men and women…and enjoyed a freshman class with the best academic credentials in history. We’re working hard, incidentally, to tackle an unavoidable consequence of expansion… providing sufficient housing for our growing student body. The steady rise in the quality of our student body during the past few years is certainly reflected in an impressive range of student achievement.

This spring, our Moravian choir and women’s chorus presented the Lehigh Valley premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass… Their superb production typified the excellence in music for which Moravian is so well-known.

In April, six Moravian students made presentations before the prestigious National Council for Undergraduate Research.

19 students successfully completed a senior honors thesis this year, in subjects ranging from the acoustic dynamics of our concert halls to the values of 18th century Moravian communities. 32 students have submitted honors projects for the next academic year.

Not surprisingly, Moravian College graduates continue to excel; they reflect a special mix of the intellect, drive, and commitment that only a Moravian education can provide. For example, Tony Costantino is bound for the University of Notre Dame, where he will study for a doctorate in mechanical and acoustic engineering. Mark Schlegel will seek a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania.
Borko Milosev will be an analyst with Wachovia Securities in New York City…where he’ll work for Robert Verrone, Class of 1990. Angela Morgan will teach English in Asuncion, Paraguay… and Tracie Shipman will mentor inner city youth in Chicago as an AmeriCorps volunteer.

Incidentally, this year’s graduating class was the first to complete our ambitious and innovative general education curriculum instituted some four years ago…we call it “Learning in Common” or LINC. Our assessment of its impact on students is continuing, but we already know that since its implementation…freshman retention has increased; our students have developed greater writing and research skills; and they are graduating with broader perspectives based on upper division courses in ethical and moral issues, cultural values and global concerns.

Moravian’s athletic programs are prospering in a similar fashion. How proud we are to have one of the very best softball teams in the country this year…. a team with two first-team All-Americans… and a team that fell only one victory and two runs short of a national championship. I was especially pleased at the beginning of the season when we defeated last year’s national champion, because the president of that college was an undergraduate classmate of mine and a close friend of some 40 years standing.

This was a year when Moravian Hounds rewrote the NCAA record book: Junior Heather Bortz set an NCAA Division III record for hitting in 44 consecutive softball games. The Moravian women’s basketball team…who also was invited to post-season play…set an NCAA record for all divisions and both sexes with 35 consecutive free throws in a single game. And senior Mary Kate Cordisco established an all-division NCAA mark with 25 consecutive service points on the opening day of the volleyball season. At the same time, our own Christina Scherwin, currently on a leave of absence in order to try to qualify for her home country of Denmark in the 2004 Olympics, is currently the 17th ranked female javelin thrower in the world. Finally, Brandon Zaleski from our men’s basketball team has been selected to represent Moravian College at the NCAA Leadership Conference at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in June.

Our Vice President for Enrollment, Moravian alumnus Bernie Story, tells me that next year’s freshmen also walk on water…and, once again, we will establish a new record with a projected 385 young men and women in the Class of 2008. You’ll be pleased to hear that something like 85% of them ranked in the top 2/5 of their high school classes; and their average SAT score is on the order of 1135..... some 15 points higher than last year’s record-breaking class. Incidentally, one of those freshmen scored a perfect 1600 on his SAT test.

Finally, I need to brag just a little about Moravian’s faculty. You alums know better than I that our professors do splendid jobs as teachers…the magic that takes place in the classroom is key to the Moravian experience for our students. You may not be aware of the research and publication accomplishments by these professors. In the past few years, for example, we have had books written or edited by Professors Dunn in Psychology, Dutlinger in Music, Jung in Political Science, Keim in History, Smolansky in Sociology and von Allmen in Economics…other books have been written by Emeritus Professor Larson in Music and by Dean Skalnik of the Academic Affairs Office. Professor von Allmen’s textbook, incidentally…on the economics of athletics…is selling very well and now has been published in Chinese.

Strategic Plan

Last year at his event, I described how we have gone about developing a “strategic vision” for the future…we are now in the process of making that vision come to life. In a nutshell, this means taking actions to increase Moravian’s prestige as a national liberal arts college through a combination of excellence in all that we do and recognition of that excellence by others.

As you know better than I, Moravian is a top-flight academic institution and has been for many, many years. For a variety of reasons, however, including our traditional “culture of modesty,” we have not achieved an appropriate level of recognition by our colleague institutions or, more importantly, by potential students and their parents. Thankfully, this is changing…Our inclusion in the Princeton Review; our invitation to join the prestigious Annapolis Group; and our movement upward in the U.S. News and World Report ranking system are but three recent examples of your alma mater being recognized for what it is. The challenge now is to complement and accelerate this progress with concrete programs for achieving even greater levels of excellence…indeed, we want to move quickly into the top 100 national liberal arts institutions as recognized by rankings such as those of U.S. News and World Report. We currently are ranked 123 out of 214... and you will be pleased to know that we have strategies for dealing with each of the various elements in this ranking system, including class size, faculty demographics, and other measures of academic resources; alumni giving rates; student selectivity; and reputation among our institutional colleagues.

Additionally, we have earmarked more than $1 million of money in next years’ budget to proceed with ambitious programs in at least five arenas identified by our strategic planning process. In the natural sciences, this includes hiring an additional biology professor, adding new academic programs such as bio-chemistry, and beginning a series of improvements to our science infrastructure. Our goal is to move the proportion of students majoring in these areas toward 20 percent of each graduating class.

In music, we have hired a new tenure track faculty member in jazz; instituted more regional travel opportunities for our superb choir; added resources for professional musicians to participate in on-campus choir performances; and…for the first time…televised our annual Christmas Vespers program.

Thanks to a very generous $350 thousand grant from the Payne Foundation, we have instituted a Leadership Center at Moravian College, headed by Dean April Vari of Student Affairs and Dr. Michelle Schmidt of the Psychology Department. This center will oversee the integration of curricular and co-curricular leadership experiences for a large proportion of our student body through a series of leadership institutes, academies, student community grants and lecture programs.

Funds permitting, and our athletic facility development efforts are very close to achieving target levels, we will renovate the Quadrangle Field located behind the HUB as well as expand track facilities and apply artificial turf to the Steel Field complex.

Finally, the trustees have approved the establishment of the Institute for Graduate and Professional Studies to replace the Division of Continuing and Graduate Studies, with sufficient autonomy to respond quickly and effectively to the market for undergraduate and master’s level education for nonresident, adult students.

We are confident that these measures will allow us to proceed toward a trustee-approved undergraduate day program enrollment of 1600 full-time equivalent students by the fall of 2012. Indeed, we already are three years ahead of schedule with student quality increasing at impressive increments each year.

In short, your alma mater is moving smartly to keep up with the demands of an increasingly complex and changing world. I believe that Moravian students will continue to walk across the graduation stage equipped with the tools both to understand this world and to make it better.

Please allow me to conclude with a plea for your help. I mentioned earlier that an important criterion in our U.S. News and World Report ranking is the percentage of alums who contribute to the college on an annual basis. We’ve worked hard to improve this statistic and have achieved some success. From 1998 to 2004, for example, our fund-raising efforts have yielded approximately $36.5 million. This money has enabled what is perhaps one of the most ambitious infrastructure improvement programs in Moravian history. As I stand before you tonight, however, we still are faced with an annual giving rate by our alums of only 23%. This is not characteristic of a “top 100” college. Please help us by reminding your fellow alums about the need to contribute something each year, even if it is a modest amount. After all, we share a common goal… making sure that the Moravian College experience… an experience which has served each of you so well… can continue to quicken the mind, body, and spirit of many more generations of alumni.

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