Discussion of short- and long-term initiatives occupied much of the conversation at the spring meeting of the Centre College Board of Trustees, held April 11-12. Trustees also welcomed the College’s new academic dean and thanked two members of the campus community who are retiring at the end of the academic year after long and distinguished careers.
The meeting’s plenary session heard reports from Brian Cusato, Brian Hutzley, Shawn Lyons, Bob Nesmith and Michael Strysick on strategic efforts in their respective areas in terms of potential new academic offerings, operational efficiencies, fundraising, enrollment, and branding and marketing. These topics were the subject of further discussion in individual trustee committees throughout the two days of meetings.
Incoming Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Ellen Goldey joined in many of the individual committee meetings and those of the full board, though she will not officially begin her new duties until June 4. She was joined by her husband, Byron McCane, a religion scholar and archaeologist, who will also be involved in the life of the campus by teaching classes in the College’s religion program beginning next fall.
At the Thursday evening dinner, trustees and other attendees recognized the significant service of Preston Miles, John H. Walkup Professor of Chemistry, who will retire at the end of the academic year after nearly four decades of service that began in 1981, and Stan Campbell, who will be retiring as director of library services after 41 years of service.
This same event featured a performance of two pieces by Johannes Brahms by the Centre College Symphony Orchestra, led by Assistant Professor of Music Robert Seebacher.
A highlight of the trustee meetings are student presentations at Friday’s luncheon, and this meeting’s presenters discussed their active involvement in service and volunteer opportunities on campus and in the Danville and Boyle County communities.
Jessie Weasner, who serves as the College’s director of community service and the Bonner Program, introduced the five students: Lorna Closeil ’20, Alex Icaza ’22, Jessica Nance ’19, Aranxa Parra ’22 and Will Vineyard ’19.
Also in attendance were Sam Shelley ’19 and Audrey Grace Hacker ’20, student leaders of the Paul W. Chellgren Investment Society, which has grown a corpus of $100,000 to more than $150,000 over the last several years, enjoying a 14 percent rate of return this past year alone.
With the first cohort of Grissom Scholars set to graduate, Bob Nesmith reported that all 10 students in the College’s premier scholarship program for first-generation students are on track to march across the stage of Newlin Hall during Commencement on May 20, with six already accepted into graduate or professional programs.
In fact, the Grissom Scholars as a whole have maintained a 100 percent retention rate among all four current cohorts, a remarkable statistic given the fact that national graduation rates for first-generation students averages below 20 percent.
For the third meeting in a row, in what has become a new tradition, trustees in the Academic Affairs Committee learned more about teaching, scholarship and service activities from a current faculty member. Following on previous visits by Associate Professor of French Allison Connolly and Associate Professor of Politics and International Studies Dina Badie, board members heard from John H. Walkup Professor of Chemistry Jeff Fieberg at the spring meeting.
Trustees also heard updates on diversity and inclusion efforts from Andrea Abrams, associate vice president for diversity affairs and special assistant to the president, and on Title IX issues from Kay Drake, vice president for human resources and administrative services, who also serves as Title IX coordinator. Sarah Cramer, Centre’s sexual assault prevention and education specialist, joined Drake and updated trustees on the numerous efforts underway to address sexual misconduct.
Drake provided updates to trustees on two capital projects as well. The new Northside Residence Hall, which will house 176 students, is still on track for completion by July 2019. And just after Commencement exercises on May 20, work will begin on the renovation and expansion of Franklin W. Olin Hall, home to chemistry, environmental studies, mathematics, physics, and the College’s new program in data science, which offers a major and minor.
The board also took action on a number of issues.
Related to the Olin Hall project, trustees gratefully accepted a $3 million grant from the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation of Ohio, a gift that owes much of its success to the efforts of Elizabeth Graves, director of corporate and foundation relations, and then unanimously approved naming the Olin expansion the Austin E. Knowlton Center for Science and Mathematics.
Three tenure-track appointments were also approved. Mauricio Castro will join the faculty as assistant professor of history, Peter Haffner as assistant professor of art history and Shana Sippy as assistant professor of religion.
In addition, to support the College’s mission to be a place of high achievement and high opportunity, an institutional aid budget of $37,045,000 for the coming academic year was approved, representing an increase of $1,770,000 over the previous year.
This was also the last meeting of Centre’s faculty, staff and student presidents, all of whom are part of the College’s approach to shared governance.
After their reports to the full board, trustees expressed their gratitude to the service provided by Lori Hartmann, Frank B. and Virginia B. Hower Professor of International Studies; Assistant Director of Admission for Communication Anne Evans; and Walker Morrell ’19, who will be pursuing a master’s degree in bioethics at the Harvard upon graduation.
Finally, trustees approved all degree candidates for graduation, pending final recommendation of the faculty. With the current retention rate of seniors at 87 percent, this will be among the highest graduation rates in the College’s history, though still just percentage points above recent averages.
The next meeting of the Centre College Board of Trustees will take place October 10-11 and coincide with Homecoming 2019 activities.
by Michael Strysick
April 15, 2019