The Centre College board of trustees held its fall meeting in Danville on October 25-26, 2018, which was followed by the annual Homecoming festivities.
The most substantive action taken by the board was approval of a new Trustee Statement on Diversity, a key element of a yearlong effort by a trustee working group to offer recommendations for strengthening diversity and inclusion at all levels of the institution. The group, co-chaired by trustee Crit Luallen ’74 and Vice President for Legal Affairs and Gift Planning Jamey Leahey ’92, presented the new statement as part of a report titled “Enriched by Our Differences,” a reference to the College’s 1994 Statement on Community.
At the end of meetings on Thursday, trustees participated in a celebration of construction, officially recognizing work underway to build the College’s new residence hall, a 174-bed facility on the site of the former soccer field that will be completed by fall 2019. The following day, on Friday, trustees dedicated a new Intercultural Suite in the Campus Center, which included the unveiling of a glasswork created collaboratively by Stephen Powell ’74 and Ché Rhodes ’95 titled Bang Bangy Bang. The program featured remarks from James Davis, one of the first African-American graduates of Centre College a half-century ago in 1968.
At the meeting’s plenary session, trustees heard from Dean of Admission Bob Nesmith on current trends in recruitment, CFO Brian Hutzley on the state of the budget and Chief Planning Officer Patrick Noltemeyer on efforts underway to celebrate Centre’s upcoming bicentennial.
In particular, Nesmith addressed how demographic trends that represent a dip in high school graduates have tightened an already competitive landscape. Hutzley reported on positive reviews from the nation’s key rating agencies. Standard & Poor’s has confirmed Centre’s “A” rating and assigned a stable outlook, and Moody’s recently confirmed the College’s “A3” rating and also assigned a stable outlook. Noltemeyer highlighted a slate of events to celebrate Centre’s 200th anniversary throughout the 2019 calendar year, which are described on the College’s website at www.centre.edu/bicentennial/.
Always seen as a highlight of these meetings, trustees heard from six talented students in a luncheon program on the topic #CentreExperience2018. Following presentations from each, students answered questions from trustees in a lively Q&A session. Students included Lowell Brown ’19 (Louisville, Kentucky), Colin Burnam ’19 (Bowling Green, Kentucky), Chris Machado ’20 (Worcester, Massachusetts), Pai Masavisut ’20 (Bangkok, Thailand), Emmely Ovalle ’19 (Tampa, Florida) and Ellen Tyra ’19 (Louisville, Kentucky).
Brian Cusato, interim vice president for academic affairs, reported that overall student retention for the 2017-18 academic year was at 93.78 percent, and he highlighted that the year-to-year retention rate has been 92 percent or higher 14 times in the last 15 years.
Cusato also updated trustees on the on-going review of Centre’s general education goals and values that may result in changes to the curriculum in the near future. Finally, he noted the breadth of study abroad activity over the current year. Approximately 400 students will be studying off-campus this year in semester-long programs in China, England, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Scotland and Spain. During the three-week CentreTerm in January, students will also be in Belize, Cuba, France, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, Thailand and Uganda.
Kay Drake, vice president for human resources and administrative services, who also serves as the College’s Title IX coordinator, described ongoing efforts to create a culture of caring at Centre to help improve awareness and strengthen sexual misconduct prevention.
In the area of fundraising, Shawn Lyons, Centre’s chief development officer, described how continuing generosity has pushed the current $200 million Third Century Campaign past its goal, with totals now in excess of $205 million.
Related, trustees approved creation of three new scholarships.
The James H. Hewlett Memorial Scholarship, established by the estate of Dr. James S. Hewlett ’41 in memory of his father, Dr. James H. Hewlett, who served Centre College as professor of English, dean, and interim president, is for students majoring in English. The Class of 1980 Scholarship Fund, established by members of the Class of 1980, is for qualified and deserving students. And in connection with the Lincoln Challenge, the Lincoln-Kagin Jackson McCauley Scholarship honors a gift made by Joyce Kagin McCauley ’50 during her life and from her estate.
Discussions about student life included information from Vice President and Dean of Students Randy Hays about positive changes to student orientation efforts, as well as creation of a new student leadership training program. Trustees were also introduced to two new staff in the Diversity Office, Ashley Oliver and Jo Teut, responsible for diversity and inclusion programming. Andrea Abrams, interim associate vice president for diversity initiatives, described the planning underway for a “Building Bridges and Community Day” taking place on Nov. 1.
Among the many successes in fall sports, Director of Athletics Brad Fields ’98 complimented the women’s soccer team on its first-ever undefeated season (16-0-0) that ended with a #6 national ranking. Fields also recognized senior Annie Rodenfels, Centre’s first female national champion, who won the 3000m steeplechase at the NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Centre College Board of Trustees will take place in Louisville on January 25-26, 2019.
by Michael Strysick
October 29, 2018