The spring meeting of the Centre College board of trustees took place April 12-13 in Danville at the College’s nearly 200-year-old campus and focused on celebrating the meeting of the $200 million Third Century Campaign goal and considering a new and comprehensive Campus Master Plan, which was approved unanimously.
Other activity included passage of the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget, review of the continued positive trends in admission and student recruitment, conversation about work in support of Title IX efforts, the honoring of faculty and staff retirees, and re-electing trustees and board officers.
Shawn Lyons, vice president for development and alumni engagement, reported that the College surpassed its $200 million fundraising goal on March 22, about nine months ahead of schedule. Current gifts and pledges now total $200,786,662. After expressing gratitude to James C. Seabury III ’87 for his work chairing the campaign, as well as for the trustee generosity that comprised much of the giving, he was quick to add that work remains to meet several campaign priorities that remain underfunded.
Lyons also shared news of the recent $850,000 collaborative grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation of New York to be shared by Centre, Rhodes College and Sewanee: The University of the South. The four-year grant will help expand the learning experience of students at the three institutions through collaboration on select study abroad, study away and internship experiences, and will also focus on sharing faculty assessment of student learning.
The meeting’s plenary session featured a presentation by Chief Planning Officer Patrick Noltemeyer and CFO Brian Hutzley, who have led a year-long process to craft a vision for the campus that provides a flexible guide to future building and site improvement decisions. Two basic assumptions underlie the Campus Master Plan: maintaining existing campus boundaries and planning for a student body of 1,500 students. Current enrollment stands at 1,450.
As explained by Noltemeyer, key goals include supporting and enhancing the student educational experience, both inside and outside the classroom; creating a healthy and supportive physical environment conducive to productive work by faculty and staff; strengthening the student community and vitality of the neighborhood; and setting an example for environmental sustainability.
The 20-year plan includes a focus on existing capital priorities and three future phases that look at projects in two initial five-year increments, followed by a third 10-year phase.
Trustees then heard a related presentation by Hutzley on the possible construction of a new residence hall, located on the area of the College’s former soccer field, in an effort to accommodate planned growth to 1,500 students over the next several years.
After thoughtful discussion, the trustees approved a plan to move ahead immediately, with a goal of completion by fall of 2019. The design will provide approximately 184 new beds.
Hutzley also presented the 2018-2019 budget for approval, which includes a 2.96 percent annual increase to the comprehensive fee, from $50,680 to $52,180 ($41,700 for tuition and $10,480 for room and board). The trustees approved adding $3.6 million to the current financial aid budget, for a total this coming year of approximately $35.2 million.
Application totals for the incoming class, reported Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Bob Nesmith, are just above the 2017 levels, and the pool is both academically stronger and more diverse than any recent year.
Kay Drake, vice president for human resources and administrative services, updated trustees on the significant progress made on the college-wide workforce planning effort, underway for several years, that has now invested well over $650,000 in staff compensation above and beyond annual salary increases. This includes 25 promotions, nine job reclassifications and 83 salary increases, as well as creation of 20 new staff positions.
As the campus Title IX coordinator, Drake also reported on completion of the recent “Centre Speaks” sexual misconduct survey that drew 1,085 responses, or nearly 75 percent of the overall student body. Data is now being compiled as part of Centre’s focus on maintaining a safe and caring campus environment.
The trustees extended special thanks to Stephanie Fabritius, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, for her 12 years of service as Centre’s chief academic officer. She recently announced her decision to step away from her post and return to the faculty after a sabbatical year.
In turn, at a Thursday evening dinner, Fabritius recognized Professor of Education Donna Plummer, who will retire at the end of the academic year after 22 years of service. Plummer first began teaching at Centre in 1996 and during her tenure was recognized with the Kirk Award for Teaching and as a Centre Scholar. In addition to serving as chair of the education program for many years, Plummer saw the program through a number of changes.
Also recognized at the dinner were Mark de Araujo, associate professor of dramatic arts and technical director for the Norton Center for the Arts, with 41 years of service; Mona Wyatt, who retired as director of donor relations and parent programs in March, with 38 years of service; and Tim Culhan ’78, the College registrar, who will retire in August after 41 years of service. In all, the retiring faculty and staff provided an impressive 142 years of combined service to Centre.
At a luncheon the following day, trustees heard from the seven Centre students who represent the College’s record number of Peace Corps volunteers and were selected to serve in Malawi, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, Uganda and Ukraine in the coming year. These include Cameron Beach, Sam Foster, Audrey Moreng, Moses Ngong, Peter O’Donnell, Alana Smith and Abbigail Vansickle.
In other student news, Vice President Randy Hays, Centre’s dean of student life, updated trustees on a range of activities that have occupied students this spring, including the Alternative Spring Break Experience that brought 13 students to either Chicago or Rockwood, Tennessee. The six students in Tennessee helped rebuild more than 1,000 feet of the Cumberland Trail and the seven students in Chicago worked on a variety of community projects through the Brother David Darst Center for Justice & Peace, Spirituality & Education.
Faculty President Lori Hartmann, Staff Congress President Shana Schepman, Student Government Association President Kirby Fitzpatrick ’18 and Alumni Association President Lisa Swem ‘79 all presented reports to the trustees as well.
Looking ahead to the coming academic year, trustees approved the hiring of new tenure-track faculty. Jean Faye will serve as instructor of environmental studies, Christina Garcia as assistant professor of biology, Megan Gendreau as assistant professor of philosophy and environmental studies, Ellen Prusinski as assistant professor of education and Christian Wood as assistant professor of French.
Pending final approval in May based on the successful completion of degree requirements, the trustees also approved the graduating class of 2018 and voted on tenure and promotion decisions.
Trustees also approved the creation of a new scholarship fund and senior prize.
The Hal and Karen Willis Smith Scholarship Fund, established by classmates and friends of Hal and Karen Willis Smith in recognition of their service to Centre College and in celebration of Mr. Smith’s honorary degree in 2016, has a preference for students from Kentucky with demonstrated financial need.
The David D. Graybeal Prize in Education, established by Don D. Swain ’70 in honor of his high school history and government teacher, David D. Graybeal ’62, will be awarded annually to one or more outstanding senior students pursuing a minor in education and a career in teaching.
Finally, the board approved the re-election of trustees to serve additional six-year terms through 2024: Anita M. Britton ’76, Sheila A. Burks ’75, Angie M. Evans ’91, Kenneth J. Mardick ’66, T. Richard Riney ’79 and Lee Tatum ’89. Current board officers Mark E. Nunnelly ’80 (chair), James C. Seabury III ’87 (vice chair), Crit L. Luallen ’74 (secretary), Yvonne Morley (assistant secretary) and John A. Roush (president) were also re-elected.
The next meeting of the Centre College Board of Trustees is scheduled for October 25-26, 2018.
by Michael Strysick
April 16, 2018