Centre College continues to deliver on a bold and strategic vision for its future, as the College again celebrated record success across such key areas as recruitment and fundraising at the fall 2016 gathering of the Board of Trustees. The meeting was held on Centre’s campus Oct. 20-21, the opening of Homecoming weekend.
The two-day meeting agenda opened with a plenary session that gave attention to notable achievements, including news of record student enrollment for the 2016-17 academic year, as Centre welcomed its largest-ever first-year class. According to Dean of Admission and Student Financial Aid Bob Nesmith, the Class of 2020, which numbers 400 students, is regarded as the strongest academically and its composition represents the most diverse group in the College’s history.
Nesmith also reported that 46 percent of all first-years are recruited student-athletes and that more out-of-state and international students are enrolled at the College than ever before, with roughly half of the first-year class consisting of students from states beyond Kentucky and such foreign countries as China, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
The impressive Class of 2020 also includes 10 new Brown Fellows, recipients of Centre’s first premier scholarship program, supported by the James Graham Brown Foundation of Louisville, along with 10 students who represent the inaugural class of Lincoln Scholars, the College’s newest premier scholarship, which serves students identified as having the capacity and deep desire to change the world. They are joined by the second class of Grissom Scholars, another premier scholarship, designed specifically for first-generation college students. In all, 74 first-generation students, or 18 percent, are represented in the Class of 2020. Further, nearly three out of 10 first-year students are from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Stephanie Fabritius continued the discussion of record enrollment, which stands at 1,430, by reporting the College’s exceptionally high spring-to-fall retention rate of 97 percent—a key indicator of student satisfaction.
Additionally, Fabritius highlighted several innovative campus initiatives in response to last year’s successful reaffirmation of accreditation process, including the implementation of Creative Centre, as part of the College’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP).
Among the new QEP programs are LINC (Learn, Inquire and Network at Centre) courses, to be implemented in spring 2017, giving students the option to take courses that are topically “linked” across disciplines and taught by faculty members from distinctly different disciplinary backgrounds. Integrative activities will help students make connections between different disciplines and seemingly disparate ideas, apply their knowledge beyond the classroom and contribute to the creation of a strong learning community.
Other QEP endeavors include the newly developed Creative Thinking Immersion Program (C-TIP), which fosters the opportunity for students to work together to solve current real-world problems. The program’s first two student groups explored the culture of coal country and the refugee crisis during summer 2016. These students and their faculty mentors provided an overview of their work during the board’s Friday luncheon.
Beyond campus, Fabritius emphasized the College’s continued leadership in international education, as the 2016-17 academic year will see a record 433 Centre students studying abroad. Strategic changes to the program were also announced, including two new semester study abroad programs, both focused on language immersion, at the University of Segovia in Spain and the University of Regensburg in Germany.
Vice President for College Relations Richard Trollinger acknowledged positive momentum of the College’s Third Century Campaign, a report that marks the culmination of his 22-year career leading the College to development success. Trollinger will retire at the end of 2016, an announcement celebrated during the trustees’ dinner with a resolution in his honor.
Under Trollinger’s leadership, the College has received gifts and pledges totaling nearly $142 million to date—some 70 percent of the way to the goal of $200 million by 2019, the 200th anniversary of Centre’s founding.
Alumni giving to the College also remains high, with a participation rate that places Centre among the nation’s leaders. Excluding first-time donors, a total of 1,542 alumni made their largest ever gift to Centre in the past year—representing nearly a fourth of the College’s 6,540 donors. Additionally, Centre Associates set a record high, with a total of 1,288 donors.
Trollinger also reported that Centre, along with the 15 other institutions that make up the Associated Colleges of the South, received a $2.7 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which will be used in part to facilitate faculty collaboration across disciplines and campuses over the next five years.
Additionally, Trollinger shared news of several large gifts to fund endowed scholarships, with the board voting to approve the creation of the Barbato Memorial Scholarship, for which exceptional junior and senior students majoring in economics will be considered. Centre will also establish five new Lincoln-Evans Scholarships thanks to money bequeathed to the College by the estate of the late James H. Evans ’43, who served on the Centre Board of Trustees for 54 years, including seven years as board chair.
In the areas of finance and investment, Trustee Eddy Roberts, Jr., announced that the College once again received a clean audit, and interim CFO John Farris reported that Centre’s endowment outperformed 96 percent of its peers over the last year.
Randy Hays, vice president and dean of student life, emphasized Centre’s continued focus on student leadership and service, a significant and vibrant component of the Centre experience that extends beyond the classroom. Record numbers of students are participating in the many active student organizations on campus, with focus given to community service, religious life endeavors, student government initiatives and Greek life opportunities, including the recent addition of Kappa Delta as the College’s fifth sorority.
An overview of recent campus enhancements was also discussed. Among the campus improvements accomplished during summer 2016 were the creation of two new campus parking lots and an addition to the Parsons Student Health Center.
Director of Athletics and Recreation Brad Fields also announced athletic facility enhancements, with primary attention given to the South Fields complex, as construction of the new soccer facility—anticipated to be one of the best in Division III—and the S. Gordon Dabney locker room facility are on track for their spring 2017 debut. Additionally, the Kitty Baird Center, a newly renovated multipurpose athletic facility that accommodates fitness classes and other campus activities, was formally dedicated during the Homecoming weekend.
In other business, the College installed Beth P. Klein as a new trustee, voted to extend trustee emerita status to Joanne K. Duncan, and welcomed the new student, alumni and faculty representatives. Sarah Hutchinson ’17 is president of the Student Government Association, Lisa Swem ’79 is the new Alumni Association president and Lori Hartmann-Mahmud, the Frank B. and Virginia B. Hower Professor of International Studies, serves as faculty president.
The board also voted to approve sabbatical leaves for 10 faculty members, in addition to emeritus status for Ken Keffer, H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of French and German.
The next meeting of the Centre College Board of Trustees is scheduled for Jan. 27-28, 2017, in Louisville.
by Amy Clark Wise
October 26, 2016