The following is President Douglas J. Bennet’s 174th Commencement Remarks presented during Commencement Ceremonies May 28.
Last weekend Midge and I attended a commencement at a different institution. The graduate in question was a niece who had chosen not to attend Wesleyan for obvious reasons. It was a glorious affair, as this commencement will be, but it reminded us of the value of brevity so I will be brief.
First, let me echo enthusiastically Jim Dresser and Pacho Carrenos welcome to you, and thanks to your families and the faculty. I really thought that Pacho captured all my hopes for Wesleyan in his powerful statement. This is Jims first commencement as chair of the Wesleyan board of trustees, and we particularly welcome him to this platform.
Second, let me point out that todays commencement coincides with the 175th anniversary of Wesleyans charter, which was granted on May 26, 1831, so this year we celebrate our septaquintaquinquecentennial.
In this anniversary year we will study Wesleyan history with renewed attention. It is a history that goes back to the early years of the Republic. It is a history of consistent educational purpose and of successful renewal to meet changing times. It is a history both of privilege and of commitment to social good.
In recent decades we have broadened our commitment to access and to racial equality, recognizing that these are still uphill battles in America. It is a great honor to be able, in just few minutes, to yield back the balance of my time to a person who has kept the reality of racism in America before us throughout his scholarly and personal life.
Let me just conclude with a word to the class of 2006. You represent over 700 individual scholarly and personal outcomesaccomplishments of imagination, inspiration, perspiration, obsession, focus, sportsmanship, passion and intellect. At the same time, your engagement with each others points of view and backgrounds, has allowed you to think and rethink who you are and who you want to be. Our small global university nurtures an environment in which encounters with each other, between disciplines and points of view, let us learn from each other.
You care a lot about other people, and you have shown that you will be part of the solutions. I know this because of your responses to Katrina, to the Indian Ocean tsunami, to the genocide in Darfur, and to your Middletown neighbors. Where existing institutions seem not to be getting the job done, you have created new not-for-profit organizations to foster everything form micro-credit in Nepal to nonpartisan debate on global issues in America.
Theres something special and powerful about a Wesleyan education. You have contributed mightily to it. I am confident that you embody Wesleyans strengths and its commitments. Keep up the great work. Stay in touch as we turn the corner toward our bicentennial. We will miss you very much.
Congratulations to you, the class of 2006.
Campus News & Events
by Olivia Drake •
|Edgar F. Beckham was Wesleyan’s first African-American dean of the college. In 1991 he received Wesleyan’s Raymond E. Baldwin Medal for service.|
| Edgar F. Beckham, one of the nation’s most influential and beloved leaders in higher education, died Wednesday in Middletown at the age of 72. He was a resident of North Haven.
As the first African-American dean of the college at Wesleyan University, Beckham led efforts to build understanding that diversity is integral to excellence in American education. While he served as dean, Wesleyan University became a national model for excellence in education for students of diverse backgrounds. Beckham also served as the chair of the Connecticut Board of Education, working to bring the lessons learned at Wesleyan to the public schools of Connecticut. In the 1990s, he headed one of the most far-reaching and effective change efforts ever launched in higher education: the Ford Foundation’s Campus Diversity Initiative. Then in 1998, he joined the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) as a senior fellow, where he continued to guide colleges and universities throughout the United States on matters of educational quality.
Beckham’s civic contributions were many. In addition to his service to Connecticut education, he served as chair of the boards of Middlesex Hospital, the Donna Wood Foundation, and the Connecticut Humanities Council. He also served as a trustee to the Connecticut Housing Authority, Mount Holyoke College, Vermont Academy, Connecticut Public Broadcasting and the Association of International Educators.
Beckham was honored with numerous awards. In 1997 he received the Outstanding Contribution to Higher Education Award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. In 1991 he received Wesleyan’s Raymond E. Baldwin Medal, awarded for extraordinary service to Wesleyan and to the public good. In 1996, he was named Dean of the College Emeritus, and in 1998 the Wesleyan Alumni Association honored him with its Distinguished Service Award. Beckham received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in 1997 from Olivet College and in 2000 from Clark University.
“Edgar Beckham’s legacy is his message that diversity is about much more than adding people of color to white campuses,” said AAC&U president Carol Geary Schneider. “He led a movement to enlarge the content of the curriculum, create intercultural community on campus, add new dimensions to liberal education, and build new civic capacity for democracy. He enriched us all with his life, his work, and his love.”
Edgar Beckham was born August 5, 1933 in Hartford, Conn., the son of Willabelle Hollinshed and Walter Henry Beckham. He grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Hartford and attended Weaver High School.
In 1951, Beckham enrolled at Wesleyan University, the recipient of the Lewis Fox Scholarship for his outstanding academic record at Weaver High School, and of several other named scholarships. He pursued a pre-med course of study, and was editor-in-chief of the Argus, Wesleyan’s student newspaper, a member of the choir, and a fraternity member of Delta Sigma. Between his junior and senior years at Wesleyan, he served for three years in the U.S. Army in Germany where he trained as a neuropsychiatric technician. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in German. That same year, he married Ria Haertl of Stuttgart, Germany.
He earned his master’s and completed his doctoral course work in Germanic languages and literatures at Yale University. He began his academic career at Wesleyan in 1961 as an instructor of German. He spent 28 of the next 29 years at Wesleyan, serving in various posts including lecturer in German, director of the language laboratory, associate provost, and, from 1973-1990, dean of the college. “Edgar Beckham guided Wesleyan through the very difficult and utterly transformational period when we learned the hardest lessons about what it meant to be a diverse community,” said Wesleyan President Doug Bennet. “He succeeded by keeping us focused on what we could accomplish for ourselves and the larger society as we succeeded.”
Beckham also taught Freshman Humanities and courses in African-American studies at Wesleyan. While at Wesleyan, Beckham was the coordinator of Explorations in the Black Experience, an experimental high school course in black history designed and taught by Wesleyan undergraduates. He was also coordinator of studies for Wesleyan Upward Bound, an anti-poverty program for high school students.
Beckham spent the 1966-1967 academic year abroad in Germany where he taught English language and African-American history and literature at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. He also lectured extensively at America Houses throughout the Federal Republic of Germany on the state of civil rights and racial consciousness in the United States.
In the fall of 1990, Beckham accepted a position as program officer for the Ford Foundation’s Education and Culture Program. In this capacity, he affected the curriculum and co-curricular activities at hundreds of American college campuses. He organized international seminars on campus diversity in India, South Africa, and the United States, and he wrote and edited materials for the three volumes of essays based on the seminars. Beckham’s singular contributions to the Foundation’s work on access, diversity as an educational asset, and multicultural education earned him the unprecedented title of Senior Program Officer. “Edgar was the philosopher-king and the moral conscience of the Education and Culture Program,” said Alison R. Bernstein, a current vice president of the Foundation who worked closely with him.
Beckham is survived by his wife, Ria; son Frederick and daughter-in-law Julie; a sister, Ruth Beckham Holloman; a brother, William Beckham; a niece, Merle Holloman; and a nephew, Wendell Holloman.
A service was held May 30 at Wesleyan University’s Memorial Chapel.
by Olivia Drake •
|Wesleyan students received 145 awards during the Academic Awards and Prizes Reception at the Russell House May 9. The event was organized by the Dean’s Office. (Photos by Olivia Drake)|
by Olivia Drake •
Ruby-Beth Buitekant 09 and Rebecca Chavez 08 read from the Torah for the first time as part of their Adult B’nei Mitzvah ceremony April 29.
| In Jewish tradition, when a child reaches the age of maturity (12 years for girls, 13 years for boys) that child becomes responsible for following Jewish law. The Jewish families hold celebratory ceremonies Bnai Mitzvah for boys, Bnei Mitzvah for girls which acknowledge that the child has become son or daughter of the commandment.
Nowadays, however, not everyone follows these traditions and some Jewish children go on to adolescence without going through the ceremony. But for Wesleyan students Ruby-Beth Buitekant, 09 and Rebecca Chavez 08, now is better than never.
On April 28-29, Buitekant and Chavez shared a Bnei Mitzvah through Wesleyans Adult Bnai Mitzvah Project. They attended a Shabbat dinner and celebrated at a campus-wide party in their honor. They were lifted in chairs and honored. Most importantly, the students had the opportunity to lead a morning Torah service in front of their friends, family and Jewish community, which involves reciting their D’var Torah. This service links segments of the Torah to their personal journey of exploring their Jewish identity.
We hope the Adult Bnai Mitzvah Project will guide students like Ruby-Beth and Rebecca as they explore their Jewish identities, says Rachel Bedick 08, who co-organized this years Bnei Mitzvah with Lillian Siegel 08. We also hope that the project makes them feel supported and embraced by the Wesleyan Jewish community so that they can go on to feel comfortable in other Jewish communities that they may encounter later in life.
The student-run Adult Bnei Mitzvah Project was created three years ago by Daniel Heller 06 and Ari Fagen ’07. The students who elect to have a Bnai/Bnei Mitzvah ceremony as an adult spend the year studying Judaism and Hebrew. They also design a Tikun Olam or Healing the World community service project.
Each week, a different student, professor, or Rabbi from Wesleyan or the greater Middletown community comes to lead a class about a topic in Judaism. This year the 14 speakers including Henry Goldschmidt, assistant professor of religion, who taught a class on chosenness in Judaism; Rabbi Seth Reimer from Adath, Israel, who led a text study on the laws of purity; and Wesleyan Rabbi David Leipziger Teva, who led a class on lifecycles in Judaism.
In addition to class work, Buitekant and Chavez were matched up with a Hebrew student tutor, and they learned how to chant from the Torah.
Chavez, who joined the project to educate herself about Judiasm, says she now has an incredible sense of ownership of her Jewish identity. She was not raised in a Jewish community.
“I have really valued this process not only as a rite of passage into the Jewish community but as a vehicle for learning about myself through studying this aspect of my heritage,” she says. “I genuinely feel like a part of the Jewish community at Wesleyan, which has been a wonderful discovery. It is not a purely individual process, but one in which I’ve been supported by a group of really motivated, caring people.”
The Adult Bnei Mitvah Project culminated April 28-29 with activities devoted to the Bnei Mitzvah ceremony/service and celebration. Buitekants mother, Beth-Ann Buitekant, traveled from Atlanta, Georgia to attend the ceremony.
I especially appreciate that Ruby-Beth was able to receive, at Wesleyan, the benefit of the teachings that I never fully learned myself and could not pass on to her, Beth-Ann Buitekant says, who raised her daughter Quaker and Jewish. It was a wonderful experience.
|By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
Lirra Schiebler ’07, right, speaks on her community research project at “From the Field: First-Hand Reports of Wesleyan Service-Learning Projects” May 12 in the Center for Community Partnerships. Rob Rosenthal, center with blue shirt and tie, is director of the Service-Learning Center.
| As part of a Service-Learning project, Lirra Schiebler 07 learned that some residents in Middletown’s North End spend about 47 percent of their monthly earnings on heating and electric bills during the winter season.
Schiebler presented her group’s study, “Energy Costs in the North End: The Rise in Utilities and its Effect on a Low-Income Community” during a meeting at the Center for Community Partnerships May 12.
This is a statistic I find shocking, she says. Our results show that the rise in energy bills has not only affected residents, but affected them to a staggering and dire degree. I hope that local agencies, will be able to use this data in a persuasive way, garnering support from governmental and other assistance programs to filter more directly to those who are in need of immediate aid.
Schiebler was one of nine students who made presentations at the public event, titled “From the Field: First-Hand Reports of Wesleyan Service-Learning Projects.” Rob Rosenthal, professor of sociology and director of the Service-Learning Center coordinated the event. He is the instructor for the course, Community Research Seminar, in which small teams of students carry out research projects submitted by local groups and agencies.
Each student presented 10-minute talks, followed by brief opportunities for questions and answers. Several of the students were part of the course.
Jeff Stein 08 presented his study, Defining and mapping conservation priorities in the Maromas area of Middletown, Connecticut. He and his classmates evaluated the unprotected, wildlife-rich, 3,000-acre area known as the Maromas, in terms of its ecological value, and then ranked its parcels in terms of their value to the conservation movement.
Advocacy groups can use Steins data to apply for grants, fund further studies, and focus efforts on conserving the areas top priority parcels. The Middletown Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction approached Stein after the meeting and suggested incorporating the schools science classes with the Maromas.
Considering that most of us had never even heard of Maromas, we were awestruck that such an incredible resource with such extensive biodiversity existed so close to campus, Stein says. We’re all very excited about the awareness we’re raising about the area.
Julie Bromberg 06 presented her groups study, Disabilities and School-Based Arrests: Local Connections.
The study was designed to determine whether the national trend of an overrepresentation of students with disabilities getting arrested holds true in Meriden and Middletown. The study involved collecting collecting statistics from the school districts, police, and juvenile court as well as conducted interviews with special education teachers, school resource officers arrested students, and their parents. Bromberg and her co-investigators found that there were a disproportionately large number of students with disabilities getting suspended in both Middletown and Meriden. Twenty-five percent of suspensions in Middletown and 31 percent in Meriden were special education students, while they only made up about 13 percent of the student population in these districts.
Other students and their studies include: Kara Schnoes 07 with Implementation of Evidenced-Based Practices at The Connection; Laura Ouimette 06 with Why Student Graduate From–or Drop Out of- Upward Bound; Julie Kastenbaum 06 with Report from the Field, an Integration of Clinical Experience and Life Science Learning; Gretchen Kishbauch 07 with Predictors of Repeat Child Maltreatment among Families Involved with Child Protective Services; Kaneza Schaal 06 with Peer Mediation as a Model for Student Empowerment; and Craig Thomas 06 with Analyzing the North End Landfill.
Schiebler says the service learning course has brought her closer to the Middletown community, and also has taught her the importance of finding solutions to problems on a micro level.
Its important to look at these problems close to home before we offer grandiose solutions to global issues, she says. World poverty is clearly important, but how are we supposed to tackle that beast when its equally scary step-brother resides next door?
|By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
Gay Smith, professor of theater, speaks about upcoming art events during the 2006-07 Center for the Arts season in World Music Hall May 9. Pictured below, far right, Nina Felshin, curator of exhibitions and adjunct lecturer in art history, speaks with guests following the CFA’s season announcement.
| A fusion of Japanese drumming and jazz, clown-theater, Brazilian guitar, creative conversation and West African dance are all in the Center for the Arts (CFA) pallet for the 2006-07 season.
During the CFAs annual Season Announcement May 9, Pam Tatge, CFA director, announced the centers upcoming highlights.
We are very proud of what we and Wesleyans faculty, students and staff have created for next year, Tatge says.
New this year will be online ticketing, a deepened interest in engaging students, and creating a partnership with Middletowns Luce eatery and the Green Street Arts Center.
In addition, the Dean of the College Office will collaborate with the CFA next year to allow first-year students to interact with guest artists. Through the new “Engage and Imagine program, students can exchange views, discuss art and culture with guest artists choreographer Bill T. Jones and playwright Charles L. Mee.
This is going to be an amazing initiative and we hope its first of many, Tatge says.
BREAKING GROUND SERIES
Compagnie TchéTché, an all-female dance troupe from Abidjan, Côte dIvoire, will perform Dimi Nov. 17 and 18. In Dimi, the troupe explores the inner conflicts of contemporary African women.
The Joe Goode Performance Group will perform Deeply There (stories of a neighborhood) and Stay Together on Feb. 2 and 3. Deeply There is an intimate exploration of the AIDS crisis and the work widely acknowledged to be Goodes masterpiece.
CROWELL CONCERT SERIES
Sérgio and Odair Assad, the Assad Brothers perform Brazilian Guitar on Oct. 21. Hear the brothers fine blend of styles, time periods, and cultures ranging from gypsy melodies and American tangos.
The FLUX Quartet, featuring the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Alvin Luciers world premier, performs Nov. 3.
Paul Brady, one of Irelands most enduringly popular artists, will perform Feb. 16. Brady continues to push out the boundaries of Irish contemporary music in the new millennium.
Eight-time Grammy award winner Eddie Palmieri will perform The Sun of Latin Music on March 3. At Wesleyan, he will play with his ensemble, La Perfecta II.
OUTSIDE THE BOX THEATER SERIES
Connecticut resident and OBIE-award winning playwright Charles L. Mee will hold Creative Conversation Feb. 22. His works, including bobrauschenbergamerica, Big Love and the rock-musical True Love, often draw inspiration from the Greek classics.
GREEN STREET ARTS CENTER
Shes also allowing Wesleyan students to perform their own talents for the centers students.
Wesleyan has some amazing performers from tap dancers to cellists, and the kids love to interact with the Wesleyan students, Astor says. We really want to boost the collaboration between Green Street and Wesleyan students this year.
|By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor and Lex Leifheit, Center for the Arts press and marketing coordinator|
by Olivia Drake •
Sophie Pollitt-Cohen 09 is the co-author of the book The Notebook Girls published in April.
| Sophie Pollitt-Cohen 09 is co-author of The Notebook Girls by Warner Books. The book began the journal with her friends, Julia Baskin, Lindsey Newman and Courtney Toombs at Stuyvesant High School in New York City in 2001.
The journal provided a way for the high school freshmen to stay in touch despite demanding class schedules, extracurricular activities and busy social lives.
Formatted as a reproduction of the girls journal, the book is stocked with hand-written notes on lined-notebook paper, doodles and pasted-to-the-page photographs.
It can be a lot easier to write something down than to have to admit it in words, she says. We’ve spent a significant portion of our adolescence trying to figure out who we are. The notebook is the closest we’ve come.
Since the books debut April 13, the young authors have been featured in New York Magazine, OK! Magazine, Vanity Fair, the cover of the Daily News, the cover of the Los Angeles Times calendar section, the Boston Herald, as well as on The Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC News Now, Sirius Radio, CNN Inside Showbiz, the WB11 morning news show, and a few other TV shows as well.
|By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
| After attending a digital image workshop, six Wesleyan staff members are seeing picture-perfect.
During the April 24 North East Regional Computing Program conference at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., participants had the opportunity to learn about digital image resource development, meeting the image demands of scholars in a changing environment, using digital maps in the classroom, creating and managing institutional digital image collections and visual storytelling among other topics.
The hope is that by assessing current practices in the classrooms, methods for more effective use of these images can be identified and implemented, says conference organizer Dan Schnaidt, academic computing manager for Arts and Humanities. While it would have
Schnaidt was joined by Valerie Gillispie, assistant university archivist; Mary Glynn, applications technology specialist; Susanne Javorski, art and reference librarian; Rob Lancefield, manager of museum information services and registrar of collections; and Susan Passman, slide librarian.
Topics of the day-long conference were The Use of Digital Images in Teaching Today, Digital Image Resource Development, Getting it Right: How Well Can Image Suppliers Determine and Meet the Image Requirements of College and University Users? Open Archive Initiative’s Protocol for Metadata Harvesting in collecting and distributing NSDL resources, Maps, GIS and spatial data: Maps Entering the Classroom in New Ways, Creating and Managing Institutional Digital Image Collections, Supporting Faculty in Developing and Deploying a Personal Digital Image Collection, Gather Ye Images: Negotiating Multiple Collections for Teaching, Critical Literacies, Visual Story Telling, Grammar, Cognitive Aesthetics, Teaching Visual Rhetoric and The Threat of Media Illiteracy.
The attendees also received the results of a six-month digital image study, which examined how digitized images of all sorts are used by faculty at 34 teaching and research institutions. Wesleyan and the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE) spearheaded the study.
Wesleyan spearheaded and sponsored the workshop, which was first sparked with a $15,000 Fund for Innovation grant. NITLE provided significant additional funding which allowed the program to expand the number of participating schools from 10 to 33.
The conferences principal speaker was David Green, a consultant hired to conduct the research. His final report will be made available on the Academic Commons site on June 2. The link is http://www.academiccommons.org/group/image-project.
The Wesleyan participants attended the conference for different reasons, but all hope to implement some of their new-gained knowledge at Wesleyan.
Lancefield attended the conference to hear the studys results, and learn from the diverse perspectives on various image-related topics.
Findings reported at the conference may well affect the approaches and tools we at Wesleyan use to deliver digital images, made here or elsewhere, to students and faculty for use in the classroom and in other learning contexts, Lancefield says. This defining focus on pedagogical use, rather than the more common topic of image production, was the really exciting aspect of the event. The conference and the study could have appreciable effects on our thinking at Wesleyan.
Gillispie says she gained some new insights into how faculty members are using visual resources in their teaching, and how other schools are managing personal and institutional collections of digital images. These ideas will be put to the test in Wesleyans Special Collections and Archives. There, more than 40,000 photographs of Wesleyan University and Middletown, and rare illustrations, are available and could be digitized for academic use.
The conference has encouraged me to think about how we in Special Collections and Archives can work with faculty to encourage use of our unique visual materials, she says. It was interesting to see how other liberal arts institutions are managing collections of visual images, and how they are using them to teach undergraduates.
|By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
|A handcrafted quilt, pictured at left, made by library staff members will be raffled off during a book sale sponsored by the Friends of the Wesleyan Library May 13.
The Wesleyan community can book some time at a library benefit this month.
Friends of the Wesleyan Library, a volunteer group dedicated to supporting the library, will hold a book sale in the Exley Science Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 13. The center will be filled with over 10,000 books for sale.
It’s a perfect opportunity to find research, pleasure, gift or treasure books at a great price and build your own collection, says Christina Trier, co-chair of the Friends of the Wesleyan Library book sale committee.
This is Wesleyans first major book sale in 20 years. Books have been withdrawn from Wesleyans four libraries or selected from private donations and sorted into 35 categories including art, science, literature, foreign language, religion, biography, philosophy, politics and history. Some books are new.
Prices start at 50 cents for paperbacks and $1 for hardcovers. Special titles will be priced $5 and up or sold through silent auction. A handcrafted quilt made by library staff members will also be raffled that day.
Book sale committee co-chair Greg Petropoulos says this sale is a great opportunity to promote the Friends of the Wesleyan Library, which was revitalized two years ago.
We hope the sale will bring together people who enjoy books, while helping to raise funds to initiate special preservation projects or catalog currently inaccessible collections in the library, he says.
The sale is open to the public and admission is free. For further information about the sale and the Friends of the Wesleyan Library, go to www.wesleyan.edu/libr/friends/index.html or contact Jennifer Hadley at email@example.com, or call 860-685-3897.
If you would like to volunteer to help at the sale, please contact Christina Trier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
| Interim Vice President for Finance John Meerts has become Wesleyan’s permanent vice president for Finance and Administration effective May 1.
Meerts has responsibility for the Offices of Finance, Human Resources, Facilities and Legal Affairs. The Board of Trustees will act on a resolution to appoint Meerts as treasurer of the university at its annual meeting this month. In addition, he will continue his oversight of the Office of Information Technology Services, which he has led since coming to Wesleyan in 1996.
“In his interim role, John quickly demonstrated the ability to manage a complex budget situation,” says Wesleyan President Doug Bennet. “He successfully developed a five-year plan to reduce substantially Wesleyan’s reliance on its endowment, and he communicated the key issues with great clarity to faculty and staff and ultimately to the Board. John’s colleagues give him credit for great personal integrity and the transparency with which he conducts business. He will provide the financial and administrative leadership we need to implement the next phases of the university’s strategic plan.”
Meerts joined the Wesleyan administration in July 1996, from Yale, where he had been director of administrative systems since 1991. As director of information technology services at Wesleyan, he led a substantial overhaul of the organization, as well as the university’s technology and applications. He became vice president for information technology in 2002.
After Vice President for Finance and Administration Marcia Bromberg retired in July 2005, Meerts assumed interim responsibility for Wesleyan’s finances. His permanent appointment follows a national search for Bromberg’s successor.
“It has been tremendously rewarding for me to serve Wesleyan in this broader capacity over the past several months,” Meerts says. “I look forward to continuing as part of the team that delivers on Wesleyan’s promise of educational excellence.”
by Olivia Drake •
| Wesleyan President Doug Bennet will conclude his presidency at the end of the 2006-07 academic year, he informed faculty, students and staff on May 4.
Bennet, who became president in April 1995, led Wesleyan’s historic $281 million capital campaign, expanded the size of the faculty, launched an ambitious campus building program, and shaped the universitys first comprehensive strategic plan.
“Wesleyan is doing well, both institutionally and in its daily pursuit of excellence,” Bennet said to members of the campus community gathered at the steps of North College. “The university is prepared well to engage new leadership, and the time is right for Midge and me to move ahead to the next phase of our lives.”
Bennet praised the ongoing work of Wesleyan’s faculty in envisioning and implementing a liberal arts and sciences curriculum intended to engage students with the world around them and to enable them to become leaders. He also cited the strategic planning processes that have mobilized the campus and alumni communities around clear institutional priorities.
“Universities progress in several ways,” he said. “There are big turning points that affirm fundamental institutional commitments. The work we did to define a Wesleyan education for the 21st century, to improve student aid, to add faculty, and to begin a process of campus renewalall of these show that Wesleyan can make big decisions and act upon them.”
He added: “The daily progress of an educational community is ongoing and never-ending–the discovery, the teaching, the care and respect for all within the community. New students arrive every year; new issues come to the fore. They show who we really are, especially in making good on the potential of our diversity. They help individual students define their values and learn the confidence that will empower them as change-makers.”
Midge Bennet thanked the assembled students, faculty and staff. She added that, even after their retirement, she and the president would look forward to “lectures and sporting events, as well as lunch at the new Usdan University Center.”
We will continue helping Wesleyan in any way we can, she said.
James van B. Dresser ’63, chair of Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees, was on hand to thank and congratulate the Bennets.
“The hallmark of Doug’s tenure has been his ability to forge a strategic direction for the institution,” Dresser said. “Through cycles of planning and action, Doug has moved Wesleyan forward. His well-placed faith in the willingness of alumni, parents, and friends of the college to fund plans they believed in has brought Wesleyan important new resources. The school has never been stronger, and thanks to his leadership, the Wesleyan community has the pride and confidence to move from strength to strength.”
Dresser called Midge Bennet “for many of us the wisest and warmest counselor and friend we have known.” He added: “Her undying faith in our common purpose and our bright future have inspired all who have had the good fortune to come into contact with her in any setting, over all these years.”
Dresser assured those assembled he would consult the Board of Trustees immediately about plans for a presidential search. “I promise that we will keep the campus community fully informed about this process, and that we will keep students, faculty and staff meaningfully involved,” he said.Bennet’s Legacy
Douglas J. Bennet 59 was elected the 15th president of Wesleyan University on
April 7, 1995, and began his tenure on July 1, 1995. He was U.S. assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs when tapped by Wesleyan, though he was best known for his decade (1983-93) as chief executive officer and president of National Public Radio.
Once installed as Wesleyan’s president, Bennet led the university community through its first-ever strategic planning process, a comprehensive effort that included faculty, staff and students, alumni and parent leaders. This process yielded a vision for liberal education in times of rapid change. “Wesleyan Education for the Twenty-First Century” (1997) sought to define the essential capabilities of an educated person and established the principles on which to make ongoing curricular choices. It affirmed the value of scholarship and teaching in a residential community and confirmed that knowing how to learn is the most durable legacy of a Wesleyan education. The process also produced “Strategy for Wesleyan” (1998), which defined key institutional priorities: an enduring commitment to need-blind admission and thus to building the University’s student aid program; an expansion of the faculty in order to improve teaching ratios and expand scholarship and teaching in new, interdisciplinary areas; and the beginning of a program of campus renewal.
To view Bennet’s accomplishments, including his efforts with strategic planning, student aid, faculty additions, campus renewal, fund-raising, endowment management, technology and athletics, visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/administration/president/accomplishments.html.
These priorities became the foundation for the $281 million Wesleyan Campaign, by far the most successful fund-raising effort in the university’s history. The campaign garnered contributions from 68 percent of Wesleyan’s alumni. Total gifts in a single year tripled, from $10.4 million in 1995 to $31.3 million in 2005.
As the campaign concluded in 2004, Bennet led a second strategic planning exercise. The second strategy, “Engaged with the World” (2005), describes priorities for the period 2005-2010, including continuing curricular innovations and renewed commitments to international studies and to science. It outlines priorities for academics, campus life, student aid, and physical infrastructure.
Bennet’s emphasis on planning and on strict allocation of budget resources according to the priorities thus established has enabled Wesleyan to devote the highest proportion of its total spending to teaching and research and the lowest to administration among the top 50 schools in the annual rankings produced by U.S. News and World Report. It has enabled Wesleyan to compete for students and faculty against much better-endowed institutions. It also has enabled the University to maximize the impact of fund-raising and borrowing to invest in strategic priorities, while almost doubling the market value of its endowment during his presidency.
The Bennet presidency also represented a new era of collaboration with the city of Middletown. Under Bennet’s leadership, Wesleyan participated actively in the city’s development efforts, including investing University funds to bring to the city a downtown hotel, the 100-bed Inn at Middletown, which opened in 2003. Wesleyan established the Green Street Arts Center, a community arts center in the city’s North End, offering classes and workshops for children and adults in music, visual arts, dance, theater, literary and media arts. The center, a collaboration with the city of Middletown and the North End Action Team, is an important part of efforts to revitalize the city’s North End.
“I think they will be talking about Doug Bennet’s legacy for many generations to come,” said Alan Dachs ’70, chair of Wesleyan’s Development Committee who also served as chair of the Board of Trustees from 1997 to 2005. “He did an outstanding job as our president. He will be very hard to replace. Everything we value most has been improved under his leadership. Financial aid packages are better, and the academic enterprise is more robust. He has raised more money than ever before in our history, and our investment returns are in the top quartile. Everything he was asked to do, he did and more, much more.”
In January 2006, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation made a grant of $200,000 to Wesleyan in honor of Doug Bennet’s service to the university over the past 10 years. The grant created an endowment that will support an annual lecture and program focused on ethics, politics and society.
|By Justin Harmon, director of University Communications|
by Olivia Drake •
Wesleyan’s new turf field, located behind Physical Plant on Long Lane, was dedicated April 29 during a ribbon cutting ceremony. It is expected to be available for use later this month.
| Wesleyan athletes will be breaking new ground this month on their new synthetic turf field.
The field, dedicated April 29 during a ribbon cutting ceremony, will be put to use in May. Mens and womens soccer, lacrosse and field hockey teams will use the outdoor field regularly, and it will be available for several other activities, as well.
John Biddiscombe, director of athletics and chair of physical education, said Wesleyan is among the last universities in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) to possess a turf field.
Were no longer the turf nomads, he said during the outdoor ceremony. Were no longer at the disadvantage.
The artificial field, composed of Polytan Megagrass 2025, is located behind the Physical Plant building on Long Lane. Underneath the synthetic grass is a rubber padding, gravel and drainage pipes to keep the field puddle-free in the event of wet weather.
Mens Head Lacrosse Coach John Raba said the field will be ideal for on- and off-season practices. In addition, the turf will serve as a drawing card for recruiting top student-athletes.
Baseball and softball teams will also use the field for pre-season practice in late February when Bacon Field House becomes overcrowded. The field will be available for selected club sports, intramural play, sport camps and selected use by the local community.
This is a great situation for us, and for all sports, Raba said, who cut the ribbon. Im going to guess that this field is always going to be busy.
Wesleyans Office of University Relations and Athletics personnel worked with parents and alumni to raise the $920,000 needed to build the field. More than 160 alumni, parents and friends of the university were actively involved in helping to raise the funding for the field, including Bill Belichick, 75, P07, Moira Byer P’06, David Campbell ’75, P 10, Michael and Marilyn Dee P’06, Mike McKenna 73, Jim Walsh P’07, Cole and Katherine Werble P’07 and Preston Smith ’64, P’06.
Preston Smith, whos son, Matt, is a varsity lacrosse player, reminded the ribbon-cutting ceremony audience that it took the fund-raising effort of five teams, with support form five decades of alumni, to provide the two-acre turf field.
This field is not only the best in the division, but the best in New England, Smith said to the crowd.
Wesleyan hopes to raise another $400,000 to pay for lights, bleachers, a scoreboard, protective netting and a paved walkway between the Freeman Gymnasium and the turf field.
|By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor|