Bethany President Speaks to “Golden Past and Bright Future”
at Alumni Council Meeting
BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany President Dr. Scott D. Miller spoke to the College’s Alumni Council Board of Directors Saturday, commenting that despite a "volatile, highly competitive marketplace," West Virginia's oldest degree-granting institution is poised for a “bright future because of our golden past.” Dr. Miller’s comments came at a breakfast he hosted at the President’s Residence, Christman Manor at Pendleton Heights.
“During these most difficult economic times, our alumni and friends have remained true to Bethany College,” Dr. Miller said. “While Bethany College has both historic and excellent facilities, its future depends on the ability to grow and serve the students of tomorrow. You have responded to the challenge and supported us in so many remarkable ways.”
He expressed appreciation to the Alumni Council Board of Directors for their active leadership for Bethany, mentioning a long list of Bethanians who “devote time, energy and their personal resources to the well-being of the College.”
Now in his seventh year as Bethany’s president, Dr. Miller provided updates on a number of projects:
- Transformation Now! Capital Campaign:He thanked the Alumni Council for their active participation and leadership in the capital campaign, which has reached the $48 million mark in gifts and pledges entering its final year. The campaign has attracted 3,211 donors and an alumni participation rate of 38 percent. “Progress in the campaign shows the confidence alumni and friends continue to have in our mission and programs,” he noted.
- The Larry Grimes Lecture Series Endowment: The endowment has passed $110,000 in contributions with the first lecture scheduled for October 11 at 10:30 a.m. during Homecoming. Dr. Grimes will deliver the address titled “Eros, Thanatos, Hemingway, Jesus and Me.” He is the editor of a recent scholarly book on Hemingway’s years in Cuba.
- Special Projects: President Miller congratulated and thanked the Council on other initiatives including the establishment of an endowment for The John Taylor Award in the Liberal Arts, equipment for the College greenhouse at Kirkpatrick Hall, Chrome Books for the T.W. Phillips Memorial Library, and technology upgrades campuswide.
- Dedication of Jordan Hall: Dr. Miller also announced the dedication of Jordan Hall in Campbell Village, to be named in honor of Greg and Ellen Jordan (’81), in a ceremony scheduled for October 11 at 9:45 a.m. Dr. Jordan is chair of the College’s Board of Trustees.
- Student-Leader Trip to NYC: Dr. Miller commented on a unique opportunity for Bethany students that will occur in the second week of October. Trustee Vice Chair Dr. Robert McCann (’80) is sponsoring a trip to New York City for 25 student leaders to tour a wide variety of Wall Street financial institutions and meet with corporate executives. Students from the McCann Student Investment Fund, Bethany’s unique $1.5 million portfolio managed exclusively by students interested in business-related careers, will be a prominent part of the leadership group.
- Society for Collegiate Journalists (SCJ) National Conference: The College is hosting the Society for Collegiate Journalists National Conference October 2-4. Distinguished national speakers in journalism, media, and communications fields have been invited, most of whom are Bethany alumni.
- Dual-Degree Programs: As a national liberal arts college, Bethany has expanded educational partnerships with prominent national universities, Dr. Miller said. The College offers collaborative undergraduate/graduate opportunities with Columbia University, Duquesne University, Case Western Reserve University and Carnegie Mellon University as well as a unique collaborative in digital communications with the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Bethany’s innovative partnerships with some of the top institutions in America have significantly expanded student opportunity, he pointed out.
Dr. Miller also discussed the importance of The Bethany Plan, which aids students in identifying with and becoming a part of academic, co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Students can take advantage of global study-abroad trips, career-focused internships and research opportunities. Senior capstone projects and comprehensive examinations round out a student’s education at Bethany. “We all have 168 hours in a week,” he said. “A typical student will devote 18 hours per week to classroom activities and sleep between 42 and 50 hours per week. At a residential liberal arts college, we partner with students for learning activities for the remaining 100 hours. This might be athletics or recreation, a campus job, a fraternity or sorority, or service learning.”
Dr. Miller highlighted four key areas that will aid in the College’s success:
- Enrollment: The College enrolled 325 new students, including 280 freshmen, 30 transfers and 15 graduate students, maintaining an annual headcount of 1,100 and a residential community of just over 800 this fall. This year’s student body will include learners from 23 states and 11 foreign countries. An additional 300 students enroll in continuing education programs each year through Bethany’s re-established Buffalo Seminary. Dr. Miller said that the longer-range goal is to selectively increase the residential population to 925. Top states traditionally represented in the new class include Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.
- Finances: He noted that Bethany has strengthened its Division of Finance through higher-education best practices, with a goal of increasing total revenues from all sources while demonstrating fiscal responsibility.
- Resources Acquisition: Announcing that the current phase of its capital campaign has reached the $48 million mark in pledges and gifts, Dr. Miller said the College would expect to achieve its first-phase goal of the final $4 million in support during the current academic year. The campaign, “Transformation Now!”, is funding endowment growth, facility enhancements and current operations including increased scholarship support for students from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states. Later campaign phases will fully fund the College’s strategic plan, which also calls for maximizing use of campus facilities year round to provide additional revenue. Notably, the College’s endowment has grown to $52 million, the best among private colleges in the state.
- Creating a more student-centered living and learning environment: A recent national feature in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dr. Miller said, profiled Bethany’s commitment to student-centeredness, reflecting the College’s initiatives during the past seven years to serving the changing needs and expectations of today’s college students.
He discussed two significant national issues impacting higher education nationally (including Bethany) – enrollment and cost. The cost of a college education in the United States has been rising since the 1970s. According to The College Board, the average increase in tuition and fees for full-time students at private, nonprofit, four-year institutions was 3.8 percent in 2012. More than 90 percent of Bethany students receive financial aid through scholarships, grants, loans and work-study opportunities.
Bethany instituted a tuition freeze this year. The College’s tuition is already far below that of similar institutions. The average cost of tuition and fees at a private institution is $30,094, while Bethany’s is $25,736. The freeze is applying to all incoming and returning undergraduate students, he added.
“Bethany recognizes that a college education is an investment in the future,” Miller said. “As we celebrate our milestone 175th anniversary this academic year as the state’s oldest institution of higher learning, there is no better time to make a Bethany education more affordable. We did this three different ways: an expanded scholarship program, increased work opportunities and the tuition freeze for the 2014-15 academic year.”
The strategy has succeeded. Located on a beautiful, historic, 1,300-acre campus of 45 buildings in the wooded foothills of the Allegheny Mountains 39 miles from Pittsburgh, Bethany enrolled 1,100 students (headcount) in 2013-14. The College anticipates selectively growing the traditional population from its current level of approximately 800 to 925 by 2017. He said that increasing the enrollment requires innovative thinking for today’s highly competitive admissions marketplace.
“In this challenging higher education environment, we can’t rely on doing things the old way,” Dr. Miller said. “We can’t just pass the cost on to students. Expanding the residential population will create greater critical mass, greater diversity and increased resources. It will also be attractive to alumni and donors.”
Dr. Miller also spoke on the College’s heritage as West Virginia’s oldest degree-granting institution. Bethany traces its origins to the founding of Buffalo Seminary at what was then Bethany, Virginia, in 1818, Miller said. The institution counts 1840 as its founding as a degree-granting college. He concluded the gathering by sharing an inspiring 175th anniversary video produced by Bethany alumnus Jeff Flick ('82) of the firm of BD&E in Pittsburgh.