Another memorable Baccalaureate and Commencement capped a successful year at Bethany College. It was especially meaningful to watch 124 new graduates process through the Oglebay Gates, joining 22,000 alumni worldwide, and to welcome a distinguished West Virginian, former Governor Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, as principal speaker. As I travel around the nation to meet with alumni, the strong bonds of tradition and ongoing relations with faculty and former classmates that link Bethanians of all generations continue to inspire me.
We close out the academic year with pride. This year, the College earned several noteworthy rankings from the Princeton Review, Forbes, Washington Monthly and Colleges of Distinction, among others. Bethany, the oldest college in West Virginia, remains one of just five national liberal arts colleges in the Appalachian College Association and one of only 137 “pure” liberal arts colleges in the U.S., according to a recent study. Despite a challenging economy, the College’s mission has not only survived, but flourished. As we approach the end of the 2009-2010 fiscal year on June 30, all trends are positive, yet there is much more to be done in capital giving, enrollment management, operational efficiency and long-range academic planning. As we prepare to offer our first graduate degree program and explore other initiatives, it is critical that we continue to forge collaborative partnerships and enhance private giving while strengthening our outstanding academic program.
The strength of that program endures not only as a point of pride for all Bethanians, but also as a way to differentiate ourselves from many other institutions. Bethany graduates continue to demonstrate the enduring value of a liberal arts education in their lives and careers as resourceful, resilient leaders. In his Commencement remarks, Governor Caperton addressed the importance of this solid foundation:
“If you recognize the value of preparation, all your endeavors will take on added meaning. And you will pour your heart and your soul into something you might hate, just to prepare yourself for something you know you will love.”
Although a liberal arts education offers much more than just a career foundation, we Bethanians take pride in fostering a work ethic and a sense of commitment and community that transcend the classroom. Retiring economics professor Randy Cooey put it differently when, asked for advice for young graduates, he said in a recent Bethany Today interview, “Find a job that nobody else wants to do, and do it well.” Whatever their career choice, generations of Bethanians are leading exemplary lives and professional careers because of the flexibility of their liberal arts education combined with a work ethic of sustained effort.
Governor Caperton himself offers a strong example of the value of perseverance. Pointing out that he, along with many other accomplished people, was dyslexic at a time when little was known about this disorder, he credits the support of family and sustained hard work with helping him learn to read. Later he built a notable career in public service and higher education. As Malcolm Gladwell, author of the current best-seller Outliers, notes, while
"we often attribute success to innate ability and intelligence, many case studies reveal that it is, instead, often the result of timing, hard work, preparation and tenacity."
Success has often been defined as the intersection of opportunity and preparation. The Bethany College Class of 2010 has certainly benefited from the latter in their years here, and as we wish them Godspeed, we are convinced that they will also capitalize on plenty of the former.
Let me close with an invitation to you and all Bethany alumni and friends to express support for our mission through personal giving. As we conclude another milestone chapter in the life of Bethany College, we can take special pride in continuing to offer an affordable, accessible and excellent first-rate education to all who can benefit from it. Thus, Bethany’s inclusion in Forbes’ Best Buy (first in West Virginia) and in Barron’s is especially noteworthy. To ensure that prospective students can benefit from the same education which has provided a lifelong foundation for alumni, however, we need to secure $8 to $12 million in new gifts and pledges this calendar year. With the current capital campaign now at $27.4 million, your financial support by June 30—the close of the current fiscal year—is critical. Together, we can ensure a dynamic future for Bethany College.
Thanks to each of you for another rewarding and productive year at A Small College of National Distinction.