Jody, thank you for those kind words, and for partnering in my academic and administrative career. Just as you helped me, I will continue “paying it forward” to help others. Also, thank you for joining us today; it means a lot to me.
Chairman Fenton, Vice Chair Zecchi, Members of the Marietta College Board of Trustees, Distinguished Members of the Platform Party, Institutional Representatives – especially four Presidents that are here today – Tim Cooper, past Interim President, Jean Scott, the 17th President of Marietta College, Larry Wilson, the 16th President of Marietta College, and Brad Ebersole, President of Washington State Community College; Representative Bill Johnson; students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Marietta College, members of the greater Marietta/Parkersburg community, and the many friends and supporters of Marietta College; thank you for joining us today. I am honored by your presence and the opportunity you’ve given me to serve as the 19th President of Marietta College.
I also want to thank family and friends who joined us today: Louie and Bev Kish; Mary and Colin Schneeweis; Jan and Larry Ellis; Dr. Jody Harpster-16th President of Shippensburg University; BG USAF (R), Dr. Denny Terrell; Dr. Al Bohl; Sandy Freeman; and Ben Lyman. And, I’d like to recognize:
- Judy’s parents, who couldn’t join us. Mom and dad—you’re always in my heart. Thank you for your support.
- Three people who I think about daily and who I know are watching from above: my parents, Marjorie and John Ruud, and my brother Marty. I can’t thank them enough for shaping me into who I am today.
- Finally, and very specially, my wife of 40 years Judy—my best friend and trusted confident – after passing three bar exams and practicing law for over 30 years, she began the noble profession of teaching. Thank you and I love you.
I want to recognize the Inauguration Committee: Angela Anderson, Tim Cooper, Emily Drabeck, Jill Deming, Bonnie and Bill Donnelly, Deb Egolf, Jessica French, Paula Lewis, Dash McNeal, Tara Meagle, Mark Miller, Tom Perry, Joe Sullivan, Jo Ellen Yeary, and Patti Zecchi. Thank you for your amazing work organizing this Inauguration!
Today, I’d like to first give you a glimpse of our vision for Marietta College and explain why it enhances two key components-or strengths-of our contemporary liberal arts education.
That first component is our liberal arts core - literature, philosophy, the social and physical sciences. Marietta College was founded in 1835 as a liberal arts college, and because the liberal arts are essential to business success and an engaged citizenship, it’s part of every student’s curriculum.
The second component involves the STEM disciplines--Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Marietta College added these to help its liberal arts education meet 21st century needs.
During the past few decades, educational institutions have narrowly focused on STEM. However, recently they’ve shifted to a broader focus that embraces STEM and the liberal arts—a focus like we have at Marietta College. The reason—we need both disciplines to transform our economy and our world.
STEM is critical because Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math surround us; they are woven into the fabric of our lives; and they help prepare students for jobs. As a recent U.S. Government study shows, STEM occupations are growing almost twice as fast as other occupations (17% for STEM versus 9.8% for others). STEM graduates also have higher income-earning potential than others, and the growth of the U.S. as an economy and world leader depends on STEM workers.
That helps explain why OUR world-famous STEM programs continue to make us a “best college” choice for students. Students at Marietta College can learn specific technical skills in programs like: Petroleum Engineering and Geology, Physician’s Assistant, Chemistry, Physics, Athletic Training, Health Science, Math and Computer Science, Biology, and Biochemistry. Graduates of these programs get well- paying jobs after graduation and excel in graduate programs to become doctors, veterinarians, research scientists, and NASA engineers.
A liberal arts education is equally critical. It helps students develop the intellectual and practical skills necessary to address economic and civic challenges. It helps students think critically and creatively, solve problems (including those lacking clear-cut answers), and communicate effectively. Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, illustrated the business value of coordinating liberal arts and STEM education when he said this at the unveiling of a new iPad: “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—that it’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”
We are proud that our vision strengthens the liberal arts core for our STEM and professional students, and strengthens the STEM disciplines (including math and science)-for our liberal arts students. That will best prepare all of our graduates for business success and civic engagement.
Our strong liberal arts core will also help students adapt to our rapidly changing world. That is essential because students will change careers over ten times in the next twenty years, and with technology advancing at eye-blink speed, we can’t predict what careers will be available or provide appropriate training. For example, twenty years ago could you have anticipated these changes?
- Surgery performed by human hands to robotic surgery;
- Paper maps to GPS systems;
- Landline telephones to cellphones;
- Room-sized Mainframe computers to laptop iPads with WIFI connection;
- Mall Shopping to On-line shopping to e-commerce.
Or that today’s jobs would include:
Or that in 2050 students might have jobs as:
- Robot mechanics
- Space tour guides or spaceport traffic
- Memory augmentation surgeons
- Biomechanics service persons or MED-CHANICs
We can’t rely on STEM alone to prepare students for those changes, we must include the liberal arts. That’s why STEM has become STEAM—with the A representing the liberal arts. In liberal arts courses, students learn the “soft skills” that I discussed, along with skills that will help them adjust to change, skills like working in groups and understanding human nature and diversity. As David Kearns, CEO of XEROX, said in 2002: “The only education that prepares us for change is a liberal education. In periods of change, narrow specialization condemns us to inflexibility-precisely what we do not need. We need the flexible intellectual tools to be problem solvers, to be able to continue learning over time.”
As educators we appreciate our role in preparing students for 21st Century employment, especially with the high cost of today’s education. And, for the past two decades, we’ve heard how a STEM education does that. However, lately we’re hearing more about how a liberal arts education also does that. While there are many specific examples, one that students enjoy is in the memoir “SHOE DOG” by Phil Knight, former CEO of Nike — (required reading for any entrepreneurship student). Mr. Knight explains that technology helped Nike create the perfect shoe - the waffle sole - and the mold that allowed factories world-wide to make those shoes. But, making the shoes didn’t generate revenue; that required selling the shoes; convincing people to buy them — sometimes spending hundreds of dollars for “sneakers.” For that — Nike hired someone to design a symbol representing motion. She designed the trademark Nike “SWOOSH.” That “SWOOSH” tells a story — it’s the sound someone makes as they run (or swooshes) by you. That’s what made Nike successful; that story, or marketing, helps customers visualize why they should buy Nike shoes. That “swoosh” is worth about $26B — and who designed it, a graphic artist – a liberal arts major!
That example describes career options for STEM and liberal arts graduates for creating and marketing products. But it suggests something more important: that business success requires everyone— even the most brilliant scientist--communicate (or sell) their thoughts and ideas verbally and in writing. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founding CEO, knows that. To help his senior executives think clearly, he has them write memos for others to read and critique during “quiet time” before senior management meetings begin.
Strengthening our liberal arts core is, however, about more than business success. It’s about helping students create a better world and a life worth living. As Isaac Asimov of Robot Visions said: “In a properly automated and educated world, then, machines may prove to be the true humanizing influence. It may be that machines will do the work that makes life possible and that human beings will do all the other things that make life pleasant and worthwhile.”
Our vision enhances an education where students learn to do the work that makes life possible, and to create an inclusive democratic society that makes life pleasant and worthwhile. It involves teaching students the skills necessary to create socially responsible businesses — skills taught in courses like philosophy, business, and leadership. In those courses, students learn business ethics. They also learn that successful businesses are about people, and they learn how to make decisions about people in a socially responsible manner. A relevant example is again from Phil Knight’s memoir. It involves his dislike for the statement “it’s just business” — something Nike suppliers might say when leaving Nike to work for its competitors. After visiting a critically ill friend and business contact in the hospital, Mr. Knight remembered that phrase and said: “It’s never just business. It never will be. If it ever does become just business, that will mean business is very bad.”
We are enhancing our programs to help students better understand what that means and how it relates to creating socially responsible (ethical) businesses—and how to lead with compassion and integrity—so they can create a better society today and well into the future.
Our vision also embraces Marietta College’s deeply embedded philosophy of caring and supporting our students. That helps us teach students things they can’t, or won’t find simply in textbooks, computers, or other technology. We do that in several ways, including giving students opportunities to live and work together by:
- Joining various student groups - including our academic groups; student government; Greek system; musical groups; and athletic teams;
- Attending academic seminars, All-Scholars Day, civic engagement programs, Excel and other Leadership programs through the McDonough Center for Leadership and Business;
- Participating in collaborative learning activities with world-class faculty and other students, like internships, work-study programs, and student-faculty research, OR
- Participating in study-abroad opportunities—like the one last month where 57 of our Petroleum Engineering students traveled to Dubai with our petroleum engineering faculty. That experiential- learning opportunity gave students hands-on experience in the oil and gas industry and let them experience it through another world’s view.
Our care for students is readily apparent in our shared sense of community that brings life to Marietta’s campus. It’s built on the close personal connections that I just described between and among students and faculty, staff, and administrators. Our faculty show they care in millions of ways. They learn about our students and their lives; if a student misses class — they call to see if there’s a problem; and they join students for lunch or a walk on our gorgeous campus. Our students also show they care in millions of ways. For example, through the campus “Say Thanks a Latte!” students can send a note of thanks and a ‘Latte’ to a favorite faculty or staff member. Undoubtedly technology is important, but it’s these relationships that are the hallmark of Marietta College. No electronic communication or computer technology, can provide that relationship. Technology may move at the speed of light, but it can never move at the speed of the heart.
Shortly after joining Marietta College in July, I realized how very proud faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, and others were of this outstanding college. I quickly understood the meaning of the “Marietta Family” and the “Etta Effect.” It’s an empowering, inspiring, and invigorating spirit; it’s transformational — it enhances our motivation, morale, and performance. It’s why everyone loves Marietta College.
Marietta College’s many successes over the past 181 years, position it for many more future successes. Given our area’s rich history, it seems appropriate to quote what Sir Isaac Newton said in his letter to Robert Hooke in February 1675, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” As we embark on our future successes, let’s remember that we stand on the shoulders of some very special giants: Larry Wilson, Jean Scott, and Tim Cooper who are with us today; and the 16 other past Presidents whose skilled leadership, foresight, vision, and love have helped make Marietta College one of the best colleges in the Midwest and the Nation. Their leadership allows me to lead this great institution forward from a position of strength and — for that — I thank them.
Something that makes my days particularly wonderful is seeing the many accomplishments of Marietta College and its diverse members. Examples include:
- The 2017 US News and World Report — ranked Marietta College 8th of the best Baccalaureate Schools in the Midwest. (We have been ranked in the top ten annually since the rankings started in 1985);
- When the New York Times asked Brookings Institution Fellow Jonathan Rothwell to rank colleges by their highest value added regardless of major — he ranked Marietta College #7 in the entire nation;
- The Wall Street Journal recently ranked Marietta #221 in the 2017 Wall Street Journal ranking of 1,061 colleges and universities in the U.S — that’s the top 25% — and 10th among Ohio four-year schools;
- On September 17th, 2016, entrepreneurs, business owners, community leaders and students — both college and high school — attended the inaugural Mid-Ohio Valley Entrepreneurship Expo at Marietta College. This EXPO, a partnership between Marietta College and 18 other area organizations, gave business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs a chance to network and acquire tools and resources to start, maintain or expand their business.
- Musical acts are the driving force behind this year’s five Esbenshade Series events — four of those will be held at the new Peoples Bank Theatre in downtown Marietta (our future THEATER DISTRICT). Those events include Kao Kalia, poet and author; Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn’s jazz classical bluegrass music; Gavin George, a 13-year-old piano prodigy; The Shaolin Warriors from China, known for their deadly martial-arts prowess; and the famous jazz sounds of the Branford Marsalis Quartet with Kurt Elling. This series is generously funded by the Frederica G. Esbenshade Memorial Fund;
- 1984 Alumnus Tom Kaminski’s quality research and hard work were recently recognized by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association who presented him the Medal for Distinguished Athletic Training Research — the organization’s highest honor. Kaminski, Professor of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology at the University of Delaware shares this honor with past recipients including two other Marietta College graduates: 1983 grad Scott Lephart, Dean of the College of Health at the University of Kentucky, and 1985 grad Christopher Ingersoll, Dean of College of Health and Human Services at the University of Toledo. We are proud, but not surprised, that three of the most prolific scholars in the athletic training field are Marietta College graduates;
- For the past two years, students in our Physician’s Assistant program had a 99% pass rate for their first attempt on the licensure exam. This program, targeted for expansion, receives over 750 applications for 36 slots annually;
- We recently announced that Pulitzer-Prize winning author, David McCullough, who just wrote the best-selling book “The Wright Brothers.” is staying in Marietta to write his next great work – entitled “The Pioneers.” While staying here this past summer, Mr. McCullough and his staff used Marietta College’s fabulous archives and special collections to prepare for this next book—a book about Marietta and the Northwest Territories between the founding in 1788 until the mid-1840’s. We are very excited about the book and having Mr. McCullough in Marietta while he writes it.
Since my July 3rd arrival, we’ve been working on a comprehensive Strategic Planning Process for 2017-2022 to help implement our vision. I’d like to share five major goals from this plan that we will begin to focus on:
Enrollment Management through Marketing, Student Quality and Success: Our top priority is addressing recent enrollment challenges. This involves seeking out intellectually curious students who we believe will succeed at Marietta College. Through recent efforts freshman enrollment increased beyond our budget projections and overall enrollment now stands at 1,224. This is a great start but is not enough — and we will build on it to provide opportunities for new freshman as well as transfer students.
Recruiting and retaining students begins with telling our story — about our small classes where faculty and students work closely together, civic engagement and leadership opportunities for students, and opportunities for students to engage in living and learning together and become part of our community founded on trust, caring, and compassion.
Everyone is critical to these efforts — particularly the faculty — who put students first. Research shows that incoming students are more likely to apply and enroll in a college if they connect with a faculty member — whether at an open house, scholarship competition, or somewhere else. And, enrolled students are more likely to remain in college and enjoy their experience if they become involved in campus life, form relationships with faculty, and have opportunities for student-faculty research.
Marietta College excels in these areas. Our faculty’s commitment and care for students helps students thrive. Therefore, faculty — thank you for everything you do — including meeting with students for their initial campus visits, mentoring and caring for them once they enroll, and providing them with research opportunities. I simply cannot thank you enough!!
Increasing enrollment involves improving our enrollment management structure and processes. That includes:
- Having more robust in-state and out-of-state recruitment and retention efforts;
- Actively engaging the help of alumni who reside across the country to recruit students; and
- Expanding and strengthening our partnerships with other colleges, universities, and community colleges — especially Washington State Community College — right here in our own backyard. We must continue to emphasize How Good We Are and Tell Our Story!!
Financial Success and Stakeholder Relationships: We will continue enhancing our operating budget through cost containment, efficiency and effectiveness, program implementation, and infrastructure. We will also continue working hard to increase our annual fund, The Marietta Fund; our Endowment; and the involvement of our fabulous alumni. This will help us continue our success and engage in more innovative changes. I also remain steadfast that one of my top priorities is building relationships among alumni, donors, and friends of the college.
Demonstrating the Value of Contemporary Liberal Arts for Professional Success: We must maintain and enhance the quality of our academic and non-academic programs. We will intentionally distribute new and reallocated resources to strategic areas of need, demand, and emerging importance. While enhancing our Liberal Arts Program, we will carefully examine program opportunities in Health Care; Business/Economics and Entrepreneurship; Teacher Education, Engineering and Information Technology, and Leadership. We will also emphasize our pre-professional success and our 2+2, 3+2, 3+3, 3+4 partnership programs.
Enhance the Student Experience to Support Teaching and Learning: We will continue to improve technology and classroom infrastructure, enhance student life spaces — (including our students request for a New Student Union) - and enhance experiential and career preparation. We will continue to make the Marietta College campus a great place to live and learn.
And, my final goal: Continued Investment in Faculty, Staff, and Students: We will continue the commitment to our most important resource — our people. We will increase our success through transparency and involving our faculty, staff and students in decision-making. And, we will reward success and enhance professional development education and training opportunities.
I am optimistic and excited for this year and the future. We have made some structural organizational changes to implement the goals that I described. In addition to our Cabinet, we included Faculty Council, Staff Council, and student leadership in our Strategic Planning Process. I am committed to working with everyone: faculty, staff, students, trustees, and alumni to better this great college. Together, we will move forward.
Today, I began by discussing technology and change. Our students’ needs will change; businesses, communities, non-profits, governments, higher education institutions, and other employers will seek individuals with a strong work-ethic, solid core of talent, and the ability to change. Change is good. We must embrace it while continuing to build our solid partnerships and forge new and more successful partnerships to meet those demands...today and into the future.
As we move forward, let’s remember our shared passion for education; our belief in our students and their impact on the future; and the successes that will be Marietta College’s for years to come. I accept the responsibility and challenge for Marietta College. I promise to do everything possible to work collaboratively with you to uphold and enhance the legacy of this magnificent institution.
If an article about Marietta College appeared on the front page of The Marietta Times or the Columbus Dispatch, or even USA Today in the year 2022, I hope it might say:
- Marietta College increased in size through appropriate enrollment management, which allowed it to attract, retain, and graduate intelligent, creative, and compassionate students to join The Long Blue Line;
- Marietta College continued to enhance its contemporary liberal arts base by adding new programs in health care management, physical and occupational therapy, care coordination, predictive analytics, gerontology, computer and software engineering, and industrial distribution;
- Renovations informed by the new facilities master plan and supported by a comprehensive campaign included state of the art student housing, upgraded library and academic facilities; and upgraded athletic facilities — and of course a new student union;
- Advancements were made in increasing student diversity and increasing the recruitment, retention, and diversity among all university employee groups;
- The College enhanced its external partnerships with a new business incubator. In areas of economic development and entrepreneurship, it continues to be a center of information and support throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley Region; and
- Through its on-going partnership with Main Street Marietta, the College recently completed its new downtown baseball stadium! This stadium allows our baseball team to continue its national success and keep up with our National Championship basketball teams, world class marching band, undefeated debate team, DIII National Championship football team in their victory over the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and our other OAC championship teams!!
Will all these things happen? I believe so. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the staircase!” Have faith, I assure you - the staircase is there!! And, I know that you’ll help me make this vision a reality. So-in advance, thank you!
Remember, we are Marietta College!! We have had 181 years of success! It’s our time to embrace the past and face our challenges head on. It’s our time to speak openly and honestly with our alumni and friends about the college’s vision—to tell our story. It’s our time to reignite the pioneer spirit. It’s our time to bring back our beloved traditions. It’s our time to celebrate the liberal arts. I ask all of you to draw upon your inner pioneer — connecting this college’s rich history with its resiliency and ability to provide an exceptional education.
It’s OUR TIME to Bring Forth the Pioneer in All of Us!!
Thank you for your support; for your trust; for being part of the Marietta College family; and, for believing in Marietta College.