University News

State of the University Address - Founders’ Day 2007
President Al Goldfarb - September 24, 2007

I am so pleased and excited to be celebrating my sixth Founders’ Day with all of you. It is an especially significant celebration since we recognize that 50 years ago Western Illinois State College became Western Illinois University. On a personal note, this is a poignant Founder’s Day for me. Last year, I announced that I was to undergo prostate cancer surgery and would miss half of the Fall semester. I am pleased that next month will mark the one year anniversary of my surgery. I have been given a clean bill of health by my doctor at Mayo. I am very thankful for all of the prayers and thoughts that were sent to Elaine and me. I am extremely touched when individuals across campus still inquire about my health and express such deep concern.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our university status, I decided to look back and see what was occurring in the years surrounding 1957, our first year as a University. John Hallwas, in First Century, notes that President Beu "crusaded to raise faculty salaries (from a median of $269 per month in 1942 to $880 per month in 1957). During his final year as president, 1957, the Teachers College Board authorized a four year liberal arts and sciences program leading to a bachelor’s degree. Funding for the Fine Arts Building [Browne Hall] was secured by President Beu in 1957, but the structure was not completed until the summer of 1959. It cost $1,320,000." I should also point out that enrollment was rising and was over 2,600 the year we became a university.

While times have changed, we have remained true to the vision, values, and traditions that make us, the Western Illinois University community, strong. Through continued successful implementation of Higher Values in Higher Education, the University’s strategic plan, we have made many strides in the past year. And we still share the same ideals and are building on the same vision that was in place 50 years ago. While the Colchester Independent in 1958 described Western "as the school that rose from the prairie,” today we are quickly becoming the leading public master’s degree granting university in the United States — and one for which we and our host communities and regions can all be proud.

Indeed, we do have much to celebrate. The University Professionals of Illinois and administration reached an agreement on a four-year contract that will be presented to the Board of Trustees this Friday. Just as President Beu was concerned about salaries 50 years ago, the goal of our recently-ratified contract is to raise faculty salaries and to create an even stronger relationship between the union and administration. We are proud to have been a leader in reaching a long term contract five years ago and are pleased that again we have a multi-year agreement that advances our strategic plan’s highest priority — to provide faculty and staff salaries that meet and exceed the average of peer institutions.

I might also point out that we do continue to work on improving the salaries of all of our employees. We have completed equity reviews for all of our civil service and administrative professional staff. We will regularize this process and will also review beginning salaries and ranges for all employees. We pledge to continue to work on salary issues in the coming years.

Enrollments are again strong. While we had a slight decline this Fall, this was due primarily to a drop in extension and transfer students and a smaller freshmen class two years ago. Enrollments continue to move toward our goals in Macomb and the Quad Cities. We had a larger freshmen class in Macomb and continue to see progress in the Quad Cities.

Just as enrollment grew from 2,605 to 3,797 for our five first years as a University, we will see planned growth to 12,500 students on the Macomb campus and from present levels to 3,000 students on the Quad Cities campus, provided we receive state resources to expand our facilities, faculty, and operations to accommodate students and programs. In keeping with a key strategic goal in Higher Values in Higher Education, we will maintain our historically low student-to-faculty ratio on both campuses.

Affordability remains a major concern. We continue to receive recognition for our cost guarantee. While we cannot match the cost of 1957 (when tuition and fees were $34 per quarter hour and housing ranged from $5 per week in Seal Hall to $15 per week, with meals, in Grote Hall), we strive to remain affordable. In recent years, we extended the guarantee to graduate students. This past year, we added a community college graduate guarantee for new transfer students who earn an Associates degree and immediately enroll at Western.

Fifty years ago, there was very little diversity on our campus. Today we continue to make strides in creating a campus community that represents the population of this great nation and our commitment to diversity. While we recognize that we still have a long way to go, the Western community has made progress. This fall the percentage of minority students is higher than in the previous year as is the percentage of underrepresented faculty and staff. We also saw an increase in the number of international students enrolled this fall.

Just as there was a massive amount of construction right after 1957, we are undergoing a mini-construction and renovation boom. We have almost completed the student side of Hanson Field and look forward to beginning work on the other side. In many ways it is appropriate that Hanson Field signals our facilities boom. Following the construction of Hanson Field, which was dedicated in 1950, 24 new buildings were erected in less than two decades.

Our current construction projects will emphasize rehabilitating many of the buildings built during those two decades and strategically adding new facilities for the Macomb and Quad Cities campuses in accordance with Campus Master Plans. You see the evidence today.

Memorial Hall’s renovation is on schedule and we are looking forward to moving back into that building, formerly known as the Memorial Library, in 2009. The auxiliary services building, that housed Casa Latina, has been demolished and we expect to start construction on our new Multicultural Center early this spring. Groundbreaking for this facility will take place immediately following this Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting. The expansion of the Donald Spencer Recreation Center is well underway and will make that facility even more user-friendly.

The residence halls built during Western’s construction boom are now being remodeled, updating spaces as well as improving elevators. We are also ahead of schedule in putting sprinkler systems in these facilities.

We also had the architectural and engineering planning funds released for our new performing arts center. Just as it did in 1957, it will take us time to complete the building but we are on our way. We do hope that the state will pass a capital budget and we will soon have construction funds. I only wish that we could build the new center for $1,320,000. Instead we are lobbying for a $56 million project.

In Macomb, we also purchased over $300,000 of new chairs and desks for our academic classrooms; some may have had furniture dating back to 1957. This was long overdue and greatly needed. We also are paying for temporary chillers to cool Horrabin and Currens halls and will do so until we can purchase permanent chillers.

In the Quad Cities, we have completed the architectural and engineering planning for our first building and are also aggressively seeking state construction funds. On both campuses, we have set a course for the future through our master planning.

The 1957 Sequel noted that "our successors will have much to enjoy in the new buildings under construction.” In 2007, I am happy to say that we all will have much to enjoy in our new and our remodeled facilities.

And just like in 1957, we have completed a variety of new degree program proposals. Fifty years ago, a new liberal arts degree was proposed. As we begin our new Quad Cities expansion, we have, in a similar fashion, developed a bachelor of liberal arts and sciences and are proposing a master of liberal arts and sciences. The first new degree programs established at the renamed Western Illinois University in 1957 were in accounting and business administration. Today, the College of Business and Technology is equally as strong in Macomb and the Quad Cities. Our first schools were in Education and Arts and Sciences; again equally as strong on both of our campuses. And there are expansions in Fine Arts and Communication, which are continuing to grow on both campuses.

In some ways, all that is new is built on our storied history. Our history is grounded in innovation and responsiveness to West Central Illinois. Ruth Fortner’s 1957 article "Building Word Perception Skills in the Primary Grades at Ericsson School in Moline” published in the Western Illinois State College Bulletin, reflects our long-standing commitment to education in the Quad Cities. Today, we are seeking funding for enhanced P-3 education in that region. The Board of Higher Education will soon review our bachelor's and master's in liberal arts degree programs for the Quad Cities and the new nursing degree program and Religious Studies major on our Macomb campus.

And we continue to be recognized nationally for our outstanding work. We are a university to be reckoned with on the national level. U.S. News and World Report again ranked us as a top tier Midwestern master’s granting university. While we dropped five places, our peer assessment continues to increase and we continue to admit 300 students who do not meet our traditional ACT and class standing requirements. Doing so hurts us in that ranking system, but we remain committed to access and affordability in keeping with our core values of social responsibility and personal growth. The Princeton Review again chose us as a best Midwestern university. And we are included in the new College Access and Opportunity Guidebook.

What President Beu said in the 1956-1957 Student Handbook remains true today. "Here you will find a scholarly and friendly faculty [and I add staff] and upperclassmen who will help you realize your goals.” This sense of academic community continues to be at the heart of Western’s outstanding programs.

Interestingly, we are now using upperclassmen to support our First Year Experience, in keeping with President Beu’s description of Western. And that program, an outstanding partnership between Academic Affairs and Student Services, has brought us statewide and national attention. The Illinois Board of Higher Education has already recognized the First Year Experience as a best practice.

Even with such recognition, we will continue to review and assess the program. This past year, approximately 100 faculty, staff, administrators, and students participated in a comprehensive self study of our students’ experiences during their first year at Western. The effort was part of a national higher education project known as the "Foundations of Excellence in the First College Year.” Action items recommended by the nine working committees formed the basis for a draft of a FYE strategic plan, which will be shared with campus governance groups this semester. I want to thank all of those who participated.

Fifty years ago, there were also concerns about staying ahead of developing technologies. The Western Courier, at that time, featured articles on the first portable x-ray machine coming to Macomb for two days of health screenings, the demonstration of new portable typewriters with simpler ribbon replacement, WWKS — the precursor to WIUW/WIUM -- signing on the air, and Western’s first television camera and monitor.

Today, we continue to focus on improving the state of technology at Western. I will soon announce a new technology structure that will, we expect, deliver better and more coordinated service to our end users. We have made our campus wireless, added an additional fiber loop; we should have increased access to the Quad Cities and internet 2 soon; and we are developing a process to regularize annual replacements of faculty, staff, and classroom computer equipment.

While sustainability was not a predominant concern 50 years ago, the beauty of the campus, its plantings and landscaping were frequently discussed. Today, we are working vigorously on being environmentally good citizens and protecting our campus environment. We were recognized by the Board of Higher Education for our best practices in sustainability. We can see many examples across campus. We have increased recycling (and were extremely competitive in the national student recycling contest last year). Sodexho uses environmentally friendly disposable products. We are designing new buildings with LEED certification, including the first building in the Quad Cities and the new Multicultural Center and Performing Arts Center in Macomb. I am sure that many of you have seen the hybrid Priuses recently added to our university fleet.

Fifty years ago, fundraising was just in its infancy at our university. The Western Foundation was only 13 years old. Fifty years later, we are in the midst of a new comprehensive campaign for which we hope to raise $60 million. We have hired major gift officers in each of the colleges. We had an almost record year in annual fundraising. And last October we were able to announce the remarkable Norman and Carmelita Teeter $20 million dollar planned trust. We also established a leadership committee in the Quad Cities to focus specifically on a campaign for our students, faculty, and facilities there. We have organized a variety of new events on- and off-campus to reconnect with alumni and potential donors. Our hope is to raise significant new endowed scholarships, to assist with affordability, and to raise funds to support faculty.

But we are not resting on these accomplishments; we are going to continue to work to build on the vision of 50 years ago. We are going to move ahead in our planning for the future and in the development of additional programs. And we will continue to be guided by our strategic plan, Higher Values in Higher Education. It is hard to believe that the plan has been our guide for almost five years. This year, we will revisit the plan and do necessary revisions and additions.

We will build on Western’s historic commitment to plan continuously for the future. The review and update of Higher Values in Higher Education will be important as we begin establishing the foundation for University reaccreditation from the Higher Learning Commission-North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Staff work will begin this summer and the self study process will start the next academic year.

In terms of facilities, we will continue to lobby for the construction funds for the Performing Arts Center and the first building in Moline. We will also start requesting the next building on our new riverfront campus and beginning planning for a new science facility in Macomb. These are long term projects but we must begin our requests now.

We will continue to work on salary issues for all employees. UPI and the administration have agreed to form a committee to analyze faculty market equity issues and report back at the end of this year. We are reviewing the possibility of developing a pay for exceptional performance process for civil service and administrative/professional employees. Of course, all of these issues will be addressed with the appropriate governance groups.

We are going to continue to move ahead with enhancing our current campus environment. We will purchase new chillers for Horrabin and Currens Halls, while still developing financing strategies for a centralized chilled water system. We will also continue to add sprinklers to our residence halls, remodel classrooms, add technology, and purchase new classroom furniture. And we will continue to lobby the state for capital renewal funds to help with these much needed projects.

In terms of academic programs, we will next develop a complete four-year Nursing program so that students can begin and complete such a degree in residence. We are also exploring the possibility of a small engineering program to be housed in the Quad Cities on our new campus. And the College of Education and Human Services is working on a proposal for our next doctoral program, a Ph.D. in the Law Enforcement and Justice Administration department.

We will be even more aggressive this year in our fundraising efforts. We have set goals for all of the college gift officers. We are developing a strong campaign case statement that we hope will attract donors to our top priorities. We will make more visits than ever before.

We will also complete our upper administrative team by successfully searching for a new provost and academic vice president. I am extremely appreciative of the search committee’s hard work. I know that they are committed to finding a new provost by the start of the spring semester. And we pledge to expand our efforts to recruit additional minority students, faculty and staff. We will aggressively focus on diversifying our campus and build on this year’s successes. We will also strive to increase again the number of international students on our campus.

In closing, through strong commitments to open communication, collaboration, and shared governance, we are strong and will grow stronger. And what will always remain the same is Western’s commitment to its core values. Western has always been committed to academic excellence, educational opportunity, personal growth, and social responsibility.

Fifty years ago, Western’s faculty, staff, administrators, and students believed that the state college in Macomb would become a distinguished comprehensive university—and they were right! Today, we recommit to make an expanded version of that vision a reality, one that includes Macomb and our new campus in the Quad Cities. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you on accomplishing that vision.

Thank you so much and happy 50th birthday to Western Illinois University!