Men and Women of Moravian:
Greetings to you from campus!
Kathy and I returned home last Friday after a week in Washington, D.C. It was a good week! I want to take this opportunity to share with you what we learned along the way.
We began the week at Faith Moravian Church in Washington, DC. This is the home congregation of Seminary Board member and Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Wilma Lewis. What a great experience of worship and sharing. Wilma served as the worship leader. Various choirs of voices and hand bells created a terrific context for the sermon I was invited to preach. Several times a year, I preach at different congregations of the Moravian Church. I view them as great network of support for the work of the College and the Seminary. Each visit I make reminds me of the heritage we have in the Moravian faith tradition, a heritage characterized by inclusion, the celebration of life through music, service to others, and the sustaining goodness of life lived in community.
Julie Del Giorno, Chief of Staff in the President’s Office, and I had breakfast on Monday morning with Deborah McKinnon ’74, a member of the College’s Board of Trustees and Chair of the Joint Property and Campus Planning Committee. We considered some of the most recent developments in a project of central importance to the College, the expansion and renovation of the Collier Hall of Science. Our science faculty is working with the architecture firm of Einhorn, Yaffee Prescott (EYP) to plan the size and shape of the building in such a way so as to advance teaching, learning, and research among our students and faculty. All of our students study science at some point in their academic program at Moravian and about one third of our students are science majors. This project has the capacity to transform the landscape of the College and the educational experience of our students and faculty.
Julie, Deb, and I also considered several other projects to improve the quality of life of our students in the residence halls, the dining halls, and the fitness center. All of these projects together should enhance our ability to recruit and retain students of promise and ability in the years to come.
I then attended the meetings of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). This is the lobbying association for private higher education. College and university presidents gather in Washington each year to learn more about the political dynamics of the country and where issues of higher education fit into the agendas of Congress and the White House. Among others, we heard from Jo-Marie St. Martin, General Counsel and Chief of Legislative Operations for the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, and Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois. All spoke to a similar theme: higher education is crucial to the economic future of the nation, therefore federal student aid is of great importance, however the national debt and the cost reductions needed to bring government spending into alignment with revenues puts federal student aid programs in jeopardy.
That evening and the next day, I took part in the Landmark Conference’s yearly symposium. The presidents of our eight conference colleges join with our athletic directors, and a select group of student athletes to talk together about the health of the conference and the experience of our student athletes. This year our conversation focused upon issues of marketing. How do we celebrate and proclaim the quality of athletic competition that takes place among our NCAA Division III student-athletes in a way that is compelling to the multiple audiences and constituencies we serve.
Our athletic programs and our coaches are terrific! They provide our student-athletes with the opportunity to discover their abilities and passions, to develop these abilities and passions, and to dedicate themselves to become balanced, responsible citizens.
During the following day, Julie Del Giorno and I visited the offices of Congressman Dent, Senator Toomey, and Senator Casey. We visit our congressional delegation at least yearly to bring them up to date on the life and work of the College and the Seminary and seek their aid and assistance with our strategic projects. I am happy to report that our particular set of elected representatives has always held Moravian in high esteem and have been supportive.
This year, they were impressed by the advances we have made in recruiting first generation students and students from historically under-representative groups. They were impressed, as well, with our efforts to reduce costs in order to provide more financial aid for our students. We asked them for continued support of the Pell Grant student financial aid program, which provides support to the neediest students and their families. For example, this year we have 462 students who qualify for Pell Grants and the total financial aid available to these students and their families is $1.8 million dollars. Reductions or the possible elimination of this program would have a direct effect on Moravian’s ability to keep the door of access open to all academically qualified students. Congressman Dent and Senator Toomey were busy with other responsibilities, so we met with members of their staffs that have oversight and responsibility for education issues. Senator Casey was able to meet with us personally and we had our picture taken with him!
Finally, Kathy and I took part in a Washington, D.C. alumni gathering. What a good way to spend an evening! Friends of long standing enjoying each other’s company. Members of our Development Office staff as well as students studying in the Washington Semester Program and student-athletes participating in the Landmark Conference symposium had a chance to mix, mingle and get acquainted with our alums who make DC their home. I had the opportunity to provide the group with a brief update on the life of the College and it was received with enthusiasm.
We concluded the week with a delightful luncheon with some of the newly elected officers of the Washington, D.C. Alumni association. Scott ‘04 and Cathleen Williams ’05 and Amanda Logan ’06 are dynamic, bright, and able leaders. We talked about ways in which they and other alums in the DC area might support our new initiative of recruiting students from Northern Virginia, the Capital, and the Baltimore area.
The College and the Seminary, by themselves, are vital and energetic educational communities. I was very aware of this during the course of the week as I shared on-campus developments with others. But we are also a member in extensive networks of partnership and collaboration including communities of faith, athletic competition, alumni affiliation, and active engagement in the life of our great Republic.
Thank you for your ongoing support that provides the context for our students to build strong foundations for their personal and professional futures!
Christopher M. Thomforde