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State of the University, 2001-2002

Duquesne University Seal - SmallCharles J. Dougherty, Ph.D.
President, Duquesne University
September 5, 2002


Welcome to you all. Welcome to our Spiritan community, to our Chancellor, to the faculty and staff. Welcome to the start of another academic year and a new chapter in the history of our outstanding University.

This time of the year reminds us of the great gifts we enjoy by virtue of being members of this academic community. We have the remarkable gift of rhythm in our lives. Our years have definition; they begin and they end. They end predictably in the joy and pride of our students’ graduations. They begin—as this one has over the past two weeks-- with our students’ arrival and the excitement and renewal that it brings to all our projects.

We have the gift of community, of working with one another. We are a small city, an intimate and face-to-face town. Each of us plays an important role in the success of our common life. We rely on one another’s commitment to serve the common good. None of us succeeds in our individual tasks without relying on the hard work and good will of those working with us and around us.

We have the gift of creativity. An academic community is the home of innovation. We innovate in teaching, research, service and throughout our multiple administrative systems. Our jobs are not routine because we are constantly facing new students, new research agendas, new service opportunities, new management realities. In every case, we are challenged to perform better. And we do, because we have extraordinary freedoms to think, to imagine, to shape our futures.

We have the gift of history. We are part of a dramatic narrative that began in 1878. We are the heirs of the struggles and successes of every University generation since, from the first daring Spiritans from Germany and Ireland to the graphic successes of the last generation. Each has added to that legacy, spread the message, enriched the story. This academic year we will live that history in a special way as we mark the 125th anniversary of the founding of the University and the College, as well as the 300th year of the Spiritan community.

Finally, we have the gift of meaning. Because this University has a mission, our working lives have a rich significance. And because that mission is to serve God by serving students, the significance we share is profound. As we transform the lives of our students, we also endow our own lives with purpose and so transform ourselves. As we discover and create this meaning for ourselves, we make the world a better place—directly through service to our students and indirectly through their service to others.

We begin the year conscious of these gifts. We begin confident that they represent the grace of God. And we begin grateful for the providential care of the Holy Spirit--for Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit. In that context, I want to share with you some of the successes of the last academic year and some of my thoughts about a vision for our common future.

Let me begin where it all begins for us—with students. After a year of hard work and innovation in Office of Admissions--and with the support of the Financial Aid Office, the Deans’ offices, and many others--we have enrolled the largest freshmen class in our history, 20% bigger than last year. We had noteworthy successes in Pennsylvania, of course. But we also have significantly larger enrollment from Ohio, New York, Maryland, and New Jersey. Freshmen enrollments are up over 50% from these important border states.

All the key academic measures moved in the right direction as well. This freshmen class has the highest average SAT score we have ever recorded. The high school average GPA is up; as is the percentage of those graduated in the top two quintiles of their high school classes. We improved our selectivity by 6%.

The size of this freshmen class anchors us financially and makes many things possible for us. The quality of this class enhances the academic climate in our classrooms and makes the attainment of excellence more routine. Recruiting success breeds success. We expect it. But to ensure it, we must all be recruiters for the future of Duquesne. We must work together for continued gains in our applicant pool, increased selectivity in acceptances, and even higher academic quality in future classes.

And we must do what we can to support the professionals who lead this process every day. I would ask that all the members of the Office of Admissions stand now so that we can express our appreciation for your work.

Advances were made in student life last year. We hired our first Director of Multicultural Affairs so that we can better serve our minority and international students. A significant expansion of women's crew began with the hiring of a full-time coach, the funding of more scholarships, and the purchase of additional boats. We made some needed salary adjustments, particularly in the Financial Aid Office and for our lowest paid employees. We completed multiple renovations in the living learning centers and in the Student Union. This fall, we had a tremendously successful move-in and orientation program, all the product of careful planning throughout the year. And, following an extraordinary and independent self-examination, we confirmed the safety and wholesomeness of our campus—even as we resolved to improve it in any way we can. I offer a special thank you to our professionals in Student Life for their fine work at a challenging time for all of us.

There were many academic advances this year, both large and small. I will mention only a few to represent the breath of accomplishment. McAnulty College faculty produced 14 books last year. Through the generosity of the Wimmer Family Foundation, the College was also able to launch a new faculty development program. It funded the creation of three interdisciplinary courses, and summer support or course reductions for seven young scholars to bring writing projects to completion. In the School of Law, we built a plan that led to new faculty hires and an intentional reduction in enrollment to improve our student to faculty ratio. We also increased funding for scholarships and for the law library. Across the University, our academic and service efforts garnered 9 million dollars last year in grants and contracts, 1.7m more than the previous year. Rangos faculty published an impressive 38 peer-reviewed articles last year.

The School of Pharmacy opened a state of the art Virtual Pharmacy Practice Lab. The School of Education initiated the new Leading Teacher program. Our Nursing School won accreditation from the new Commission on Collegiate Schools of Nursing. We initiated a Program in Entrepreneurship in the Palumbo Business School. Our School of Music’s Chamber Singers toured Europe and were invited to perform at the national conference of the American Chorale Directors Association. We opened a branch campus in Harrisburg. The datatel system was upgraded and we added wireless networking to 29% of campus buildings. Finally, our athletes made a statement from the classroom. They had the 15th best Div. I graduation rate in the nation and we led the Atlantic 10 in our number of Academic All-Americans.

We made an important reinvestment in our faculty through last year’s work on this year’s budget. Despite some very challenging constraints, the University was able to move our average faculty salary in all ranks into the top twenty percent of our national peer group. This required new salary dollars for associate and full professors, amounting to a financial commitment by the University of about a half million dollars above and beyond the general pool for merit increases. Thank you to the Budget Committee and to the Deans for their support of this important effort.

We also invested considerable time and energy in reconstituting large parts of the University’s leadership. Last year, 3 Vice Presidents and 3 deans were hired; as were directors of public affairs, the library, and CTS. Thank you to the many faculty and staff who served on these search committees and did such a fine job, not only of screening but also of recruiting. I am pleased to tell you that in each of these searches we were able to hire the top candidate recommended by the search committee. I have had the great good fortune of inheriting the support of a team of talented and dedicated administrative leaders. This year’s hires builds on that tradition.

There were gains for our staff last year. An employee assistance program was announced. Our wellness programs were enhanced. We revamped and improved the staff awards. We made annual performance evaluations mandatory to ensure consistency and fairness. And we had a successful community-building employee day with the Pirates at PNC Park. This will become an annual outing.

We also invested considerable time and energy in reconstituting large parts of the University’s leadership. Last year, 3 Vice Presidents and 3 deans were hired; as were directors of public affairs, the library, and CTS. Thank you to the many faculty and staff who served on these search committees and did such a fine job, not only of screening but also of recruiting. I am pleased to tell you that in each of these searches we were able to hire the top candidate recommended by the search committee. I have had the great good fortune of inheriting the support of a team of talented and dedicated administrative leaders. This year’s hires builds on that tradition.

There were gains for our staff last year. An employee assistance program was announced. Our wellness programs were enhanced. We revamped and improved the staff awards. We made annual performance evaluations mandatory to ensure consistency and fairness. And we had a successful community-building employee day with the Pirates at PNC Park. This will become an annual outing.

Last year we reached out to our alumni in the region and around the nation in new ways. We began an on-line alumni community that allows alums to stay in touch with one another electronically. We started a monthly email broadcast, the Bulletin from the Bluff, that goes to the nearly 20k alums whose email addresses we have obtained. And we reached out personally.

Last year we hosted 54 alumni gatherings in Pittsburgh and in 27 different cities in 12 states across the country. Our alums responded with a record donor participation rate, a higher percentage of our alums giving last year than ever before. Alumni donor participation is an important ingredient in our US News and World Report ranking. More importantly, it augurs greater attachment and support from alums in the future—a key to our institutional success. Great universities have loyal, committed alumni; we must, we will.

There was other good financial news. We had a great year in fundraising. We brought in $12.4 million dollars from all sources. This amount is just about at the average of the fundraising for the previous two years, and it is above the average of the past dozen years. This is a noteworthy accomplishment against the background of one of the worst years for our national economy in decades. Thank you to the professionals in University Relations for this achievement.

Despite the battering of the stock market on our short-term investments, we ended the year with a surplus in our operating budget. This is the 13th consecutive year of operating surpluses. It is a tribute to the common sense and discipline of all those who manage budgets. I want to offer a special thank you to the Provost and the Deans for their financial stewardship throughout this year.

Some noteworthy work occurred on campus. The Murray Pavilion was completed, adding a beautiful and functional space to our Law School. Academic spaces were renovated in Mellon, Rockwell, and College Hall. The worn-out carpet on the Rooney athletic field was replaced with a state of the art surface. A direct pipeline for chilled water was brought to Mellon Hall, providing the beginnings of a much-needed backup to the aging mechanical systems in the building. And we started a multi-year, multi-million dollar project of retrofitting our residence halls with fire doors, smoke alarms, and sprinklers—enhancing safety for our students.

Finally, we began an effort last year to develop a strategic plan for our common future, an effort that will come to fruition shortly. A faculty-dominated committee gave us a first draft so that discussion among all our constituencies could begin. Now after input from across campus, from alumni, the Board of Directors, and our Spiritan community, we are very close to finalizing the process. When complete, we will have a document that will help us create a national excellence that is uniquely Duquesne, as it shapes the priorities for the next capital campaign that will help us fund it.

This will be a five-year plan for the University. It will be supplemented by plans from each of the Schools and all the other units of the University so that the overall plan is elaborated and made concrete in all our divisions. The strategic plan will be “evergreen,” revisited on an annual basis to test its validity and the effectiveness of our application of it—and making adjustments as needed. At year four, a major revision will begin, assessing the existing plan and preparing for its successor.

The strategic plan is a blueprint. It is the summation of our conversations and decisions about our future. But even as we strive to chart the future, we must be clear that a plan is based on an assessment of the future from a given point in time. Unexpected challenges and opportunities will always overwhelm the best planning. When they do, we will respond accordingly and revise the strategic plan as we must. What is most important, therefore, is not the detail of any given plan. Rather, the importance lies in the process of talking together about our future, building consensus about a direction, and inspiring commitment in that direction. That is the essence of this planning process.

The present strategic plan begins with a vision of what we aspire to be, and I turn to that now. In its latest iteration, that vision states:

Duquesne University will enter the first ranks of American Catholic higher education by emphasizing our Spiritan identity and mission, enhancing the quality of student experience, and developing our national reputation for academic excellence.

Because our Catholic institutional character was initiated and shaped by the Spiritan community, we have a genuine uniqueness. We are the Spiritan University. The current draft of our strategic plan moves that vision closer to practice. It challenges us to think carefully through the implications of the identity and mission that this uniqueness opens to us. It asks us to bring an explicit consciousness of who we are into our hiring—hiring for mission—into our performance evaluations, and into our continuing development efforts. It calls for a deeper understanding of the important role of our Core Curriculum. It anticipates a new emphasis on ethics, on Catholic social teaching, and on the interface of faith and reason. The plan envisions an expanded campus ministry effort and calls for securing a retreat center. It asks that we increase our commitments to financial aid for the less well off. And it calls for more serious attention to achieving diversity throughout the University.

As you know, we use a trenchant and felicitous phrase to abbreviate our mission: We serve God by serving students. So the first expression of our Spiritan identity and mission is a sacred commitment to our students. We envision deepening that commitment by enhancing the quality of our students’ experience at Duquesne. The strategic plan challenges us to enroll even more academically qualified students. It intends to make our Honors Program a national standout. It calls for recruiting students whose records of service and leadership fit our own values. And it asks for increased opportunities for students to develop these capacities when they are with us.

The plan mandates the very best system of advising and tutoring. It asks us to continue to find ways to deepen our students’ understanding of our mission and to exemplify it in their conduct. The plan calls for steps to keep our campus and our residence facilities in the best possible condition—safe, functional, and attractive. And it calls for student athletes who win on the court and field, shine in the classroom, and make our Duquesne community proud of them.

The achievements of the past have brought us to a propitious moment in the life of our University. Today we are a University with a compelling sense of mission. We are a University with an outstanding faculty of teacher-scholars. We are a University of bright and caring students. We are a University with a beautiful campus, in a great city. We are a University with financial security, now and into the foreseeable future. In short, we are a University in a time of special grace.

We must have an academic vision equal to this moment. We must use this platform of achievement to develop our national reputation for academic excellence. Our plan calls for hiring and retaining the very best faculty. It mandates continuous review and improvement of our academic programs. On-going assessment of undergraduate outcomes is part of the plan. It also mandates strengthening our graduate programs. Our support areas—particularly our libraries and technology support--must be enhanced as well.

The plans sets ambitious goals of increased scholarship, as well as more grant and contract activity. It challenges us to find new endowed support for faculty chairs and for academic programs. And it focuses attention for the next several years on a short list of interdisciplinary areas where we have or are capable of national leadership.

The strategic plan is a blueprint for building our vision. Over the next few years, it will guide us to deepen our commitment to our Catholic and Spiritan heritage, serve God and our students better, and polish our national academic reputation. With your help and the continued blessing of the Spirit Who Gives Life, Duquesne University will enter the very first ranks of American Catholic higher education.

As you know, last year was my first year as president. It was a tremendously satisfying year personally. I know that this would not have been such a positive year had it not been for the outpouring of support I received from all of you and from every constituency of the University. It was a humbling experience, indeed, to have so many people trust me to do a job that I was just learning. And it was a affirming experience to know that so many people were working hard to ensure that I did it well.

This trust and support has taught me more about the character of this University community than any of the multiple reports and analyses I have received. I came here last year with great respect for the Duquesne tradition and academic reputation. After a year of coming to know the real Duquesne—of knowing you, the people who make this the special place that it is—my great respect has become great affection. I am deeply grateful. Thank you for this and for all you do for Duquesne.

We now begin a new year, one that will include a celebration of 125 years of living our mission of teaching, research, and service. Let us resolve together to make this our best year ever. When the rhythm of our lives brings us to the joy of May’s graduations, let us know the pride of having added a special year to Duquesne’s storied history. Let us feel the satisfaction of having created a richer sense of community for ourselves and for our students. Let us realize in a deeper way the meaning of our mission, and the blessing that it is to be entrusted with it. And let’s be sure come May that we have served God well by the way we served our students. Thank you, and have a great year.