President R. Barbara Gitenstein shared statistics and recounted some of the College’s recent good news, including over $1 million in donations, during her Welcome Back Address, which she presented to a crowded auditorium on Wednesday, Aug. 31.
Staff, faculty and students filled the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall to listen to the College’s president reflect on what she called “a year of challenge and accomplishment for the College.”
Gitenstein addressed the 2011–2012 year and she looked ahead to the school’s future, discussing ways to combat challenges.
“The most important event that happened over the last 10 days at (the College) was welcoming back the faculty, staff, returning students and the exceptional class of 2015,” said Gitenstein, who noted that the state recently faced the largest earthquake and hurricane to hit in 100 years.
She added that this year’s freshman class “continues the tradition of excellence” and was selected from the largest applicant pool in the College’s history — more than 10,000 people, a 2 percent increase from last year’s number.
According to Gitenstein, the College welcomed 273 transfer students and “these new members of our community join an extraordinary community of scholars.”
“(The College) has never been an institution of modest goals,” she said, acknowledging an array of athletic and academic accomplishments from the previous school year.
Gitenstein also expressed pride in partnerships the College has developed with the N.J. Special Olympics and Trenton Thunder.
Her announcement of $1.5 million in donations by two donors was a highlight of the presentation.
“While every gift was, and is, deeply appreciated, and while very donor deserves recognition, I do want to acknowledge the generosity of the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation, who recently donated a half-million dollars,” Gitenstein said, adding that the College received an additional $1 million from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.
She also discussed construction projects currently underway on campus.
“No year is a year without major construction on the campus. This past year, however, was particularly busy,” she said.
Gitenstein stated that the new School of Education building passed the halfway point of construction and remains on schedule and substantially under budget.
About 100 facility upgrades and maintenance projects in residence halls, the Brower Student Center and athletic fields, were also completed.
Perhaps the most unexpected construction update was the discovery of a time capsule from 1931 under the cornerstone in Green Hall.
The capsule’s contents are on display in the library’s reference room and include newspaper articles, bulletins and a letter from the alumni association thanking the Board of Education for naming the building after James M. Green, principal of the College from 1889 to 1917.
While a portion of the presentation was positive, Gitenstein admitted obstacles lie before the College and mentioned how readjustment of the budget resulted in a regrettable increase in student tuition.
“Higher education, particularly public higher education, must receive more attention, and by that I do not mean negative attention,” she said. “I mean support. Both financial and moral.”
She said she looks forward to working closely with the secretary of higher education in N.J. over the next year.
Gitenstein listed four points to keep in mind regarding the budget and the financial situation.
These included that “there is very little price elasticity” and “if we are going to continue to charge students among the highest of N.J. public institutions, then we must assure our students and the public that the experience at (the College) worth the differential.”
She found term “flux and transformation” to be a fitting way to describe the College’s current situation of change and complexity.
She noted that transformation is different from change, in that it is intentional and occurs over time.
Gitenstein also asserted she is certain the College is in a good position, concluding with “best wishes” for another successful year.