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March 4, 2005

As I write this letter, the snow is falling and the university is closed.  Few things give me as much joy as an unscheduled day off!  Such opportunities give me the chance to attack those matters that, while not the most important things in the world, have a tendency to pile up.

We were fortunate to enjoy a very successful 16th annual American Cardinals Dinner in Miami, Fla., this year.  More than $1 million was raised for scholarships from the proceeds of the dinner.  Archbishop John Favalora, a member of our Board of Trustees, was a marvelous host and his staff was extraordinarily helpful.  I am most grateful to my own staff — Frank Persico, Suzanne McCarthy and Jimmy Asci — for their hard work to make this event so successful.

 

Members of the President's Society (from left) Maureen Quinn McGough, Jack Reilly and Kathryn Besheer with Archbishop John Favalora.

We introduced a new feature to this year’s program, which was very well received. Each year members of the President’s Society — a volunteer group of senior undergraduates who are selected through a competitive process to assist in my office and help out at various university functions — attend the Cardinals dinner. In years past the students have served as escorts and guides for the dinner guests. This year we decided to make them the emcees of the program. They did a magnificent job introducing the cardinals and other speakers and introducing themselves to the audience, thus giving our dinner guests living examples of the worthy students who benefit from CUA scholarships.

Although asking the students to emcee was an innovation introduced in this year’s program, I have sought throughout my time at CUA to maximize the annual event as a showcase for the university. I especially want to reach people who don’t know much about Catholic University and all it has to offer. Partly for that reason, we started several years ago to seek new hosts for the dinner — archdioceses that had never sponsored the event. As a result, the dinner has been crisscrossing the country — San Francisco, Minneapolis-St. Paul and, most recently, Miami.

Capitalizing on the dinner occurs in various ways. Christine Mica, our director of admissions, went out to Miami early and spent the week visiting high schools to talk to prospective students. The guidance counselors of some of the schools she visited were in attendance at the dinner. In addition, as in years past, we coupled an alumni reception with the dinner. The Jan. 29 reception, hosted by CUA Trustee Stephanie Germack, drew 135 alumni, prospective students and university friends to the Boca Raton Resort and Club. And to help in our media outreach, particularly with the Spanish-speaking population in south Florida, Dr. Ernest Suarez, chair of the Department of English, came out to Miami a day early to talk about CUA on two radio shows. Thanks to individuals like Christine Mica, Director of Alumni Relations Marion Gosney, Dr. Suarez and many others, we are able to make the dinner not only a financial success but also a non-monetary investment for the future.

Turning back to the home front, the Board of Trustees will be meeting March 7-8 on campus.  Their primary focus of attention will be enrollment, recruitment strategies, financial aid and future planning. 

Speaking of enrollment, as you know, I made a decision in fall 2003 to recruit a vice president for enrollment management rather than a dean or a director.  The new position, reporting directly to me while maintaining regular association with the academic sector through participation on the Deans’ Conference, was to have full responsibility and authority for matters regarding recruitment, admission and the awarding of financial aid, except in the law school or where otherwise governed by statute or university policy.

The new vice president for enrollment management, W. Michael Hendricks, immediately undertook a study of all strategies used by the university in these processes.  It became clear that some changes were necessary.

After consultation with me and my council, Mr. Hendricks made the decision in the fall to maximize the use of available financial aid to attract the very best students or students in greatest need, rather than encumber scholarships with any restrictions.  I fully support that decision, which represents a change in our scholarship philosophy.  The Board of Trustees has also endorsed it.

Consequently, the decision was made by the vice president for enrollment management, after consultation with the vice president for student life, to eliminate all scholarships tied to particular organizations or activities at the university, since  those scholarships were not academic or need-based in nature.  No student currently benefiting from scholarship  assistance was or will be affected by the decision. In addition, the affected student organizations, of which there are 
 
 

Habitat for Humanity is a popular service organization among CUA students.

three, are eligible to apply for a share of the money collected through student activities fees, just as the other 76 organizations on campus do.

I am always inspired by the generosity of our CUA community. I am happy to report that CUA students, faculty, staff and friends of the university collected $10,000 for “CUAids: Tsunami Relief” to benefit the victims of the earthquake and tsunamis in Asia and Africa, which occurred at Christmas time. My thanks to Paul Brooks and Bill Jonas for organizing the effort.  (You should also know that members of the President’s Society, realizing that they would be going to Miami in January, organized fund-raising events to benefit the victims of Florida’s 2004 hurricanes. They presented Archbishop Favalora with a $5,000 check immediately following the American Cardinals Dinner!)

As I write this column, members of our student body are using their Spring Break to do good works. More than 60 CUA students are renovating or building homes in various cities through Habitat for Humanity. You can read a media report about our Habitat group in Florida by visiting http://www.floridatoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050303/NEWS01/503030343/1006.

Eighteen students are also on a mission trip with Campus Ministry in Kingston, Jamaica, tutoring needy children and caring for impoverished senior citizens. Hats off to all our student volunteers! Other students have been pursuing academic interests through the honors program trips to Berlin and Rome, and one group is in the South visiting key sites of the U.S. civil rights movement as part of a politics course.

Congratulations are also in order to our CUA athletes. Our men’s and women’s basketball teams enjoyed very strong seasons, with the men advancing to the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament and the women breaking the team record for most consecutive victories. Kudos to first-year Coach Steve Howes and to Coach Maggie Lonergan, our winningest women’s basketball coach in CUA history, for a job well done!

 

The men's and women's swimming teams enjoyed a great year.

Our men’s and women’s swimming teams were equally impressive. Both posted 6-0 conference records and placed second in the Capital Athletic Conference championship meet. Under any circumstances this would be an achievement to be proud of. It is all the more remarkable that it was done under the leadership of first-year Coach Paul VanLieshout. The experts agreed, naming him CAC Men’s Coach of the Year!  Heartfelt congratulations!

After we return from Easter break later this month, we will be having our annual retirement convocation. I hope that many of you will be able to join us on March 31 at 3:30 p.m. in the Great Room of the Przy as we say farewell to about a dozen of our colleagues. This is always a bittersweet event for me — taking leave of valued members of our community. But what makes it so interesting and gratifying is that we have an opportunity as a community to review, celebrate and be inspired by the many things that our retirees have accomplished at and on behalf of Catholic University.

Enjoy the coming weeks as spring returns.  Prayerful best wishes to all our colleagues as we celebrate Passover and Easter!

 

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