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President's Fall 2006 Report to the Board

October 4, 2006

I start each day with a brisk four-mile walk along the levee.  The walk is framed by the landscape of the campus and the Calaveras River.  At the opening fall convocation, I offer a historical perspective on my morning view of the campus landscape.  New freshmen find it amusing that the Pacific campus, recently ranked one of the six most beautiful campuses in the country, emerged from an onion field.

Sixty years ago the Board struggled with a surge in enrollment and growing expenses of a college filling out land once used for agriculture.  In the first 11 years of the Burns administration the value of campus assets increased from $1.6 million to $6.1 million while indebtedness increased from $80,000 to $2.5 million, primarily to cover the cost of 20 new buildings (Brewer, 1977).  Over the past 11 years, the Board has invested more than $100 million in facility improvements and in October will again change the view from the levee, with an additional $50 million targeted for major facility improvements.

At our meeting, we will celebrate the breaking of ground for the Biological Sciences Building and the University Center.  This is possible because of the leadership of the Board and the investment of countless individuals who believe in the importance of a Pacific education.

The buildings take shape through bricks and mortar but their true meaning is found in living our student-centered mission.  Why does this matter?  The Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers surveyed college students across the country and asked what buildings are the most critical to students (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2006).  At the top on the student list are facilities in their academic major.  Also rated high are Student Centers.  What mattered to students is exactly what we are building at Pacific.

Why does the Biological Sciences Building matter to Pacific faculty and students?  It is the distinctive nature of the Pacific biology education; students working in labs with faculty conducting cutting edge research as undergraduates.  Typically students would not have such an opportunity until they are in a masters or doctoral program.

The Biological Sciences Building will provide what Co-Chairs Craig Vierra and Gregg Jongeward describe as the "infrastructure of institutional commitment" where students are "taught to think differently".

The University Center is the most ambitious and largest project we will undertake.  Why does it matter?  By design this building looks over the Calaveras River and will literally serve as the base of a bridge to gather the campus together.

The University Center is in the heart of campus adjacent to classrooms, campus recreation, and residential communities.  It will be our living room, our dining room, and an opportunity for the entire "Pacific family" to come together.  Like our students, it will be nearly a 24-7 operation.  It will strengthen the relationships that make Pacific a special learning community.

An article in the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges Trusteeship (May/June 2006) encourages Boards to consider strategic questions when launching new construction.  Two key considerations are:

  • Is this project the most important priority for the institution to pursue right now?
  • Is the project consistent with the institution's strategic plan?

The Board's decision to build these two facilities is clearly consistent with both objectives.

While we may not reach the 20 new buildings in the timeframe of the Burns tenure, our goals are equally ambitious:  Law school library renovations; Dental School facilities; Janssen-Lagorio Sports and Recreation Center; Technology Center and; Knoles renovation.  The leadership of the Board and individuals supporting Pacific have proven that these projects will be a reality.

I conclude by offering my goals for the 2006-07 year.

  • Completion of the planning process with special attention to initiatives that enhance distinctiveness through programs of exceptional quality
  • Enhance freshmen applicant pool and a return to a selectivity score of 60% or better.  Sustained strength in applicant pool for dental, law, and pharmacy
  • Develop a comprehensive plan for undergraduate admissions to strengthen geographic diversity and student leadership potential
  • Completion of the campaign, at least 15% above our goal of $200 million with special attention to unfunded projects
  • Break ground for the Biology Building and University Center and ensure completion by May 2008
  • Enhanced campus environment for students with special attention to recreation and club sports
  • Continued strength of finances and stronger linkage among three campuses