Penn State Board of Trustees meets; President Spanier's remarks

Remarks by President Graham Spanier
May 14, 2010

To begin, I’d like to congratulate Trustee Ken Frazier on his recent promotion to president of Merck & Co. Ken has recently served as head of sales and marketing for Merck’s human medicines and vaccines, the biggest division at one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. This new move is the “next step in Ken’s development” according to Merck’s CEO Richard Clark. Congratulations, Ken.

This spring has seen its share of historic moments. Last week Old Main had a special visitor from the Class of 1942. Shown here is Lila Whoolery Mercatoris, who posed for “the girl in the blue leotard” in the Henry Varnum Poor fresco behind her. Lila also was the University’s first female gymnast and unofficial member of the men’s gymnastics team before there was a women’s team. She had very fond memories of her Penn State experience, although she noted that the artist was "extremely strict" with the students he painted. He asked them to be very punctual when they were scheduled to stand for their portraits, as he had to mix paint colors with the quick-drying plaster to create the frescoes, which are now such an important part of Penn State history.

We also dedicated three class gifts of historic importance. The restoration and display of the Old Main Bell from the Class of 2009, which we had the pleasure of ringing with the original clapper. Shown here is Skip Smith, who helped to reunite the bell and clapper.

We dedicated the 2005 Class Gift, the Student Life Promenade, which depicts 150 years of student life at Penn State; and the 2008 Class Gift, the Atherton and Curtin Gateway. This year we also will be losing a little bit of Penn State history.

John Romano, vice president for the Commonwealth Campuses, is retiring after 40 years at Penn State. This is his last Board of Trustees meeting, but we’ll have a chance to say goodbye and tell a few stories about him at a farewell reception in June.

Nancy Eaton, dean of University Libraries and Scholarly Communications, will be retiring July 31. She has been with Penn State since 1997. And I’m afraid retirement is contagious because Carolyn Dolbin, my assistant for 15 years and a Penn State staff member for 44 years, recently announced her retirement effective Sept. 30. Carolyn is the University's chief confidant, organizer, friend raiser, den mother, problem solver and protocol officer. She knows everyone and everything. She is trusted by all, can turn mean-spirited people into happy campers and has flawless judgment. She can see trouble around corners. Her instincts have allowed her to stay a step ahead of three presidents and contribute profoundly to their successes. For all that and more, my wife refers to her as Saint Carolyn.

We’ll have more to say in upcoming months but for now feel free to direct your congratulations to Carolyn and your condolences to me.

This weekend marks the 364th commencement exercise in Penn State’s history. University-wide, 12,413 students will graduate – 582 with associate degrees, 10,106 with baccalaureate degrees, 1,167 with graduate degrees, 148 with medical degrees and 195 with law degrees. Since our founding, Penn State has awarded more than 666,000 degrees. As I preside over ceremonies and watch the students cross the stage, I can’t help wondering if I’m about to shake hands with a future CEO, Hollywood star, national leader or Board of Trustees member. As an aside, I also wonder if someone’s shoe will fall off as they climb the stage or if I need to remember one of the various secret handshakes from any number of student societies.

As this very strong class leaves, we’re preparing to welcome a new class of impressive students. This has been another record-setting year in the number of admissions applications received. Total applications for all campuses have passed the 106,000 mark and are ahead of last year by about 7 percent. Graduate applications are ahead of last year by 13 percent, and we have received more undergraduate applications to date than in any previous year. International applications are up by 24 percent; applications to the Dickinson School of Law are up 31 percent and applications to Hershey are up 7 percent.

We also are up in the number of paid accepts needed to meet our enrollment goal of 7,350 summer/fall students at University Park. Out-of-state acceptances are up 17 percent and Pennsylvania acceptances are up 5 percent compared to last year. The Commonwealth Campuses also are on track for a robust enrollment year with significant increases in minority and international students.

Turning our attention to our faculty, I’m pleased to announce a few recent honors and awards.

Three Penn State faculty members were named Evan Pugh Professors, joining a list of only 59 others given this title since its inception in 1960. Evan Pugh Professorships are the highest honor the University bestows on its faculty. The latest honorees are:

Judith S. Bond, distinguished professor and chair of biochemistry and molecular biology, College of Medicine. Her research has focused on the structure, function and regulation of enzymes and has advanced the diagnosis of a number of chronic diseases.

Donald C. Hambrick is the Smeal Chaired Professor of Management. His current research focuses on executive psychology, top management team dynamics, and the history and evolution of the field of strategic management.

Finally, Thomas Mallouk is the DuPont Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics in the Eberly College of Science. His research is aimed at studying the chemistry of nanoscale inorganic materials.

Two faculty members were honored by being named Fellows in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. They are Richard Alley, Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences, and Péter Mészáros, Eberly Chair of Astronomy and Astrophysics and professor of physics. He also is the director of the Center for Particle Astrophysics.

At your places you have a brochure on the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute. Prepared by the architecture firm Payette Associates, this beautiful booklet provides a detailed and interesting look at the Cancer Institute, which is the first phase of a 500,000-square-foot project that includes the Children’s Hospital and the renovated and expanded Emergency Department. This project demonstrates Penn State’s commitment to design quality, efficient use of resources and an integrated landscape approach.

This philosophy underlies all of our building projects and is evidenced in the multitude of projects under way this summer on our University Park campus. We will undertake 220 projects, having a total value of $111.5 million, in addition to the ongoing Millennium Science Complex, which is looking more impressive with each passing week.

Our new summer projects include the Fraser Road reconstruction and streetscape, sidewalk replacement on central campus, classroom upgrades and the East Campus Steam Plant.

Penn State is working to minimize our impact on the environment, and for the fourth year in a row Penn State leads the Big Ten and ranks third in the nation among colleges and universities in the amount of green power it uses, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Currently Penn State purchases about 20 percent of the electricity the University consumes from biomass, small hydroelectric sources and wind. The website and the Center for Sustainability brochure are filled with information on Penn State’s leadership in this area.

Notably, our faculty members also are heavily involved in research on sustainability issues. Penn State was recently awarded a $5 million Department of Energy Award to create a GridSTAR Center. This is our third major DOE award in the last year. The GridSTAR Center will provide education, training and stewardship needed to design, construct and operate a reliable, efficient, environmentally sound and safe smart grid.

Moving on to the arts and humanities. This past academic year we had the pleasure of seeing Tony Leach perform as the Penn State Laureate. He carried out his duties with his usual style, creativity and incredible talent. Now I’m very pleased to announce that this year’s Penn State Laureate will continue the tradition of the last two years, while bringing her unique voice to the position.

The 2010-2011 Penn State Laureate is Robin Becker, professor of English and women’s studies. Robin is a renowned poet and has published six collections of poems. Her work has been praised as “a stunning achievement,” and the Library Journal commented that “Becker builds solid, well-crafted poems out of everyday materials, thereby capturing life as it is lived.”

Robin earned a B.A. and M.A. from Boston University and taught for 17 years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Robin is currently out of town, but there will be other opportunities to meet her throughout the year.

Since our last meeting, Penn State won another NCAA championship – this time in fencing. This is the team’s 12th championship, the fifth national title in the decade. The team has flourished under the direction of Coach Kaidanov, one of the winningest coaches in collegiate fencing history. Emick has coached our men for 28 seasons and our women for 25 – his winning percentage is 93 percent.

He has coached one four-time NCAA Champion, eight Olympians and 185 All-Americans, including nine last year. We are very fortunate to have Emick and some of the fencers with us today. Please join me in recognizing them. Thank you.

The Penn State Women’s Rugby team proved itself to be a national powerhouse this spring. The women played Stanford for the national championship and won a decisive 24-7 victory. This gives the Penn State women’s rugby team its sixth national championship and first back-to-back titles in program history.

The men’s Rugby Team at Penn State Berks also joined the winner’s circle this spring. Penn State Berks won the Division 3 National Collegiate Championship in a dramatic victory after fending off a strong last-minute attack by Keene State. The national championship is the first for any Penn State Berks sports team.

The Men’s Volleyball team also fought hard this spring, going from a No. 12 ranking to reach the NCAA national championship finals in Stanford last weekend. The Lions fell to Stanford in three sets, but the team played well against an experienced opponent. Coach Mark Pavlik is already talking about next year’s comeback, so keep your eye on this program.

Earlier this week we hosted the 15th Annual Road Scholars bus tour. Trustee Riley and I traveled with 50 new faculty members from 15 different campuses. We took a southeastern route and made stops that included the Hershey Medical Center, Penn State Berks, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Reading Terminal Market, Penn State Abington, Penn State Great Valley, Brubaker Farms and the State Capital. This road trip is always a great time and a great opportunity for faculty to better understand that Penn State is one university, geographically dispersed. I hope others of you will join us next year.

Finally, I want to express my appreciation for your role in the successful public launch of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, which was held Blue-White weekend. At the start of the week we had $980 million in gifts and commitments. Through an incredible effort by Rod Kirsch, Peter Tombros, our campaign volunteers and the development staff, Penn State documented $24 million in new gift commitments from 26 donors in the three days before the kick-off event. I was proud to announce to the more than 1,000 dinner guests that we had passed $1.004 billion dollars – more than halfway to the $2 billion goal. I want to offer a special thank you to John Surma and his wife, Becky, for their most recent gift of $5 million, which will endow and name the dean’s chair in the Smeal College of Business. Thank you for contributing to what Rod Kirsch described as one of the most amazing feats of fundraising that he has witnessed in his 27-year career.

Would the Board please join me in thanking John and Becky Surma?

And also, please recognize Rod Kirsch and his team of volunteers and staff members.

Now I’d like to show you the campaign video we premiered during kick-off weekend. It was produced by Penn State Public Broadcasting and celebrates the deep impact that philanthropy has had at Penn State. It also shows the great potential that still exists to transform this institution and change the lives of our students and faculty. Please enjoy. After the video I’ll take your questions.

Penn State President Graham B. Spanier Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated November 19, 2010