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President's Message June 2016

Charles M. Edmondson, Ph.D.

Charles M. Edmondson,
Ph.D.,

Alfred University President

My time remaining at Alfred University is now measured in days, not months, and there is an air of “unreality” about such measurements after so many years in this University community.  When I came to Alfred in the summer of 2000, I did not contemplate spending 16 years here. Alfred obviously “grew” on Laura and me, just as it has grown on many of you after your first visit to the AU campus.

Before the final boxes and bags are packed and stowed in the moving van, though, I wanted to share some final thoughts with you about the academic year that is drawing to a close:

  • Alumna Susan Kelleher ’91, an avian and exotic animal veterinarian known as Dr. K, the star of a National Geographic reality show, “Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER,” delivered the commencement address this year, speaking very movingly about her Alfred University experience and the life lessons she’s learned since leaving AU 25 years ago. Summing up her advice to the graduates: “Do what you love. Do it a lot. Do it well.” Among the thousands of alumni I have met over the years, I think that advice sums up their life experiences, too. They love what they do, and they do it well.
  • Our Art Force 5 students, a team of performance artists who participate in the Drawn to Diversity Program, won first place in the “Unite Rochester” competition earlier this year. The students emphasize creative problem-solving to address social justice issues, and spent the spring semester taking their program to Rochester-area schools and organizations. The work will continue this summer, with the team dividing their time between internships in Rochester governmental offices and non-profit agencies and additional performances.
  • We finally fulfilled the vision of the late Robert Turner MFA ‘49, professor of ceramic art, who more than 30 years ago believed that Alfred University needed to transform its “study collection” of ceramic pieces, accumulated since 1903 when Charles Fergus Binns, founding director of the “School of Clayworking,” acquired the first works, into a full-fledged museum of ceramic art. The result is the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, a stunning brick and glass building, which stands at the Pine Street entrance to the campus, across from Harder Hall. The journey to this point was not easy, but the generosity of Marlin ’54 and Ginger Miller made it possible.
  • The Alfred Ceramic Art Museum is one of the most visible results of the “All for Alfred” comprehensive campaign that will conclude June 30. The campaign also funded renovations to several campus buildings, including a major initiative to upgrade laboratories and classrooms in the Science Center and Myers Hall; investments in athletic facilities, including the Galanis Family Arena at the McLane Center, Merrill Field, the Connors Pavilion, the Joyce and Walton Center for Health and Recreation, and Doris Harrington Softball Field; and the addition of about $14 million to our endowment, much of it for scholarships. We started the campaign with a $65 million goal; we anticipate that when the books close, we will have raised about $80 million. Nearly a third of all the money raised came from our alumni (trustees were counted separately); every single dollar to our Alfred Fund counts toward the campaign total.
  • Alfred University received a $7.75 million grant from New York State to create a Center for Advanced Ceramic Manufacturing. We are in the process of finalizing plans for the use of the funds, including a significant investment in additive manufacturing equipment. The Center will complement the facilities we already have in place through the Center for High-Temperature Characterization.
  • A bit of sobering news: The effects of demography and the declining economy in much of Western New York, where we draw a high percentage of our students, are being felt in the enrollment numbers. Although graduate and transfer enrollment appear to be strong, we anticipate enrolling about 30 fewer freshmen than we did in fall 2015, and that was down from the previous year. While disappointing, and certainly something to be concerned about, to paraphrase our commencement speaker: “We are okay. We will be okay.” Over the past 16 years, we have made a concerted effort to balance our budget, to reduce our long-term debt and to right-size the University to match our enrollment numbers. I won’t pretend it was easy; some of the decisions we have had to make have been very painful. But those decisions are what will mean Alfred will “be okay” even as other small, private institutions struggle.
  • Cutting down, cutting back has been a path to stability, which was and will be essential; but it is not a path to growth in a future that is deeply different from the past. That is why the Trustees and University community have devoted a great deal of time over the past two years to developing a new strategic plan. This process is nearing completion, and you will undoubtedly see and hear a great deal about it in the coming year.

Perhaps the biggest news of all, though, is that the Board of Trustees in February chose Dr. Mark Zupan, former dean of the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester, as the 14th president of Alfred University. I am pleased to report that Mark has invested a great deal of time and energy getting to know Alfred University by talking with hundreds of alumni, students, parents and friends, seeking their thoughts on what makes our University great, and what we need to do to make it even greater in the years to come. When I leave office on June 30, I will do so with complete confidence in his ability to lead this great institution with wisdom and skill.

Laura and I want to extend our personal thanks to all of you who have so generously supported Alfred University during our 16 years. I have often said that great universities are organic. They are a protean composite of the efforts of thousands of people from the moment of founding into the future. We are proud to have been a part of Alfred University.

We hope everyone will join Laura and me in increasing the successful completion of the "All for Alfred" campaign by making a gift to The Alfred Fund. The Alfred Fund provides funding to the areas that need it most and where it donations will have the greatest impact.

For those that have already donated this academic year, thank you for making a difference in the lives of all our students, faculty and staff with your gift to Alfred University. You can take a great deal of pride in the work we do to educate students for rewarding careers and fulfilling lives, knowing you are a large part of it.

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