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 SRU Trustees Review New President's Goals as Dr. Robert Smith Takes Helm 




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           SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Slippery Rock University’s council of trustees today welcomed Dr. Robert M. Smith as the university’s 15th president at their regular quarterly meeting, with council chair Dr. Robert Marcus saying, “We have enjoyed a productive 17 months during your leadership as interim president, and we certainly look forward to working together with you on future projects at The Rock.”

          Trustees individually commended Smith for his leadership skills and work as interim president. Several also  thanked members of the presidential search committee for their efforts.

          In respect for last week’s death of President Ronald Reagan, Marcus called for a moment of silence in opening the session.

 Following the trustee’s welcome, Smith said, I am excited to be your president. I am humbled by the responsibilities, but elated by the opportunities. As I said to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education board of governors when I accepted their appointment, I was doing it not for myself personally, but as affirmation that the faculty, administration, staff, students and community constituents of this university have come together as one united team moving the institution forward in a positive direction and that their decision was that we continue together to build a great university. Thank you for your confidence in my leadership and your commitment to support the promise of this university.”

           Smith, who had served as interim president for 17 months and prior to that as provost and vice president for academic affairs since joining the university in 1999, quickly set the agenda for his tenure in his report to the council by establishing three primary goals for the university community.

President’s Report:

           In his first official report to the council as president, Smith said, “First, we must continue to raise the academic value of a Slippery Rock University degree,” explaining the university will continue to build on the academic rigor behind the degree. “We are attracting more talented students, and we should expect more from them. They come to us expecting to be challenged and to be prepared to compete against the very best. The value of our degree is directly proportionate to the quality of our faculty.” He said in the future the university should assure faculty the resources and development opportunities are available to ensure they can meet and exceed expanding demands from our students.

           In further detailing the academic value of an SRU diploma, Smith told trustees, “We want to provide the world with a graduate who has ‘effective habits of the mind’ and can serve as an engaged citizen of his or her community. As a public university, we have a special role to develop capable citizens as well as people prepared for their first career.”

 “We are in a time when it is far more important to have graduates leave us knowing how to think rather than having been taught what to think,” Smith said, adding, “We still hold the conviction that Slippery Rock University has a responsibility to the citizens of the commonwealth to serve as a community and state educational resource. Over the next year, we have to focus our liberal education program around those simple goals.

 “Second,” he said, “we need to assert our presence as a premier, regional, public residential university. Success in the modern economy necessitates a tight focus on three dimensions: what a campus is passionate about; what it can be best at; and what best drives a sustained economic engine. We know best how to be a single campus where traditional students in the 18-22-age range come to live and learn….we are at our best as a classical residential campus.”

While noting there were risks in centralizing the university’s focus, he added, “As long as we make an unswerving commitment to be the best possible competitor and provide the most value to our students, we can continue to be successful. After all, we have 115 years of practice at being one specific type of institution. It is not reasonable to expect us to abandon our core competency.”

In covering his third objective, Smith said, “It is imperative that we intensify our efforts to generate alternative revenue sources to ensure our ability as a public institution to control our destiny.” He pointed out public universities and colleges across the country, including Pennsylvania, are struggling to cope with dramatic reductions in state funding, and increasing tuition to meet the shortfall. “There has to be a better way, and we have to find it,” Smith said.

He noted, “Each year for the past two years, we have found creative ways to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. Our report to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education chronicles hundreds of thousands of dollars saved and cut through innovative efforts. We have proven ourselves to be nimble, responsive, and prudent. Our financial viability and ongoing health will be dependent on our entrepreneurship and ingenuity.”


            In a continuing effort to update trustees on campus activities, Smith detailed the success of negotiations with the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty, and the university’s success is gaining approval for a Phi Kappa Phi national honorary on campus. The honorary’s formal installation ceremony will be Nov. 4. The president pointed to the recent re-accreditation from the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, the award success of The Rocket, the student newspaper which swept 25 top journalism honors, and the success of both the SRU accounting team at the Pennsylvania Certified Public Accountants Business Plan Challenge and the School of Business team’s fourth-place award at the American Express Financial Planning Invitational. He noted a number of individual students who received national recognition in recent months.

            Smith said enrollment would continue to grow fall semester to stand at 8,100, up from 7,830 last fall. “Retention efforts are the primary source for exceeding our original projection,” he said, adding transfer student enrollment was also higher than expected.

Trustee actions:

           Council welcomed Angele Waugaman, an accounting major from Kittanning, as the new student trustee. Waugaman, a senior, has been involved in the SRU Student Government Association serving as vice president. Trustees elected Suzanne Vessela to serve as secretary, and re-elected Marcus as chair, and Dr. Dennis Murray as vice chair, to their second, one-year terms. Trustees approved a resolution honoring Gary Rose, a trustee from 1995 through 2003, for his dedicated service, including work as secretary, chair of the finance committee and a member of the advancement committee.

           A vote of approval was also given to a plan to increase the University Union Fee paid by students to $70 effective for the 2004-05 academic year, then reduced to $50 per year starting in 2005, once the current $20 bond indemnity has been fulfilled. The move brings SRU in compliance with the state system board of governor’s policy requiring all student unions to be self-supporting in auxiliary enterprises. The 34-year-old building is in need of upgrades and maintenance, and there are contingent plans for building an entirely new facility.

           In reviewing capital projects, council agreed with Smith’s recommendation regarding renovation of the  campus central boiler plant at an overall cost of $7 million. Built in 1949, and last renovated in 1986, the plant supplies heat to all campus buildings. Trustees approved funding plans for Phase II and Phase II of the three-part plan.

           Trustees also approved contracts, fixed assets, and service and supply purchase orders, and agreed to recommendations provide by the intern audit related to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

           Trustees were informed of instructional and staff appointments, tenure approvals, and the naming of
Dr. Paul Black, 31-year professor of secondary education and foundations of education before retiring in 2003, as a professor emeritus.

           Council was also informed of the following faculty retirements: Dr. Barbara Blackstone, associate professor of communication from Cranberry Township, 34 years; Dr. George Force, professor of government and public affairs from Slippery Rock, 34 years; Dr. Deborah Hammond, associate professor, sociology/anthropology/social work from Butler, 27years; Dr. Thomas Hannon, professor, geography, geology and the environment from Slippery Rock, 34 years; Dr. Parameswar Krishnakumar, professor, School of Business from Slippery Rock, 30 years; Jennifer Lindsay, assistant professor, physical education and sport management from Volant, 31 years; Fred Livingston, assistant professor, special education from West Middlesex, 33 years; Sandra Grosky, manager of employment services, Office of Human Resources from Slippery Rock, 25 years; Eric Thomas, director of University Police from Slippery Rock, 32 years.

Staff retiring from the Office of Facilities and Planning are: Patricia Anderson from Portersville, 34 years; Berardino Andreassi from Boyers, 14 years; Mary Jane Andreassi from Boyers, 15 years; Linda Barnes from Slippery Rock, 32 years; James Colosimo from Slippery Rock, 35 years; Richard DeMatteis from Boyers, 35 years; Larry Hilliard from Slippery Rock, 32 years; William Lees from Volant, 28 years; James Leone from Slippery Rock, 43 years; Gary Reeder from Slippery Rock, seven years; William Watson from Grove City, 30 years; and Lydia Tiche from Slippery Rock, 35 years.

Other staff retirements include Emelie McFarland, Central Receiving from New Castle, 37 years; Donna McKee, history department from Slippery Rock, 34 years; Nancy Speer, Office of Information Technology from Slippery Rock, eight years; and Richard Wetzel, Office of User Services from Knox, 32 years.

           Trustees will hold their next regularly scheduled meeting at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 10.

PN, WPN, PR, PT, S           

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