More carrier pigeon than peacock, we tend to dress down more often than up, flatter with attention rather than applause, wave off praise with an embarrassed chuckle, and generally act as if we can’t comfortably field a compliment. There’s no denying it. We blanch and blush in the spotlight. So it is with pronounced discomfort that I set forth in this space today to crow a little. Call it a presidential prerogative. After all, we’re No. 1. Beloit College is No. 1.
Our women’s cross country team? No. 1. They set a slew of individual Buccaneer records this season, bested competitors from across the conference, and had several strong team finishes this season. Though they (like their peers) do a thousand things on campus, and though they attend a college where faculty can be very stingy with their As, the team finished on top in grade point average. In the country. And this in the Ivy League of NCAA divisions—Division III. No. 1. As much as we would love to hoist an NCAA Championship trophy tied to the team’s speed, this is the title we truly covet the most. And it is ours.
But, there’s more.
This year, Beloit attracted its largest class outside of a Beloit Plan year. No. 1. More than 400 students from 38 states and 15 countries will be arriving on our campus in August. This will be the largest class since 1974—a year when the college’s year-round schedule and required field terms demanded an expanded headcount. To bring such a class to campus right now says so much about the college and our prospects.
Connected to this, Beloit was also No. 1 in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest for the percentage increase in the size of our fall incoming class. You don’t get a trophy for this, unfortunately. But if we did, Rob Mirabile, our first-year vice president for enrollment, would melt it down and make medals for our faculty, staff and students, alumni and parents. Why? Because this first-place win was achieved through the collective efforts of Beloiters spanning the country and globe. To give one example, Beloit hosted 25 open house events this year for admitted students in 24 cities. You guessed it—our largest number ever. And those events were hosted by parents and alumni and attended by staff, faculty, and students—all of them aiming at winning more hearts and minds to Beloit.
This is good news. But here’s more. Over the last five years,
the college’s annual fund, The Beloiter Fund, has gone from $2.3 million to almost $3.8 million. That’s five years of double-digit percentage increases. Incredible. And, as far as we can tell, unprecedented over this time period in higher education. It is a success shared by all of you and one that helps assure some of the other victories mentioned here. Thank you.
This banner year was also the time when the college received its largest-ever cash gift—a gift from the same alumnus who helped us refurbish the Middle College cupola a few years ago. Bill Corlis’37 left Beloit more than $6 million. It is the kind of generosity that humbles the mind and moves institutions forward.
Another generous gift, this time from Jim and Nancy Packard, is also sending shockwaves through our campus. I suspect this gift will give the college the distinction of running the oldest residence hall still in use in the upper Midwest when we reopen Emerson Hall next fall. Judging by the reactions of a few students I’ve accompanied through the building, it will also give us our new No. 1 housing choice on campus. I could keep going. More anthropology Ph.D.s than any other liberal arts college. No. 1 in liberal arts in practice experiences. Tops in the country for faculty and staff engagement.
We will also, soon I hope (next fall?), likely have the No. 1 most interesting and original activity and recreation center in the country nearly paid for. We could very well have another No. 1 team in the classroom or in our conference, and more. It is, without doubt, an embarrassment of riches. Cringe if you must, but soak it in anyway. These are, in so many ways, shared achievements.
It is a great day to be a Beloiter, is it not? From here at the No. 1 perch in higher education: Chapin’s desk.
- President Scott Bierman