After a weekend of inspiring events anchored by a joyous 106th Commencement, I write
to congratulate you on an excellent academic year. Skidmore made enormous strides
thanks to your dedication to our students.
Farewells and congratulations
We honored four distinguished faculty members who are retiring this year: John Cunningham,
professor of art, whose talent in sculpture was shared with students for 50 years; Steven Millhauser, professor of English and holder of the Tisch Chair in Arts and
Letters, a 1997 Pulitzer Prize winner who taught at Skidmore for 29 years; Mehmet
Odekon, economics professor, who held the Tisch Family Distinguished Professorship,
received a distinguished faculty service award, and taught for 35 years; and Pete
Stake, associate professor of art, who has been with Skidmore for 31 years and whose
paintings have been exhibited all over the world. Their service totals 145 years.
We also say goodbye to retiring staff members, whose service we celebrated on Tuesday.
They include Lorraine Bittel, Larry Britt, Mary Cogan, Hunt Conard, Dennis Conway,
Priscilla Eggleston, Ellen Eldredge, Ruby Grande, Barbara Hatlee, Joe Knapik, Alena
Llorens-Myers, Tom Morris, John Myers, Jim Potter, Nancy Rudick, Sharon Shearman,
Michael Tallman, Phillip Taylor, and Pat Wright. The work of these dedicated professionals
totals over 1,000 years of service! I wish every one of you the very best in your
new chapters of life.
This year's President's Awards for excellence, campus pride, and community service
were given to Kim Frederick, professor of chemistry; Chris Breslin, of IT's user services;
and the Counseling Center.
I would like to single out Collyer Vice President for Advancement Michael Casey, who
leaves to become vice president for advancement at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.
When he departs officially at the end of June, Michael will have served as vice president
for 18 years. He has been a valued cabinet member and trusted advisor during my entire
tenure at Skidmore. He will be missed by so many of us in the campus and alumni communities.
I also want to express my thanks to Debra Townsend, who for the past two years has
provided outstanding leadership in helping us create a new Communications and Marketing
Division. During this time she has given great service in her interim role and has
been a valued member of the President's Cabinet. We will miss her as she returns to
her consulting business.
Academics and admissions
The Board of Trustees last week approved faculty promotions including those of Kristie
Ford to full professor of sociology, Andrew Lindner to associate professor of sociology,
Peter McCarthy to senior teaching professor of social work, Erika Schielke to senior
instructor in biology, and Beatrice Kendall to senior instructor in chemistry. The
board also acknowledged many awards given to students, staff, and faculty, including
a Fulbright for Kim Frederick and a Guggenheim for Heather Hearst.
Significant faculty action this spring now positions the College to rise even higher
in the coming decade. Most visibly and importantly, the faculty adopted a new general
education curriculum, based on data about what and how students should learn and centered
on the concept that liberally educated students can integrate their learning from
both curricular and co-curricular vantage points. Also approved was a change to the
Faculty Handbook that eliminate the second-year review. Another change will allow departments and
programs to hire faculty with tenure as needed, which will help us in our continuing
efforts to enhance faculty diversity. My thanks to the Committee on Educational Policies
and Planning for all its efforts to bring these important changes to successful conclusion.
The admissions office received a record 10,000-plus applications for the class of
2021. We are comfortably above our targeted class size of 660, with some of these
students beginning in the London program. Currently the class is 42 percent male and
58 percent female, 24 percent identify as domestic students of color (up 1 percent
over last year), and 13 percent are international students with citizenship from 47
countries other than the U.S. Approximately 42 percent of students will receive financial
aid. Over half of our class came through Early Decision, and our selectivity rate
is expected to be between 24 and 25 percent. I appreciate all of the efforts across
campus that helped us attract these talented new members of our community.
Finances and capital projects
This year's budget is projected to have a modest surplus, and the board has approved
the operating budget for fiscal year 2018, with revenues projected at $157.5 million
and expenses at $157.0 million. Our endowment as of April 30 is estimated at an all-time
high of nearly $360 million.
As we committed at the conclusion of last year's work with the Task Force on Divestment,
the College's Investment Committee has been researching investment vehicles that deal
exclusively with equities from “green” companies. The Committee has identified a promising
option and is working to move a portion of our endowment to this fund. It is important
to understand, however, that this fund may not be accepting new investments until
after January 2018. I will provide further updates as information becomes available.
The board approved master plans and concept designs for the main campus athletic facilities
and Van Lennep Riding Center. Permitting for the Valentine Boathouse is in process,
with construction anticipated to begin in September for a June 2018 completion target.
The board also accepted a generous gift of land from Margaret and Michael Roohan,
and several trustees viewed the renovations and moves to North Broadway by Special
Programs and Communications and Marketing. Renovations on the Spa dining area begin
this month, with completion slated for early September.
This year saw significant progress on the Center for Integrated Sciences. The board
approved preconstruction site-enabling work, now in progress. The study of temporary
spaces and trailers needed for offices, dry labs, and classrooms is also under way,
as is the construction permitting, which should be completed by December. A special
board meeting will be held on July 25 to receive updates on the CIS project and make
decisions that will further expedite progress. Please visit the CIS website for regular updates. Our advancement programs expect to end the year having raised
$22 million to $23 million overall. In the ongoing Creating Our Future: The Campaign for Skidmore, we will exceed $136 million in cumulative gifts and pledges, which includes more
than $20 million in new commitments. The Skidmore Fund is on track to reach its $7
million goal, with a slight uptick in participation. Gifts from parents will exceed
$4 million, up $400,000 over last year, the Senior Family Gift Project amounted to
more than $730,000 and the Senior Class Gift set a record of 94.6 percent participation.
In addition to planning Commencement, Reunion, and other major campus events, the
Office of Alumni Relations and College Events has planned and hosted more than 100
regional events and activities for alumni, parents, and friends.
Enhancing campus life
Student Affairs increased its orientation and leadership programs, advising 110 clubs
that held over 800 events, many of them focused on our strategic goals of sustainability
and diversity. In addition, the Office of Student Diversity Programs held important
events recognizing our students of color, those who identify as LGBTQI+, and first-generation
students. More than 50 percent of Skidmore students participated in community service
this past year. In the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the expansion of the
director position to full-time and the addition of a new coordinator allowed us to
provide more services and support student-led initiatives including on-campus Catholic
Masses, events for Muslim students and staff, and the renewal of Quaker gatherings
at Wilson Chapel.
The Counseling Center and Health Services launched new programs including mental health
first-aid training, a point of distribution (POD) for emergency supplies, and significant
work with students on the topic of consent. Through the Career Development Center,
52 students were provided with internships throughout the country and around the world
(including three at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab).
It was a very exciting year in athletics, with 15 of our 19 varsity teams participating
in postseason competition and five teams earning berths in national championship tournaments.
Our student-athletes also helped lead the “It's on Us” campaign to speak out against
sexual assault. Most important, we honored more than 100 athletes whose GPAs exceeded
3.67 in the fall, and we expect similar numbers once spring grades are tallied.
In addition to the positive representational diversity in admissions demographics
and faculty hiring, our diversity and inclusion efforts included three staff reading
and discussion groups, the establishment of inclusion liaisons representing each of
the College's divisions, all-campus screenings of the film Hidden Figures, the “In It” program of speakers and events, and movement on two significant fronts:
discussion of a black studies program and the creation of social justice space, including
the designation of the space in Case Center across from the current Intercultural
Center. Going forward, we continue to work on improving our campus climate, strengthening
our efforts to be a welcoming and inclusive community, broadening the initiatives
and activities that fall under our diversity and inclusion umbrella, providing ally
training, and highlighting College demographics in diversity analytics.
External college relations
The Office of Communications and Marketing has ramped up its national coverage of
faculty, staff, and student stories and is well into the planning and implementation
phases of a new College website design and important admissions and advancement marketing
initiatives, working in concert with the national college marketing firm Ologie. Several
focus groups have been conducted to review these new initiatives, and they will continue
through the summer. Communications and Marketing will also roll out graphic standards
for the College this fall to help us adopt a more consistent visual identity as we
continue to become better known. Thank you to the team members who worked so hard
to achieve a new vision for this office.
The Office of the Dean of Special Programs (ODSP) celebrated the 10th anniversary
of partnership with Ensemble Connect of Carnegie Hall, providing two weeklong residencies;
sponsored five Jacob Perlow lectures; and collaborated with the Tang Museum on several
projects. Its Skidmore Encore program for community adults aged 55 and over welcomed
335 enrollees for 21 faculty lectures last fall, and the office hosted several events
on campus for local organizations.
ODSP teamed with the Center for Leadership, Teaching, and Learning to create a new
faculty/guest residency that will give a faculty member an opportunity to develop
his or her own semester-long project involving students in new ways. The first resident
next spring will be Heather Hurst. ODSP staff spends much of the academic year planning
for the summer, with the kickoff to the new season being a sold-out concert by the
Manhattan Transfer on May 13. This summer will be one of the most exciting in recent
memory. Two performances of The Trojan Women by the Suzuki Company of Toga, Japan, take place on June 2 and 3, and the house band
from Late Night with Stephen Colbert, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, appears on July 6. Batiste was a participant in the
Skidmore Jazz Institute in 2004. In a new partnership with SPAC, our Zankel Center
will host Simone Dinnerstein and the Havana Lyceum Orchestra's “Mozart in Havana”
on June 20. We will also host a taping of NPR's Selected Shorts, featuring writers
from our July New York State Writers' Institute, on July 22. Over the summer an estimated
4,000 people will come onto campus, and we will mount 65 total public events, most
of them free. View more events on the ODSP calendar.
The Tang Teaching Museum continues to be a campus standout, with interdisciplinary
exhibitions such as Sixfold Symmetry: Pattern in Art and Science, which featured the scholarship of nine Skidmore professors; a new lecture series,
“Accelerate,” bringing diverse voices to discuss race and inclusion issues; and opportunities
for students of all disciplines to learn from the Tang's permanent collection. In
the fall, the campus and wider community debated the Constitution, gender, civic discourse,
and the 2016 presidential election in an exhibition—A More Perfect Union featuring Mel Ziegler's Flag Exchange—that realized the museum as a vital town square. The Tang's Frances Day open house
will be held July 15. View more events on the Tang calendar.
Finally, a brief update on our three President's Cabinet searches: The search for
a vice president for communications and marketing is well under way, on track to make
an appointment this summer. The search for a vice president for advancement has identified
candidates and should complete its work before the new academic year begins. And the
search for a new dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs is expected
to be completed this fall.
These are just samples of our remarkably lively and productive year. As I review our
Strategic Plan and the significant progress already have made on our ambitious two-year Strategic
Action Agenda, I am thrilled and humbled by all that we have accomplished together.