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Both sides now Politically minded students seek hard-hitting debate -- and a comfort zone
Athlete's foot Varsity athletes show, and tell, how they keep a step ahead of the game
Gearing up for the 21st century Skidmore's ten-year plan, and the fundraising to pay for it, are rolling ahead

 

Gearing up to educate engaged thinkers for the 21st century:
Skidmore has a plan—and a price tag
By Susan Rosenberg

Stepping from rock to rock in a rushing woodland stream, Adam Wallace ’06 captures digital images of splash, shadow, clarity, and color. His camera may also capture a rusted fence post at water’s edge, a human footprint (his own?), or the red glint of nearby tail-lights. “Artistic, even abstract photography,” he says, “is a way for me to interpret my feelings about environmental issues. But I want my images to be visually appealing so that they’ll engage people in thinking about the subject.”

Wallace, a senior environmental-studies major and art minor, is shaping his capstone project, to photograph the Kayaderosseras Creek watershed and its relationship with the humans who inhabit it. It’s part of the ES program’s new Water Resources Initiative, featuring service learning and community-based research on issues of local watershed management, from drinking-water chemistry to land valuation. WRI provides a “true interdisciplinary immersion,” says ES director Karen Kellogg. In fact Wallace’s background reading for his project included sociological work done last summer by Allison Stafford ’06, Erin Black ’06, and Skidmore anthropologist Michael Ennis-McMillan. (Stafford says this hands-on work with a real-world problem was particularly valuable for revealing to her just how much politics affects environmental questions.) For Wallace, the team’s attitudinal surveys highlighted complex emotions and ideas he could explore, such as some residents’ “very strong generational attachments to Saratoga Lake, but little personal feeling for Loughberry Lake.”

Goals and resources
Whatever its study topic, WRI seems to exemplify “engaged liberal learning”—the title of the strategic plan endorsed last year by Skidmore’s trustees. Produced by President Phil Glotzbach with faculty and all-college advisory groups, the plan (see below) is both idealistic and practical. Outlining major goals like heightened academic engagement, intercultural understanding, and responsible citizenship, it speaks inspirationally of “an intellectually rigorous, transformative” education that can “awaken previously unrecognized interests and talents, suggesting new possibilities to students who have not yet…risen to their potential.” The plan bills itself as “a promissory note issued to every new student upon matriculation.” Next, that promise is organized into no fewer than seventy-five specific tasks (and those are just for the coming year), several of them already assigned to particular staff members or budgets.

And budgets are crucial to this far-reaching, ambitious plan. Like many Skidmore programs, WRI costs more to deliver than tuition and fees can provide. WRI research, equipment, and other costs are substantially funded by grants from the Rathmann Family Foundation and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. To keep such programs going, and to launch the new ones envisioned in the plan, Skidmore began a comprehensive fundraising campaign (see below) in 2004–05. Now in its second year (of a six-year effort), “Creative Thought, Bold Promise” aims to bring in $200 million—including more foundation grants as well as individual donations for construction or other projects, unrestricted-use gifts to the general endowment, annual-fund giving, trusts and bequests, and even gifts-in-kind.


Creative Thought, Bold Promise fundraising campaign

1. Ongoing strength and independence: $60 million
Gifts to the annual fund
Unrestricted and endowment gifts

2. Academic engagement: $50 million
Faculty and academic programs,
first-year experience
Support for the Tang Museum
Support for special-programs offerings
Strengthening of sciences

3. Access, diversity, and achievement: $50 million
Increased financial aid
Expansion of HEOP/AOP services

4. Campus environment: $40 million
New music building/gateway
Creation of social, performance, and study space
Support for athletics, health, and wellness
Enhanced residential facilities and dining hall

TOTAL: $ 200 million

More information: www.skidmore.edu/support, or 800-584-0115

 


Response so far has been record-breaking. Gifts and pledges—many of them from Skidmore trustees, including campaign co-chairs John Howley ’80, Sara Lubin Schupf ’62, Susan Kettering Williamson ’59, and Billie Stein Tisch ’48—stood at $80 million in December 2005. (That’s more than the total of the previous campaign, in the 1990s.) The largest gift so far is $15 million-plus, from the estate of trustee emeritus Arthur Zankel (see below).


Historic gift makes sweet music

The philanthropy of New York City financier Arthur Zankel supported arts and education from Carnegie Hall to Columbia University, and it recently made history at Skidmore. As a trustee and father of Kenny ’82 and Jimmy ’92 (as well as uncle of Harun ’01 and father-in-law of Pia Scala Zankel ’92), Zankel underwrote many Skidmore programs, including the Boys Choir of Harlem residency and an endowed professorship in management and liberal arts. Then in late 2005, just a few months after his death, word came that Skidmore was the largest recipient of his estate’s charitable giving. The bequest—in an amount still to be finalized but expected to substantially exceed Skidmore’s previous record of $15 million for a single donation—will lead off the fundraising for a much-needed new music building that will also serve as a gateway to the campus.

The building will feature a large concert hall, recital and practice spaces, offices, and classrooms. Supporting both music study and public performances, the facility is a priority item on Skidmore’s agenda.

“Art Zankel was one of a very special few… His impact on the college was truly transformational,” said trustee chair Suzanne Corbet Thomas ’62 at the announcement ceremony, a gala celebration in Zankel’s memory held at Carnegie Hall in December. (The crowd of about 1,000 friends, colleagues, and beneficiaries included dozens of Skidmore trustees, faculty, and staff.) President Philip Glotzbach promised, “We are committed to using this gift to honor Arthur’s memory and assure his remarkable legacy at Skidmore.”

Watch future Scopes for details of music-building developments and Zankel family support.


The earliest campaign commitment, of $1 million, came from trustee Polly Skogsberg Kisiel ’62. She says, “Skidmore’s vision is well expressed and exciting. There are so many worthy students seeking help, and so many terrific projects with such compelling needs, that my only problem is deciding my gift designation.” Fellow trustee Susan Gottlieb Beckerman ’67 is leaving her $1 million unrestricted, “as a vote of confidence,” she says, “in the people who make decisions at Skidmore. They steward our assets well. I know that life is full of unexpected occurrences, and with an unrestricted gift nobody’s hands are tied.” She’s directed previous gifts toward financial aid and special student-project funds, but she notes that in a broad campaign, even “paying for pens and paper clips is an important foundation for others who want to designate gifts to specific programs.”

Among those others is Sue Kettering Williamson ’59. Her many past donations, from both personal funds and her family’s Ohio-based Kettering Foundation, often focused on financial aid—long a college priority and again a major goal of the current campaign. She has now arranged to extend the kind of assistance provided by New York State’s Highter Education Opportunity Program to students coming from out of state. A $5 million Kettering Foundation grant will permanently endow the Skidmore-Ohio Student Achievement Program, providing disadvantaged students from schools in Cleveland, Dayton, and Cincinnati with tuition help, mentoring, and skills coaching—the same recipe for success that makes Skidmore’s HEOP a widely acknowledged star among such programs. The Ohio version—expanding on Skidmore’s modest Academic Opportunity Program for out-of-staters—will bring more AOP students like Marquette Jeffcoat ’08. “Without AOP,” she says, “I might have gone to a two-year technical college, where my experience would have been very different.” A Charleston, S.C., resident who was steered toward Skidmore by her high-school English teacher, Andrew HaLevi ’88, she is thriving at Skidmore thanks to AOP’s intensive prefreshman summer seminar, a four-year aid package that even helps cover travel costs between Charleston and Saratoga, and especially “a lot of close relationships that make up for missing my close-knit family back home.”At the same time, her membership in the campus community enlarges the diversity of perspectives and experience being explored by all students at the college.

Or take Bud Morten, self-described “soccer dad” to Jessica ’08. Skidmore’s “pluralistic community dedicated to discovery and engagement in all realms of human endeavor” inspired him and wife Liz to support the realm of athletics. Sports, he says, “appeal to universal human needs for identity and stimulation.” Responding to Skidmore’s goal of enhancing athletics and recreation as elements of a vibrant community life, the Mortens have issued a sporting challenge: they will match the total of others’ gifts toward the purchase of up-to-date video recording technology for game reviews, player kinetics analyses, and other team needs.


Engaged Liberal Learning plan for Skidmore College, 2005–2015

  1. Student engagement and achievement

    • Enrichment of the first-year experience, with new seminars, residential learning, faculty mentoring

    • Faculty support for research and creativity

    • New music building

    • Integration of Tang Museum offerings into wider curricula

    • Building the sciences: faculty growth, more student majors, academic and public programs on science and society

    • Integration of special-programs offerings with regular curriculum



  2. Expansion of student-body diversity through recruiting, financial aid, a new multicultural-affairs director

    • Expansion of faculty diversity, and a director of culture-centered inquiry

    • More study abroad



  3. Recruitment of students with strong citizenship and service backgrounds

    • More service-learning and volunteer opportunities

    • Enhancement of residential learning, through first-year experience and increasing number of students who live on campus

    • Improvement of athletics, fitness, and wellnessopportunities



  4. Enhanced relationships in wider college community (with alumni, parents) and in higher education marketplace (prospective students, peer institutions)

    • Competitive salaries to recruit and retain best faculty

    • Maintenance of physical plant, and adoption of new campus master plan

The full plan: www.skidmore.edu/planning.


Then there’s Howard Silverman ’75. A founding director of Intrinsiq Research, a leading provider of oncology data to the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street, he has directed $100,000 toward faculty development in informatics—the study of data collection, processing, and use. For example, “data mining,” an aspect of informatics used in scientific and marketing research, seeks “meaningful patterns in sets of data that are too huge to fit in the memory of even a supercomputer,” says Skidmore computer scientist Tom O’Connell. With Silverman’s support, O’Connell is now on sabbatical to learn more about informatics and its potential to widen the scope and appeal of science education, another major goal of the strategic plan. According to Silverman, “Success is found at the intersections of knowledge,” which is where informatics operates—in the case of Intrinsiq, it’s the junction of medicine, business, law, and software engineering.

Add art to just about any intersection of knowledge, and the Tang Museum will put a roof over it. It’s no surprise the Tang’s eclectic programs fostering interactive and interdisciplinary learning are slated for growth in the strategic plan. And that’s where Michele Dunkerley ’80 has put her campaign (and twenty-fifth reunion) gift: with $150,000, she’s underwriting five years’ worth of the “dialogue” series, public discussions with artists and curators of Tang exhibitions. “Most of my close friends at Skidmore were artists, and I always enjoy the Tang when I return to campus,” recalls Dunkerley, an American studies major. “This series of discussions puts art in a broader context, appealing to those of us who are not art purists.”

Sweet spot
Campaign director Tracy Barlok is “delighted and awed” by these and other early gifts, but admits that $200 million is a daunting goal. Items in the strategic plan that still await funding include a “science enrichment and awareness” program to foster exploration of pressing public issues in science and technology; a new music building that will serve as a campus gateway; a director of “culture-centered inquiry” to help integrate multicultural discourse into curricula across the college; and more opportunities for study abroad, especially beyond Western Europe.

It’s a full docket, but it’s all focused on getting Skidmore students tuned in and turned on to learning as never before. For President Phil Glotzbach it’s a matter of some urgency. “Skidmore is at a unique juncture in its history—a sweet spot, if you will—where great potential for growth and change meets with institutional maturity and capacity. It’s a tremendous opportunity.” And it’s crucial to seize it, he adds, because “the world needs Skidmore.” The twenty-first century, he says, demands educated citizens “with the rare ability to imagine creative solutions that others have not seen and with the will to bring their ideas into the world and harness them in service to others.” Step by step, student by student, he intends to produce those citizens.