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Create the Future: A Celebration of Shepherd University
Inaugural remarks of President Suzanne Shipley
October 26, 2007

Good afternoon, and welcome to Shepherd University and to our celebration, "Create the Future." It's great to officially be a Shepherd University Ram! Thank you--faculty, students, alumni, members of the greater Shepherd community, and of course our wonderful stage party, for bringing such excitement to this inauguration ceremony. It is a great honor to serve as Shepherd University's fifteenth president, and I look forward to all we will accomplish together.

I am delighted to have many friends, colleagues and loved ones here today. Thank you so much for sharing in this special day.

My husband, Randy Wadsworth, a partner in all my endeavors, chose this path with me and has already become a supportive member of the Shepherd University community. He's proud to be a Shepherd University Ram, too!

And my mother, Mary Jane Shipley, has joined us from Waco, Texas! My mom taught mathematics at Texas Tech University and was a tremendous role model for me as I was growing up. There was never any doubt that I would be expected to strive to be a leader in whatever field I chose.

Unfortunately, I was not the math genius that my brother Wes was, who is also here today. We were both were inspired by her deep love of education, which I hope to pass on to the students of Shepherd.

This is a day of great celebration!

What we celebrate and how says so much about us as a university, about our distinctive role in the landscape of American higher education.

As I look out across our honored guests, representing community colleges, independent and public colleges and universities of the region, I am mindful that we all have something valuable to offer our students. And we are all experiencing forces that we see in other industries and endeavors across the globe--rapid differentiation and change.

It is in this exciting and challenging environment that Shepherd University emerges today with distinction.

We have already begun to position this great institution with distinction--as West Virginia's public liberal arts university. So much of what we have long valued about Shepherd has already set us on this path. Our faculty provides students with a broad liberal arts background that perfectly complements strong professional preparation.

First and foremost, we teach Shepherd students how to learn. We teach students transferable skills--skills that they will call upon again and again throughout their lives.

To see how this approach has been very much a part of Shepherd, let's look at the stories of students--past and present. And because the word inauguration is related to augury, a ritual of reading omens about the future, we'll also imagine Shepherd's Future Student, a student entering a university calibrated to a global century.

Let's start in 1928. When James "Hank" Moler enrolled at Shepherd College as a freshman, his college tuition was under $20 per semester. He could pay for an entire year of study--that's books, fees, tuition and expenses, for one hundred dollars! He funded his degree the old fashioned way--by raising a pig given to him by his father each year of study.

The Great Depression was just past; a second world war was unfathomable, and no one had an inkling that in thirty brief years an American would step foot on the moon. Change, by our current standards, occurred slowly and deliberately. It took days to learn about events by radio, newspaper, and newsreels rather than minutes and now even seconds.

The education Dr. Moler received prepared him for a life of service, first in his chosen field of education, where he served as principal of several Jefferson county elementary schools. But he had been bitten by the Shepherd bug and returned as a faculty member before moving into politics. He served as a delegate to the West Virginia legislature from 1973 to 1980. His multiple talents, his insight as a leader, and his commitment to civic engagement brought him back to Shepherd a third time, this role as head of the newly established Shepherd College Foundation. Clearly, Dr. Moler believed in education, civic responsibility and service to others, beliefs fostered by his time on this campus.

Fast forward 77 years to last year's graduating class of 2007. Claudia Funes came to Shepherd from El Salvador by way of Arlington, Virginia. Claudia became a U.S. citizen in 2005 and during her Shepherd Commencement, she led the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of her new country.

Today, she is studying for an M.B.A. at Shepherd. While her tuition is slightly more than Dr. Moler's it has remained affordable by all local and national standards, a point of pride that we pledge to continue. Claudia plans to apply her skills to government work, ideally for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, realizing how her multiple skills including bilingualism and multi-cultural awareness, can contribute to improving immigration policies and procedures.

Claudia experienced at Shepherd the fullness of her new country's tradition of liberal education. She was able to test the waters to determine the best major for her. She has found a way for her distinctive and varied skills to be useful in ways that are meaningful to her personally and exceptionally important to society as a whole.

Her story is classic and contemporary, reflecting the time honored values of this institution as well as today's challenges and opportunities.

And now for the augury--what do we predict for our Future Student? This student studies in a world of dislocating change, where the only certainty is disruption. All high school graduates, not just the fortunate few, are able to go to college--there exist completely permeable borders between K-12 and higher education.

The United States is enjoying a resurgence of respect for its programs in science and technology, with programs that start in the elementary grades and link seamlessly to community college and university opportunities throughout middle and high school grades. Programs in every major are linked to professional expertise, citizenship and social responsibility, requiring of students demonstrated abilities to solve complex problems from their first days in their college coursework.

Students spend little time in classroom lecture halls and are involved in small group work with hand-held computers to access immediate information and apply learning to real-world situations. Professors move from group to group, facilitating learning that links disciplinary mastery to global knowledge, intercultural literacy, communicative and collaboration skills. Independence and application are watchwords for students. The future student plans to take a few post-baccalaureate courses at the Shepherd University Dublin campus to study Celtic music for enhanced insights into culture and the arts.

Our Future Student is proud of the ability to understand and evaluate complex problems, having become aware of the power of integrative learning during the first of three required internships, two of which were international. Our student was hired as a computer engineer at a leading West Virginia high tech firm located between Charles Town and Martinsburg because of the future student's mastery of engineering that linked to the richness of study in the humanities, arts and social sciences.

These musings about our Future Student create images different from those of today. But, we know that this future student will be prepared because of the values and standards we are upholding and strengthening today.

As certain as change, the transferable skills Hank Moler learned in 1928 have guided Claudia Funes and will propel our future student toward success. In many ways, our students are preparing for a future we cannot possibly imagine in careers that do not yet exist.

To educate students for the future's exceptional opportunities and inevitable complexities, a powerful combination is needed--a liberal arts background and professional preparation. This combination creates real-world talent for the workforce of West Virginia and beyond!

The creative spirit that is such a part of this university has an important role here. Even those who don't know Shepherd well know about our collaboration with the Contemporary American Theater Festival, our nationally recognized music program, and our many exceptional programs in the arts.

As a public university dedicated to the liberal arts, we must ask ourselves: what are the values of the artist that can inform the mathematician, the businessperson, the historian? How can scientists and humanists, teachers and lawyers tap in to their own creative spirits to solve problems effectively? How can we examine timeless questions--so naturally explored in the arts--as journalists, computer engineers, psychologists and nurses?

All of these questions are answered with a strong foundation in the liberal arts.

Our students, faculty and staff have been taking a close look at our stated mission and recently came to consensus about adding the powerful words: "liberal arts." The change was approved at our most recent Board of Governor's meeting. The mission statement now begins:

"Shepherd University, a West Virginia public liberal arts university, is a diverse community of learners and a gateway to the world of opportunities and ideas."

Of course, we will face challenges, and one is something that any new president would be grateful to face--managing growth! How can we continue to effectively serve the growing number of students who want a Shepherd education AND a close place to park? We must anticipate the needs of traditional students who want to make this idyllic campus their home and enjoy our residential experiences, as well as nontraditional and commuting students.

By grasping the distinctiveness of Shepherd University, we are propelled into an exciting future. I am supremely confident in the ability of this institution to educate tomorrow's leaders. I eagerly await our students' accomplishments--here on campus and in today's exhilarating global environment.

I know that you, my friends and colleagues, are as dedicated to this future as I am. I humbly accept your trust today as Shepherd University's fifteenth president. Thank your presence and for the part you will play in creating our future.

 

 

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The Presidents of Shepherd University

Chronological Highlights of Shepherd University

Inaugural Committee

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Shepherd University | Office of the President | P.O. Box 3210 | Shepherdstown, West Virginia | 25443-3210
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