Looking back, looking ahead

Wheaton teams are enjoying practicing and playing on the new Diane Nordin ’80 Athletic Field.
Wheaton teams are enjoying practicing and playing on the new Diane Nordin ’80 Athletic Field.

Like a lot of people, I take advantage of summer to catch up on some of the books and articles that slipped by during the year. Of course, my bookbag tends to be heavy with readings on the state of higher education. Which makes for some heavy beach fare. Even a cursory glance at the news media tells you that colleges and universities face some daunting challenges. But there is plenty of good news, particularly at Wheaton.

Our college achieved extraordinary results in 2012–2013, and as we embark on a new school year, it seems fitting to pause for a moment and reflect on what we have accomplished. A short list of highlights includes:  

  • A new and exceptionally well-crafted major in business and management as well as a new minor in peace and social justice studies.
  • The launch of a pilot program in summer courses, including the first-ever online course for credit.
  • A successful student recruitment season that has resulted in our welcoming the Class of 2017 as one of the largest first-year classes in the college’s history.
  • An increased number of international students that actually exceeds our ultimate goal of 12 percent.
  • A completed agreement that will bring Explo, a well-regarded learning exploration program for middle school students, to our campus next summer, to more fully use our facilities and extend the college’s reach and reputation through our partnership.
  • The founding of the Wheaton Institute for the Interdisciplinary Humanities, which highlights the multi-faced value of liberal arts study.
  • The construction of the Diane Nordin ’80 Athletic Field, which opened in early August and is already hosting field hockey and other sports contests.
  • A rebounding endowment that, according to preliminary numbers, grew by 12.8 percent this year and now stands at $175 million.

Beyond our progress in all these new initiatives are many individual successes. For example, four students and one alum won Fulbright awards, while seven others won a variety of prestigious graduate and undergraduate scholarships. Our scholar-athletes not only won recognition on the field, most notably, national champion in the 400-meter dash Ashante Little ’14, but also received awards for their academic accomplishments. And students and faculty completed too many outstanding scholarly projects to mention them all.

Our entire community can take pride in these accomplishments because, in a very real sense, everyone who contributes their time, attention and philanthropic support to Wheaton plays a critical role in making this happen. Go Beyond: Campaign for Wheaton exemplifies the many people behind the college’s success. The campaign passed the $123 million mark this summer, which is an all-time record for the college and an important source of strength for sustaining the quality of a Wheaton education.

Much more remains to be done on every front. This year will bring new initiatives and new challenges. But it is clear that Wheaton is well positioned for success. Our community and our heritage are our most important assets. Indeed, the college represents a trust passed from one generation to the next. Wheaton exists only because thousands of people, including you and me, care about it and its liberal arts mission. Based on all that we’ve accomplished in the past year, the state of our college community is dynamic and vital.