President's Letter, February 2004
Dear friends and colleagues, alumnae/i, and other members of Goucher's extended family,
I have written and spoken often about the wider Goucher community-the one that extends far beyond the borders of our campus, that spans that globe, that encompasses not only our current students, faculty, staff, friends, and family, but also everyone everywhere who has ever been connected to Goucher. This is a gratifying, inspiring concept, and I have had many encounters during the past two-and-a-half years that bear it out. Until the last few months, however, I had never undertaken any truly far-reaching assessment of the prevailing attitudes of this extended community toward the college. I simply had not seen enough of a representative sample to know whether it does, in fact, live up to my admittedly idealistic conception of it.
I am pleased--and honored, and humbled--to report that I actually underestimated the degree of pride, interest, and enthusiasm people feel about this college, its history and traditions, and its vision for the future. The intensity of their connection to Goucher, and the depth of their identification with the college, would be difficult for anyone to imagine without experiencing them firsthand.
Recently I have spent a considerable amount of time conducting briefings around the country on our strategic plan for Goucher. Academic Dean Michael Curry has done the same. We have met with alumnae/i, parents, and other friends of the college about the ambitious new vision we have set forth, the progress we have already made in realizing it, and the ways in which they can participate as we continue to work toward our objectives. We have already had more than 30 of these conversations; by the time we are finished with our currently scheduled events, we will have held dozens more. And let me tell you, these sessions have been electrifying.
In Portland, Maine, I sat in the living room of a bed-and-breakfast marveling as a group of alumnae inspired and impressed the parents of current students with their accounts of Goucher's rich history and traditions-while the parents refreshed and galvanized the alumnae with their excitement about what their sons and daughters are experiencing now. In Rochester, New York, Mary Lu Brook '54 hosted a similarly energizing session with Michael Curry. In Boston, I met an alumna named Elizabeth Beck who credited Goucher with preparing her for a successful career in international banking, but had lost touch with the college since she graduated in 1974. What drew her back, she said, was Goucher's renewed seriousness, focus, and drive, particularly with regard to international education. (She was especially delighted to learn that we are initiating a new three-week intensive course in dance in Brazil, where she worked for several years.) Her story seemed to typify many that Michael and I have encountered along our way. We have heard time and again about how Goucher set in motion profound transformations in the lives of our alumnae/i-but also how the college since slipped from their awareness. That is why these sessions are so important. The alumnae/i who participate seem quite gratified to find out that Goucher still provides the high-caliber, life-changing kind of education they remember-and quite proud that the college is working hard to maintain and surpass the level of prominence and prestige it has enjoyed over its long history.
These are but a few of a great many anecdotes I could share, but I think they are representative of the enthusiastic response we have enjoyed in Dallas, New York City, Los Angeles, Birmingham, San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Desert, Cleveland, San Diego, Nashville, Berkeley, Atlanta, Westchester County, and, of course, Baltimore. Some of the best events are the multigenerational ones, in living rooms from Miami Beach to Menlo Park, where graduates from as far back as the 1930s come together with graduates from the past few years and discover that as much as Goucher has changed over the decades, it is still an institution that inspires profound loyalty and respect.
There is a palpable excitement about this college and the new directions it is taking. Every conversation I have had has reinforced my sense that this is a powerful moment in Goucher's history-one that we must seize in claiming the college's rightful place among the true innovators of American higher education.
Expressing support through great generosity
Some of the support that our alumnae/i and friends have offered has come in the form of very generous financial commitments to Goucher College. Some time ago, we received word that Shirley Kaufman Morse '30, who passed away in July 2001, had named Goucher the recipient of a $1.2 million bequest, which we have used to fund scholarships in the sciences. Marie Ruzicka Feldmann '24 has pledged $1 million in support of new library facilities and the preservation of our existing library holdings. Other donors, who have asked not to be identified just yet, have made commitments ranging from $500,000 to $2 million. One of these includes $1 million to support construction of the Athenaeum that will house our new library and $1 million to support our efforts to expand and diversify our faculty and bring international scholars to campus.
I am going to be perfectly honest with you: We need more of our alumnae/i and supporters and friends to do as these benefactors have done-to reflect the depth of conviction they feel about Goucher in the depth of the commitment they make to the college.
Of course, this commitment need not necessarily be financial. We absolutely want the members of the wider Goucher community to participate in the life of the college in all of the other ways that are possible-to share their ideas about the college and its programs, take part in our alumnae/i organizations, and attend our public events. But the truth of the matter is that we are working toward nothing short of the transformation of Goucher College, and we will need transformational gifts if we are to achieve our objectives.
Goucher has for a long time kept a relatively low profile on the higher education scene, quietly excelling in a variety of areas and subtly making an impression through service, study abroad, and the other ways in which we reach out to the world. But why should we go on being modest? The accomplishments of our students, faculty, and alumnae/i are not modest. Our dreams and ambitions for the future certainly are not either. The research that goes on in our laboratories, the books and articles that our professors publish, the magnificent achievements of our students and alumnae/i in all walks of life, the incisive discussions and innovative performances that take place in our lecture halls and on our stages--these all represent major, important accomplishments. They have been taking place at Goucher since it was founded, they are still taking place right now, and there are even more of them on the way.
I think it is high time we recognize these accomplishments for what they really are: the extremely strong and vibrant vital signs of an institution that's playing a bigger role in our world than it has ever taken credit for. I think it's high time we take that credit- and stake our claim as an institution that is worth supporting in ways that mean as much to Goucher as Goucher has meant to the people whose lives it has touched.
Speaking of major, important accomplishments...
If you're looking for evidence of the kind of impression Goucher is making, I would direct your attention back to Newsweek for September 1, 2003. That magazine featured Goucher in its short list of 12 "Hot Schools of 2004," naming us "Most Happy," citing our small student-to-faculty ratio and the personal attention our students enjoy, and affirming our identity as "a small college with a big view of the world." The publication of these accolades couldn't have been better-timed. It started this academic year off like a shot, and we haven't slowed down since.
In early October, Ira Glass, host and producer of National Public Radio's acclaimed program This American Life, delivered a breathtaking presentation to a packed house in Kraushaar Auditorium. Ira is the grandson of a Goucher alumna, Frieda Friedlander Glass '31, and a former colleague of mine when I hosted NPR's All Things Considered. It was an honor to welcome him as he returned to his native Baltimore- and captured his audience's imagination with his signature audio portraits of strange and wonderful moments in otherwise ordinary lives.
Our Fall 2004 Sarah T. Hughes Scholar in Residence was the prominent Swedish journalist Göran Rosenberg, whose perspectives as the son of Holocaust survivors have informed his copious and cogent writings on international politics, power, and conflict. Rosenberg spent four weeks at Goucher lecturing in classes, talking with students and faculty in our dining halls and common rooms, and joining a panel of journalists from Japan, Turkey, France, and Brazil in a very eye-opening discussion titled "Up Close, Yet Far Away: How America Looks to the Rest of the World." He and I took up some of these issues further during a visit to Washington, DC, when the Swedish ambassador to the United States hosted us, along with a delegation of Goucher faculty, students, and alumnae/i, for a special discussion at the Swedish Embassy.
Our Fall 2003 Writers in Residence for the Kratz Center for Creative Writing- supported by just the sort of transformational gift I mentioned earlier, from Eleanor Kratz Denoon '36-were the novelists Edwidge Danticat and Julia Alvarez, immigrants from Haiti and the Dominican Republic respectively, who participated in a joint public reading in addition to their work with Goucher students. In November, Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Joshua Meyrowitz presented a multimedia examination of the words and images used by the media during the build-up to the war in Iraq. In early December we held a public discussion called "Whose Music Is It, Anyway?," featuring a recording industry representative and one of his critics in an exploration of the hotly contested issues surrounding music and video file-sharing on the Internet.
The indicators of Goucher's institutional health are stronger than ever, too. We received the most applications for admission in Goucher's history last year, and they helped us build our largest undergraduate student population ever. Furthermore, we have been able to be more selective in our admissions with every passing year. The credentials of this year's freshman class are very impressive indeed: their mean SAT score was 1,212-a 35-point increase over the score of the class before-and young men represent 40 percent of the group for the first time. And we can now report that once again, the applications to join next year's freshman class are up substantially.
Meanwhile, we continue to expand and strengthen our academic programs and cocurricular activities. Last fall, we opened in the Dulaney Valley Apartments across from campus a new residence facility devoted to community service and service learning. The students who live there have traveled into the city of Baltimore to work on service projects, and we will be offering a range of service-related presentations, activities, and other programming on the premises. More than 110 Goucher students either studied abroad last semester or participated in intensive courses abroad over the winter break in Honduras, England, France, and Mexico; another 12 are participating in full-year international studies programs, and an additional 23 will be studying overseas this spring.
Our students and faculty continue to rack up awards and accolades: We recently learned that chemistry Professor Esther Gibbs, a faculty member for more than 21 years, has been named the first recipient of the Centennial Award for Excellence in Teaching from Iota Sigma Pi, a national honor society for women in chemistry. David Baum, assistant professor of physics, has just been awarded a research grant from the United States Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds for work on strategies to detect and identify bacteriological spores-techniques that will have immediate and extremely important practical applications in efforts to guard against biological attacks. Baum will collaborate on his research with one of his students, sophomore physics major Anne Thomas; biology Professor Leleng To Isaacs and senior Azusa Tanaka will prepare biological samples for use in their research.
As always, the list goes on. And, as always, these examples represent just the tip of the iceberg. I think, though, that they help to paint a portrait of an institution in full bloom, resplendent with outward expressions of the energy and vitality within. In our public events and forums, we are tackling the major issues of the day here at Goucher- not just the ones that directly affect our neighborhood and nation, but also the thornier challenges that we all face as citizens of the world. In our study-abroad and service programs, we are reaching out to the world and teaching our students how they can make a difference in it. And in our lecture halls and laboratories, we are doing the sort of work and making the kinds of advances that are positioning Goucher as a major player in the higher education landscape.
One final note: I have recently renewed my own commitment to Goucher College through a new five-year contract that I signed with the Board of Trustees in October. There has never been any question in my mind that I'm in this for the long haul, but now it is official. I look forward to watching the incremental changes take place as we continue to build on all of these accomplishments and work toward realizing our vision for the college, and to enjoying the sweeping changes that will have taken place when all of the innovations and initiatives we are working on come to fruition.
It is quite a journey we have embarked on here. I hope you, too, will remain with us throughout.
Sanford J. Ungar