Hendrix Leadership

Little Rock Rotary Club Speech

Little Rock Rotary Club Speech
J. Timothy Cloyd, Ph.D.
August 26, 2003

Hendrix College and Its Future

Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you today about something that means a great deal to me and, I believe, to Arkansas – Hendrix College and its future.

Hendrix is Arkansas’ premier liberal arts college – a position it has held for more than a century, and a position I expect it to retain into the next century. I have faith in the future of Hendrix because I know its heritage and because I know the deep commitment of its people.

The faculty, staff, students and alumni of Hendrix – several of which are in this room today – trace their heritage to Altus, Arkansas, and the dream of the Methodist minister named Isham Burrow who in 1876 decided to create a college that would challenge its students to dream big and reach higher. He started with little more than his own determination and literally built the school with this own hands. From humble beginnings, Hendrix College has struggled, grown, changed, and is now thriving as a residential liberal arts college of the highest caliber. Not that we’re counting – but for the 16th straight year, Hendrix has been ranked among the nation’s top 100 liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World report in its annual college guide.

The college is featured in a variety of national publications designed to help college students find the right institution for them. For example, Kaplan Publishing’s  Unofficial, Unbiased Guide to the 328 Most Interesting Colleges (2004 Edition) says “academics are without a doubt the number one priority” at Hendrix, but the atmosphere is supportive, the workload is not overbearing and competitiveness doesn’t interfere with learning.”

That’s a good description of the environment we want to create at Hendrix – a demanding, but supportive atmosphere that expects the best from our students and provides the resources and opportunities that make excellence attainable.

In April, an education writer for the Washington Post listed Hendrix at No. 24 on his list of 100 colleges and universities that deserve bigger reputations, more attention and a second look. The writer drew many of the good things he said about Hendrix from another publication that has become an important part of our out-of-state student recruitment. The book is called Colleges That Change Lives and it was written by Loren Pope, the former education editor of the New York Times. Mr. Pope writes about 40 colleges scattered around the nation that provide the kind of challenging, but supportive environment that helps young people reach their true potential. His title sums up, for me, the purpose of education. Colleges should change lives for the better – that is our mission. We don’t want to teach our students what to think – but we do want to teach them how to think … how to evaluate information, how to see various sides of a question, how to challenge their assumptions and to move out of their comfort zones. We want to help them understand the world and find their place in it, to develop a sense of mission in their own lives, to find their calling and to discover their true potential.

There’s a particular joy in watching a student realize what his or her calling is. Like listening to Courtney Jones, a junior elementary education major and religion minor from Flippen, talk about how the Fund for Theological Education fellowship she received from the Lilly Foundation helped her discover that her future is in the ministry. Or hearing Dylan Burton, a senior mathematics and art major from Lewisville, describe the moment he realized that becoming an architect would blend his interests in math and art in a way that could challenge and intrigue him for a lifetime.

I believe that Hendrix does an excellent job of helping students discover their true calling and create lives of meaning and service. Our motto is “toward the whole person,” which symbolizes our commitment to developing the mind, body and spirit of each student. We search for well-rounded students and – through the broad-based curriculum that is the hallmark of liberal arts education – we produce well-rounded and well-grounded graduates.

Graduates like C.J. Sentell from Shreveport, La., who turned down an appointment to West Point to come to Hendrix. He graduated in May with a degree in philosophy. During his college career, he presented papers every year at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. His topics were as varied as his interests: mathematics, Plato, Shakespearean tragedy, and the hermeneutic theories of philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer. He was also on the judo team and founded a journal: The Pierian Spring, an undergraduate research journal in the humanities that includes articles written by students attending member institutions of the Associated Colleges of the South.

Here’s just a brief sample of the varied interests and contributions of Hendrix graduates:

Ted Douglas of Hot Springs helped develop a polymer that the military uses to control swirling dust and sand when helicopters take off and land in Iraq.

Dr. David Johnson of Delaware, Ohio, is a botanist who travels the world tracking the Annonaccae (anno-NAY-see ay) plant family. He focuses on Xylopia, a genus of that plant that has shown anti-cancer and anti-malarial properties.

Elizabeth Walker of Germantown, Tenn., is the publications manager at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Dr. Ben Schumacher, a professor of physics at Kenyon College, has received the Quantum Communication Award of the International Organization for Quantum Communication, Computing and Measurement – considered the premier scientific honor in the field of quantum communications.

P. Allen Smith of Little Rock is CEO of P. Allen Smith Gardens and his enterprises include a syndicated television show, a popular Web site, Weather Channel spots reaching 70 million viewers, regular appearances on The Early Show on CBS and a new book.

Dr. Derek Lowe of Hamden, Conn., is a researcher at Bayer and writes a daily Weblog about drug discovery.

Sheri Bylander of New York edited the documentary film “Rising Low,” which won the 2002 Joe Jarvis Audience Choice Award at the Newport Film Festival.

These are just a few random examples of the thousands of individuals who have developed their interests and discovered their futures at Hendrix.

The environment of a small, private liberal arts college is particularly suited to this emphasis on developing the whole individual. As a private institution, we are free to discuss matters of the spirit in ways that a publicly funded college or university simply can’t. I think this is one of the contributions that private higher education makes to our society: it provides the opportunity for values-centered education in a world where the need for values-centered leadership has never been more evident. A quick look at the headlines tells you that now – more than ever – we need people with a broad understanding of the changing world and a strong sense of right and wrong in positions of leadership. We need people who can think and act with intelligence, commitment and integrity to make the world a better place.

Another advantage of private higher education is financial. Arkansas’ 10 private four-year institutions enroll more than 11,000 students and invest almost $150 million a year in providing education for them. Across the nation, 21 percent of college students – or about 3 million individuals – are enrolled at private institutions. If states were to assume the responsibility for educating the students who now attend independent colleges and universities, taxpayers would pay an additional $13 billion annually in support of higher education.

As the state’s business leaders, I know that you appreciate the value of higher education. You understand the value of an educated work force. As citizens, you know the impact of higher personal income on the tax base. You’ve heard the figures before: Arkansas is at the bottom of the list in the percentage of adults with a college degree and at the bottom of the list in per capita income. (In 2001, 16.6 percent of Arkansans had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 27.1 percent nationally and per capita income was $22, 912 compared with $30,271 nationally.)

These figures need to change and – as educated citizens – it is our obligation to see that they do. We have reason to believe that increasing the percentage of Arkansans with college degrees will increase per capita income. U.S. Census income data has consistently shown that earning an undergraduate degree increases household income by more than 85% - from $36,055 to $67,165 in the 2001 survey.

We must help provide the financial support that students need to attend college. Student financial aid is a major component of any private institution’s budget. More than 90 percent of Hendrix students receive some form of financial aid. We are greatly dependent on our alumni and friends for the money that makes this level of aid possible.

With state budgets in crisis, more of the burden of funding public education will shift to students and their families. The trend has already begun with institutions across the nation announcing major increases in tuition – like the State University of New York system’s 28 percent increase and the 27.7 percent jump at the University of Oklahoma.

Yet, even with the climbing cost, most Americans believe a college education is a good investment. In a survey conducted this past May for Educational Testing Service, 96% of adults said a college education is a good investment.

And, graduates of liberal arts colleges believe that the education they received has prepared them well for the challenges of life. Recently, a national survey firm queried graduates of various kinds of higher education institutions asking them if what they learned in college has made a difference in their lives after college. Liberal arts graduates reported the highest level of satisfaction with the education they received. They credited their undergraduate experience for helping them develop a broad range of skills important to their everyday lives … skills such as

           Problem solving

           Making effective decisions,

           Thinking analytically

           Writing effectively

           Relating to people of different backgrounds

           Developing new skills

They said that these broad skills – more than the undergraduate major itself – helped them get their first job or gain admission to graduate school and have continued to help with career changes or advancement.

According to another national survey completed last spring, 90 percent of American adults believe preparing undergraduate students for a career is the primary role of a college education. 83% said that teaching students how to cope with a rapidly changing world is a critical role for higher education. And, nearly two-thirds also said that preparing adults for better jobs, preparing future leaders for society, and preparing students to be responsible citizens are very important roles of colleges and universities.

At Hendrix, we were very happy to see these survey results. They tell us that we have been successful in our efforts to educate tomorrow’s leaders. And, these data tell us that the kind of education we are providing is what the American public wants from higher education.

This evidence of our success is motivating. What we are doing is working - now we must do more. We must also do more to make sure that this level of education is available to more of our population.

A new scholarship program at Hendrix is helping us keep high-quality undergraduate education available to middle-income families. The Robert and Ruby Charitable Trust of Wichita Falls, Texas, has challenged Hendrix to raise $6 million to endow a scholarship program for middle-income students. If we can raise $6 million, the trust will donate $3 million to the endowment fund. While we’re raising endowment dollars, the Trust is making annual donations to the College to fund this scholarship program. Because of their generosity, we were able to offer 85 Priddy Scholarships to Hendrix students this fall. These scholarships are aimed at the squeezed middle-class: those families whose income puts them just over the level at which state and federal programs provide need-based grants. We are excited about what this scholarship program will mean for future Hendrix students and are hard at work raising the matching funds. I’ll be at the door to collect your checks today …

We are winding up a period of major construction on the Hendrix campus. All the buildings in our new Art Complex are open for use this fall. This state-of-the-art facility was constructed with funds from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. We are continuing to raise matching dollars to endow the building. Again, I’ll see you at the door …

This is the last building to be constructed with funds raised during our recent $53 million fund-raising campaign. Like any good non-profit – especially in this financial climate – we are planning our next major campaign. We are looking toward the needs of Hendrix in the next decade and beyond and working to make sure those needs are met.

We are also looking toward the needs of Arkansas and the needs of the world and working to ensure that Hendrix is positioned to continue graduating young people whose contributions to society enrich us all.

We truly believe that Hendrix can provide leaders that will transform the world.