A little over two weeks ago, I had the privilege of bestowing a Drake degree to 1,119 students. From bachelor’s recipients to those receiving their graduate degrees, each one will begin their next chapter with the Drake family behind them. Their spirit and tenacity fills me with optimism for the future; with a Drake education as their foundation, I know these new alumni are entering the world with a sense of purpose—to make society better for all of us. The Bulldog pack was certainly made stronger this weekend.
But commencement was just the last event in a series of exciting milestones on campus this spring that are building the foundation for our future. In February, we broke ground on the Science Connector Building and Collier-Scripps Hall, which will be home to the School of Education, the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center, and the departments of mathematics and computer science. Construction is well underway and we expect to see framing and walls going up this summer and fall.
We also celebrated the 107th Drake Relays, welcoming alumni and friends to campus who braved the rainy and chilly weather to attend reunions, cheer at the races, and reconnect with the University. During the Relays, we also celebrated my inauguration. I was humbled and honored by the support of those in attendance and the notes of congratulations I received from alumni, donors, friends, and colleagues. It was a day I will never forget—especially the flash mob of students, which included my mother and son, who surprised me at the end of the ceremony! It was a day where Bulldog spirit was on full display, and I was more proud than ever to be part of this University.
The Drake University Board of Trustees held its quarterly meeting during Relays weekend, and it was a packed schedule. Several items were discussed and approved during the meeting, including the Fiscal Year 2017 budget. I provided an update on the Information Technology Services re-organization and the unit’s progress on several projects, including updating the wireless network in the residence halls and improving technology in classrooms and Sheslow Auditorium.
I informed the board that we have established a schedule for deferred maintenance and capital renewal projects. The $1.7 million the board authorized in January for this work will be focused on vital infrastructure projects including, among others, end-of-life roof replacement, heating and cooling units, and electrical upgrades. All these technology and infrastructure updates are crucial to providing an exceptional learning environment for our students.
Progress is also being made on accreditation for the College of Business and Public Administration. The CBPA is filing its self-evaluation report for submission to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) by the end of the month, and a peer review team (PRT) has been appointed by the AACSB and is scheduled to be on-site the first week in October. The chair of the PRT, Dean Sarah Nutter of George Mason University, is scheduled to visit July 18–19 to do a pre-assessment. If the visit goes well in October, the team's recommendations will be considered by the AACSB's Initial Accreditation Committee in November. A recommendation to grant accreditation goes to the full AACSB board after Jan. 1, 2017. I have been encouraged by the leadership and hard work the faculty and staff in the CBPA have shown during this challenging time, and have seen in just my short time here what a difference it has made.
Finally, we completed the third annual All In Campaign, a 24-hour online giving campaign for The Drake Fund, last week. Thank you to all who participated in this important initiative—including those who helped us solicit funds by offering matching gifts for various challenges. While we are still calculating exact numbers, more than 390 individuals participated in All In, contributing more than $100,000.
I want to thank those of you who have supported Drake with your time, treasure, and talent. I’ve enjoyed getting to know many of you. Without the support of President’s Circle members, all of the exciting things that have come to pass and lie on the horizon for this institution would not be possible. Please save the date for our annual Francis Marion Drake Society dinner on Oct. 14, 2016. I look forward to celebrating our collective strength and your contributions to Drake. If you have not yet renewed your membership in the President’s Circle, I encourage you to do so before June 30 so that we may build on the strengths of this University together.
All that has happened this semester demonstrates something I have discovered about this University in my 10 months as president, which I spoke about in my inauguration address: We are a community characterized by a commitment to one another, to community, and to our mission. Because we share a commitment to this common purpose, anything is possible. We are a people and community of action, and we have the motivation and the energy to turn our hopes and aspirations into outcomes that will shape the world. From physical transformations on campus and the active support of donors to the strategic decisions and changes being made “behind the scenes,” we are constantly striving for better. Our Bulldog commitment is alive and well.