Since I last reached out, we have celebrated many successes, and now, with the academic year complete, I thought I would share some reflections on the events of the past few months.
I recently returned from an incredible trip to China with the Drake football team. While there, the Bulldogs became the first NCAA Division I football team to play in China, and team members were able to share their love of the sport with local children. Our tour provided opportunities for cultural exchange. We visited the Forbidden City, attended a reception hosted by Ambassador Terry Branstad at the U.S. Embassy, which featured a great performance by some of our jazz students, and completed an intense seven-hour hike along the Great Wall of China. Drake’s strong commitment to academics was also on display as students spent time in the classroom learning about the country’s culture and economy. Experiences like this are a tangible demonstration of Drake’s mission to prepare students for meaningful personal lives, professional accomplishments, and responsible global citizenship, and I am pleased to have had the opportunity to see that in action.
On May 19 and 20, we celebrated as another class of Drake University graduates embarked on new adventures as Drake alumni. No event embodies the mission and purpose of Drake University as well as Commencement. Looking out from the commencement stage, at the diverse and exceptional talent our graduates embody, I was reminded of the strength and excellence of a Drake degree.
I had the privilege of delivering a special commencement ceremony on Buel Field following the Missouri Valley Conference softball championship game. After the Bulldogs secured the championship—and a bid to the NCAA tournament—we celebrated three seniors who would miss their graduation ceremony due to tournament play. Decked out in full academic regalia, Ashlie Chambers, Kelsey Wright, and Kailee Smith received their diplomas on their home field. It was a wonderful way to recognize these true student-athletes and their achievements.
Drake Relays is a historic and important tradition that marks the end of the spring semester. This year, we were lucky to have sunshine on the Blue Oval as we watched 14 records fall, including Jenny Simpson’s American record-setting two-mile run. During the action packed week, we celebrated six of our most outstanding alumni at Alumni Awards, held a pole vault event in downtown Des Moines, watched 96-year-old Mike Fremont become the oldest man to compete in the Grand Blue Mile, and crowned Bow-Z as the most Beautiful Bulldog.
Every year, the April Board of Trustees meeting coincides with Relays. This session, the Board unanimously adopted the new Core Values for Drake University: joyful accountability, generosity of spirit, all in this together, and commitment to mission. These four core values were developed in consultation with every unit on campus and provide faculty and staff with direction and inspiration for how they work together to deliver Drake’s mission promise. Starting this summer and next year, the core values will be integrated into our culture with the aim of fostering pride, engagement, and collaboration among faculty and staff.
Additionally, the Board formally approved the hiring of two new deans. On July 1, we will welcome Gesine Gerhard as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Jill Gremmels as dean of Cowles Library. Gerhard is joining us from the University of the Pacific, where she serves as associate dean of the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Gremmels is presently the Leland M. Park Director of the Davidson College Library.
In April, we also celebrated the fifth anniversary of Drake’s All In campaign. The 24-hour giving challenge is a tremendous celebration of Drake and its impact on the lives of many. This year, more than 1,200 alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends made a gift to the University—raising more than $262,000 for The Drake Fund. This represents a 46 percent increase in the number of donors from the previous year.
With the conclusion of another academic year, I’m grateful to all of you who make Drake’s mission promise possible. Your generous support is what allows us to celebrate and fulfill all that Drake is and all that it can be. Our fiscal year is drawing to a close. If you have not yet renewed your support of Drake this year, I hope you will do so before the fiscal year ends on June 30. It is your philanthropic leadership and commitment that allows us to progress and achieve successful outcomes for our students and community.
I anticipate sharing more great news about Drake when classes resume in the fall. Until then, best wishes for the summer ahead.