Grateful Reflection

President's Message

President Lawrence K. Pettit

As I look back over the past eleven years and think about the remarkable accomplishments so many of us achieved together, I am able to close this chapter of my life with deep satisfaction and with confidence in the university’s future. The hundreds of friends I have made among alumni and others make staying in Indiana inviting, and I eagerly welcome the next phase of my life.

During the last decade, bright students, dedicated faculty and staff members, alumni, friends, trustees, and others, have united behind a vision of IUP’s unique status within the System and the commonwealth; working together, they have transformed the university. We have matured as a doctoral institution, with strong programs and the development of a research culture. We bring in more than twice as much federal money as we did ten years ago. U.S. News and World Report now ranks us as a “national university.” Our new Research Institute and the John P. Murtha Institute for Homeland Security symbolize our coming of age as a complex university. 

We now have, thanks to my friend Bob Cook ’64, an endowed honors college that has won national acclaim. Through its innovative core curriculum and the astounding achievements of its students, the Honors College has pulled IUP into the front rank at the undergraduate level and is responsible for our earning mention in Princeton Review’s Best 345 Colleges and Universities.

Our students have won five Fulbright scholarships during the last decade. They regularly win statewide and national competitions in art, theatre, music, safety sciences, education, computer science, marketing, and many other fields. In two of the last three years, IUP doctoral students in English have won a “best dissertation” award in national competition.

We have been able to support our students with a 400 percent increase in scholarships, primarily because we have increased the endowment from $4 million in 1992 to $28 million today. We have expanded and beautified the campus, and we have managed to attract $57 million for construction of new buildings and renovation of existing ones.

Technologically, we have moved from a backward institution to one at the forefront.   

What I reference above is the tip of the iceberg but enough to convey to you that there has been enormous momentum the past decade. It has been sustained against tremendous obstacles, and much of what we achieved would not have been possible without federal money or private gifts to the Foundation for IUP. Even before September 11, 2001, and before the enormous slump in the economy, state appropriations had waned. Now, the university has cut sixty-two faculty positions and $9 million from our base budget, and we are facing the certainty of cutting another $3-5 million next year. 

It is not just Pennsylvania. Throughout the country, a gradual shift from tax support to “user fees” in the form of higher tuition is “privatizing” public universities, and if we are to sustain quality, and especially if we are to improve steadily in order to hold our competitive position, we must chase ever scarcer federal dollars and, more pointedly, rely on the generosity and support of our alumni and friends.

As I close the door on my tenure as president, one of my strongest desires is to encourage IUP alumni to recognize the value and impact of their charitable giving to this university. I urge you to give annually to support ongoing needs but also to make special contributions to the capital campaign to stretch your giving yet further. Just as we rank first in most respects in the System, we should, and can, rank first in alumni giving.  We are not there yet, but I know we will be.   

Foundations and corporations want to know how well our alumni support us—they want to know that our alumni view us as worthy of financial support before they will invest in us. Whether right or wrong, it is also true that the various ranking organizations use “percentage of alumni who contribute” as a standard measure of a university’s quality. 

This university has evolved, and is evolving, to higher stages of academic maturity, and with each edition of the magazine you read of more impressive student and faculty achievements. Many of these would not happen without the support of private philanthropy, and the university itself, in today’s political economy, will not be able to sustain its current momentum and competitive position without substantially more private giving.

Each year, my largest contribution is to IUP. I hope that more and more friends and alumni will regard IUP as their primary object of philanthropy. An investment in IUP is an investment in your own intellectual capital, and it is an investment in generations of worthy students who desperately need financial support in order to reach their potential through higher education, and in order better to serve their fellow human beings. The greatest welcome our alumni can give to the new president is to demonstrate that IUP can be a leader in alumni support and that the alumni intend to be strong partners in sustaining the university’s momentum and taking IUP to the next level of excellence.

I have so many of you to thank for the tremendous friendship and support over these eleven years and for all that you do for IUP, not just in your financial gifts, but through countless hours of volunteer activity, through the stellar achievements that reflect favorably on your alma mater, and for that intangible quality of humanity that I have grown to recognize in our current students and in generations of alumni—something that is warm and real, that is unselfish and unspoiled, that reflects the best combination of an egalitarian spirit and aristocratic will. IUP will always be a unique institution. Please keep it strong.