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Through the Storm and Bound for Greatness: The 2009 State of the University Address

President Tony Atwater speaking at the podium during the 2009 State of the University Address

The following is the text of the State of the University Address, “Through the Storm and Bound for Greatness,” delivered by university President Tony Atwater at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 27, 2009, in Fisher Auditorium. You can also listen to the speech with the Windows Media Player.


As we begin another exciting academic year, we can take pride in IUP’s continuing legacy of academic excellence. The university’s major achievements over the last year are too many to mention in the time allotted for today’s address. However, I will summarize some of the major accomplishments in which IUP can take pride.

Before I do that, it is important to note that we are in a severe storm called a “national recession.” It is a storm that has impacted and will impact almost every institution (public and private) across our great nation. This storm consists of a $3.2-billion shortfall in our state’s budget. Consequently, higher education in Pennsylvania will not be spared the impact and aftershocks of a weak economy.

A significant economic consequence for IUP was a one-time budget reduction of 4.25 percent assigned last spring for the 2009–2010 academic year. More recently, the State System informed us that this budget reduction would become permanent, starting with the 2010–2011 academic year. The size of this budget reduction amounts to approximately $5.3 million.

Any budget reduction presents a challenge in maintaining the fiscal health and academic strength of our university. This challenge is more daunting because of the cumulative impact of earlier budget reductions endured over the past ten years. However, IUP again will meet this challenge with confidence, collaboration, and courage. How, you might wonder, will we do that?

First, in making necessary budget adjustments, we will maintain academic quality as IUP’s highest priority. Second, we will use the strategic goals, priorities, and core values of the University Strategic Plan in applying resource management and reallocation strategies. Third, we will explore and implement methods of increasing operational efficiency and reducing costs. And, fourth, we will identify and develop new and additional sources of revenue to maintain and enhance academic quality.

As we face the economic challenges ahead, let us take solace in how IUP is making great strides on many fronts. Let us look, for instance, at some of our noteworthy achievements during the 2008-2009 academic year.

New Administrative Appointments

First, I would like to welcome four new members of the IUP community. Timothy P. Mack joined us at the beginning of July as dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research and professor of biology. Dr. Mack comes to IUP from Georgia Southern University, where he served as dean of the Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies.

Phillip Myers also joined IUP in early July in the role of executive director of the IUP Research Institute. Dr. Myers comes to IUP from Bowling Green, Kentucky. There, he served as director of the Office of Sponsored Programs and director of administration of Western Kentucky University Research Foundation, Inc. The IUP Research Institute is committed to advancing the research agenda and educational objectives of IUP. It is governed by a Board of Directors that includes members of the IUP and Indiana communities.

After a national search, Inno Onwueme was selected as associate provost for academic programs and planning. Dr. Onwueme comes to IUP from Missouri State University, where he served as professor and associate dean of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences.

Tracy Missien joined IUP in October as interim director of the newly created Office of Workforce Education and Economic Development. Ms. Missien has more than twenty years of administrative experience in marketing and business development and has worked as a marketing consultant for service and product industries. In her new post, she will strengthen IUP's performance in fostering economic development in the region and meeting the workforce needs of the commonwealth. The creation of the Office of Workforce Education and Economic Development was facilitated by a $200,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Continued Enrollment Growth

In just seventy-two hours, we will begin classes for the 2009–2010 academic year. I am very pleased to inform you that enrollment for this fall is projected to increase to approximately 14,500 students. This compares with our Fall 2008 enrollment of 14,310 students. Last year’s enrollment produced two all-time highs. Enrollment by freshmen and new students rose to 3,204, and graduate enrollment rose to 2,382.

The SAT scores of our new students continue to rise—a trend that reflects our expectation of a strong and academically prepared student body.

Princeton Review Recognition

National academic distinction for IUP continues to be the order of the day. The university recently was notified that it is included, for the ninth consecutive year, in Princeton Review’s Best Colleges guidebook for 2010. I am also proud to note that for the first time, Princeton Review also selected IUP for recognition as one of the nation’s “Best Northeastern Colleges.”

IUP’s Eberly College of Business and Information Technology was chosen, for the fifth year in a row, for Princeton Review’s Best Business Colleges. These recognitions reaffirm IUP’s high academic quality and excellence on a national scale.

U.S. News & World Report Recognition

For the sixteenth consecutive year, IUP has been recognized as one of the nation’s top doctoral universities by U.S. News & World Report. The university is included in the top 216 doctoral universities’ ranking in the magazine’s Best Colleges, 2010 edition.

College of Education and Educational Technology 

We can all take great pride in IUP’s reputation in the field of teacher education. I am delighted to note that 100 percent of our program graduates have passed the reading, writing, and mathematics exams. They also passed the Praxis II tests of general and subject-specific knowledge and teaching skills.

What’s more, IUP and the College of Education and Educational Technology have been awarded a $160,000 grant from the Heinz Endowments of Pittsburgh to support the university’s Promise Plus initiative. This effort will expand the impact of the Pittsburgh Promise program, helping Pittsburgh Public Schools students plan, prepare, and pay for education beyond high school at an accredited commonwealth postsecondary institution.

It is an honor to be recognized for funding by the Heinz Endowments—an achievement that again demonstrates IUP’s academic distinction in the field of teacher education.

Annual Giving Increase

Thanks to the generosity of alumni, friends, parents, corporations, and foundations, new gifts and pledges to IUP for the last fiscal year increased by 110 percent to a total of $8.3 million.

Notably, cash contributions from alumni in FY 2008-2009 totaled $1.8 million, exceeding the total for the previous year by more than 25 percent. Corporations and foundations provided $2.5 million, which represented a 14 percent increase. This certainly is a very positive note on which to start the new academic year.

Liberal Studies 

Led by Professor Mary Williams, the Liberal Studies Committee has worked diligently over the past several years to create a well-designed revised liberal studies curriculum. This improved core curriculum includes new, institutional student learning outcomes measures.
Liberal Studies provides a broad instructional base for students that promotes learning both during and after the college experience. I am grateful to the many individuals who served on the committee for the revised liberal studies curriculum; their efforts have led to University Senate and Council of Trustees approval of this important academic program.

New Doctoral Programs

As we plan to implement our new liberal studies curriculum, I also want to recognize our two newest doctoral programs.

New programs in our Nursing and Communications Media departments bring to ten the total number of doctoral degree choices offered by IUP. Both new programs are filling an important need for our commonwealth and for our nation.

A new master’s program in Criminology is now available entirely on line for working professionals. The program will welcome its first cohort this fall.

Academic Accolades

While there are many IUP success stories, I would like highlight some exceptional academic achievements and points of pride.

Gian Pagnucci, professor of English, won a 2008 international Award for Innovative Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Technology. He is the first IUP faculty member selected for this prestigious award.

In May, Dr. Pagnucci was selected as IUP’s 2009–2010 University Professor. This honor is bestowed on an IUP faculty member who demonstrates an outstanding record of teaching, research, and public service. Dr. Jack Stamp, professor of music, served as our 2008–2009 University Professor.

Professor Sally McCombie has been recognized nationally as the 2009 Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher Educator of the Year by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. Dr. McCombie is a professor in IUP’s Human Development and Environmental Studies Department. She coordinates the Family and Consumer Sciences Education program.

Eileen Glisan, professor of Spanish, has become president-elect of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. The council includes more than twelve thousand language professionals from all levels of education and representing all languages. Dr. Glisan was IUP’s University Professor for 2000-2001.

IUP has been selected, once again, by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a national Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. The university is one of only seven institutions in Pennsylvania and fewer than one hundred universities in the nation selected for this recognition. IUP was one of the first universities in the nation to integrate the disciplines of criminology and computer science to support an academic program in information assurance.

Our faculty continues an outstanding record of success in securing national grants. The university recently was awarded $1.1 million in federal funding for its Correctional Education Clearinghouse and Educational Program. This initiative will develop a comprehensive teaching standard and graduate degree to assist correctional instructors teaching in the nation’s prison system.

IUP’s Institute for Mine Mapping, Archival Procedures, and Safety was recently awarded $95,000 in federal funding to continue its work. The institute’s activities include archiving, digitally recording, and geographically referencing historical coal mine maps. This latest funding will assist IUP in playing a lead role in the area of mine map digitization. The ultimate goal of the project is to create an on-line, searchable database of digital mine maps to promote coal mine safety in Pennsylvania.

IUP scientists are into the second year of a groundbreaking, DNA-based, biodefense project. This federally funded research is directed by IUP professor of biology Narayanaswamy Bharathan. The goal of the project is to develop a rapid screening and detection system of multiple bio-threat agents.

Center for Civic Engagement and Student Leadership 

Last spring, IUP established the Center for Civic Engagement and Student Leadership. Its founding director is Caleb Finegan, associate professor of history. Dr. Finegan assumed his role as center director on July 1.

IUP continues an outstanding record of commitment to community service and civic engagement. The primary mission of the new center is to sensitize IUP students to the value of citizenship and leadership both on campus and in the world at large.

I am proud to report that IUP was selected for the 2008 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for exemplary service efforts to America’s communities. This national honor reflects the university's demonstrated commitment to civic engagement, community service, and citizenship. It also demonstrates the significant community involvement of IUP's students and faculty members throughout Indiana County and western Pennsylvania.

Yellow-Ribbon Program, Military Friendly School

IUP is proud to be part of the national Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program, which allows colleges and universities to partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer tuition relief for the nation’s veterans.

Recently, IUP was notified that it has been selected as one of the nation’s top national “Military Friendly” universities. This honor also recognizes IUP’s commitment to recruiting military students and serving America’s veterans.

Honors College Gift

IUP is also fortunate to enjoy the first endowed Honors College in the commonwealth. And, this year, we celebrated the tenth graduating class of the Cook Honors College, established by Robert E. Cook, a 1964 graduate.

In April, IUP celebrated Mr. Cook’s latest gift—$2.5 million in support of the Cook Honors College. This gift brings his total giving to the university to more than $10 million.

Mr. Cook’s latest gift will support an enhancement fund that enables Honors College students to enjoy study abroad and international internship opportunities.

Phase III Residential Revival, Donna Putt Hall

Our Student Residential Revival continues to shape the way that our students live and learn. The Phase III buildings—the Sutton Suites and the Suites on Pratt—opened this fall. They complement the ongoing success of the Phase I and Phase II buildings: the Suites on Maple West and East and the Northern Suites, Susan Snell Delaney Hall, and the recently dedicated Donna D. Putt Hall.

In 2008, it was my honor to dedicate one of the first two buildings completed in the Residential Revival. It was dedicated in honor of Trustee Susan Delaney in recognition of her decades of service to IUP and our community.

In May, we were privileged to honor another very significant community and university leader. Donna D. Putt was recognized by naming of the Suites on Grant Upper in her honor.

In June, we launched the fourth and final phase of IUP’s Student Residential Revival, to be known as the Crimson Suites.

The entire $270-million project is the largest of its kind in the nation. It has transformed the character and physical landscape of the Indiana campus.

Performing Arts Center

IUP continues to enjoy its new Performing Arts Center and renovated Fisher Auditorium. The completion of this $38-million facility complements the look of an already beautiful campus. A major cultural and entertainment venue for the Indiana region has been renewed in what is a striking example of the ongoing fine arts renaissance on our campus and in our community.

Strategic Plan Progress

One of our most significant achievements of the 2006-2007 academic year was the completion of the university’s five-year Strategic Plan, Advancing a Legacy of Excellence.

As you entered the auditorium today, I hope you obtained a printed summary report of IUP’s progress on our Strategic Plan. The report describes the significant strides we are making in achieving major strategic goals. Our success is largely due to the dedication and commitment of the members of our university staff and faculty.

Looking Ahead to Academic Year 2009-2010

As we celebrate the achievements of last year, we also have some exciting developments to anticipate in the coming academic year.

New Trustees

While they have already been briefly introduced, I would like to take this opportunity to formally welcome two new members to the Council of Trustees. They are Raymond G. Edwards, a junior majoring in International Business and Economics, and Jonathan B. Mack, attorney at law, of Indiana. I also am pleased to announce the reappointment of Trustee Chairman David Osikowicz.

The university is privileged to enjoy outstanding leadership by its Council of Trustees.

New Vice President for University Relations and Foundation Executive Director

It is with great pride that I report the appointment of G. Patrick Williams as IUP’s new vice president for University Relations and executive director of the Foundation for IUP. Mr. Williams brings to IUP more than three decades of experience in the advancement field. He previously served as senior vice president for development at the St. Louis Science Center. Mr. Williams also served previously as vice chancellor for university relations at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and as chief executive officer for the university’s foundation. He will begin his work at IUP next month. I am confident that Mr. Williams will significantly advance IUP’s University Relations Division and the university’s development agenda.


Without question, one of the most exciting projects on the horizon is the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex—the KCAC—and the adjoining full-service hotel. This $53.4-million facility will be the engine that drives economic and cultural vitality in our region for decades to come. It is on schedule for completion by June 2011. The KCAC is indeed the catalyst for launching a renaissance in the Indiana County region.

Global Spectrum is one of the world’s largest sports and entertainment firms. It will serve as the management, marketing, and operations firm for the Ed Fry Arena inside the KCAC.

During groundbreaking ceremonies in November, we celebrated the second $1-million gift for the facility from IUP graduate Chad Hurley. Mr. Hurley, CEO of YouTube, made his gift in honor of recently retired track and field coach and music professor Ed Fry. The arena inside the KCAC will be named in honor of Coach Fry.

In March, we were pleased to receive the third $1-million gift for the Indiana Initiative fundraising campaign for the KCAC from Ed Bratton. This gift reflects Mr. Bratton’s understanding of how the KCAC will advance the economic growth and vitality of our region. Mr. Bratton is the owner of the Giant Eagle store in Indiana. More than twenty-five businesses and organizations have made significant commitments to the KCAC.

Fairman Centre

On September 18, we will formally cut the ribbon for the Fairman Centre in downtown Punxsutawney. This renovated structure offers retail space on its first floor and also provides student residential units and instructional space for students in IUP’s Academy of Culinary Arts program.

Renovation work on the 106-year-old, three-story, building began in November 2006. At a groundbreaking ceremony that month, I was proud to announce a $1.9-million gift from the Alan and Roy Fairman families of Jefferson County to launch this capital project.

The Fairman Centre will create up to sixty new jobs within five years of operation. And, it will support an additional 300 new students at the Academy of Culinary Arts and at IUP at Punxsutawney.

Additional Academic Programs

IUP is proud of its 145 baccalaureate programs, sixty-one master’s programs, and ten doctoral degree offerings. And, I am pleased to inform you that we will be adding to those numbers very soon. We look forward to Board of Governors’ approval of a Master of Spanish degree and a doctoral program in Safety Sciences during the coming academic year.

Common Freshman Reader/Freshman Convocation 

Shortly after my arrival at IUP, I began to explore ways of enhancing the student’s first-year experience to ensure a successful transition to university life. The Common Freshman Reader, in its fourth year, has enhanced the learning experience of many of our freshman students.

I hope you will have the chance to read this year’s selected work entitled Make the Impossible Possible. This book was authored by Pittsburgh native Bill Strickland. Mr. Strickland’s accomplishments are both extraordinary and inspiring. He is an excellent example of someone who has weathered many storms because of his commitment to excellence and his own passion for helping others.

Mr. Strickland will visit our campus and deliver a public lecture about his life and his book on November 17. Please mark your calendars and plan to attend his exciting program.

In addition, Mr. Strickland will be a special guest for this year’s Freshman Convocation, as we continue this tradition Sunday at 5:30 p.m. here in Fisher Auditorium.

This event marks the beginning of the higher education journey for the Class of 2013. Student development expert Samuel Heastie will serve as our featured speaker. Freshman Convocation is an important initiative aimed at promoting a sense of institutional community for our freshman students. I hope that you will be able to join us for this memorable event.

First Commonwealth Lecture Series

Finally, I am pleased to announce the second annual First Commonwealth Lecture and its distinguished lecturer for the 2009–2010 academic year. This endowed lecture series was established in 2008 through support from our friends at First Commonwealth. Last year’s lecture featured political commentators Mary Matalin and James Carville.

On November 4 at 7:30 p.m., here in Fisher Auditorium, IUP will present Pulitzer-Prize-winning author and journalist Bob Woodward. Mr. Woodward achieved legendary status as a young journalist with the Washington Post, when he uncovered the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration. Mr. Woodward is the author of more national best-selling, nonfiction books than any other contemporary American writer. His most recent book is The War Within. It provides his inside story of the White House during the war in Iraq.

I look forward to seeing you at this special university event, which will be offered free of charge and is open to the community.

In Closing

As the ancient Chinese proverb suggests, we indeed are “living in interesting times.” The national unemployment rate is approaching double-digit levels. We are facing the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. And, national debt is at an all-time high. Some might say it’s time to circle the wagons. After all…it is what it is.

Recently, a colleague shared with me a new version of this saying. It goes like this: “It is what it is, but we can make it what we want it to be.” As we face the tough challenges ahead of us, I hope that the IUP community will embrace this perspective.

It was my late father, Herman Atwater, who taught me that adversity can bring out the best in us, based on how we respond to it. Consequently, we can weather the storm. And, not only that…we truly can perform and achieve beyond expectations.

When tested by adverse experiences, we are challenged to find new ways of achieving our objectives. I am confident that the university community will respond accordingly. Through our courage, confidence, collaboration, constancy, and creativity, we will weather this economic storm. And, when the storm has passed, IUP will be well positioned to advance to another level of academic success and accomplishment!

As we enter the new academic year, I wish each of you the very best. Thank you for helping IUP go above and beyond expectations.

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