College Update: Fall 2015

Last year, as this great institution celebrated its 125th anniversary, we were reminded of the words spoken by Bishop Denis Bradley to Abbot Hilary Pfraengle, O.S.B., then Abbot of St. Mary’s Abbey in Newark, New Jersey as they discussed building this very college: “We ought not wait until we can begin on a grand scale. All colleges grow from small beginnings.”

Alumni Hall on the campus of Saint Anselm CollegeAnd so began a humble effort, that with God’s good grace has grown from small beginnings, to the college that we are entrusted with today. How very fitting it is, that following a year of reflection, I am able to share with you today so much good news – record-breaking news in many instances, as we now look forward with great faith in the future to our next 125 years of Catholic, Benedictine education.

First, an update on the financial health of the college: I am pleased to report that fiscal year 2015 was the most successful fundraising year in the history of the college! Just over $19 million was committed to the college in the past year, with several gifts of $1 million or above.

In one day alone, on our first Anselmian Day of Giving, an unprecedented $476, 216 was collected, including a $125,000 gift from Bob Weiler ’73 who gave $1,000 for each year of the college’s history. However, even more remarkable than the amount raised is the fact that the Day of Giving brought together the largest number of Anselmian supporters on one day in the college’s history- over 1,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends participated.

Last year also marked the second year of the on-going silent phase of a capital campaign. I look forward to sharing many exciting announcements of leadership gifts with the college community in the months ahead.

And in other exciting news for our community: Last week, U.S. News and World Report moved Saint Anselm up eight spots on the National Liberal Arts Colleges list this year, to 112, ahead of many of our peer institutions. The Princeton Review places the college 13th in the nation for student engagement in community service, and for the second year in a row, says Saint Anselm dining is tenth best in the nation. These rankings reflect the achievements of our entire community- students, faculty, staff and alumni. I am very proud of the national recognition that we have earned.

As for our new students, the Class of 2019 arrived on campus this fall with laurels of its own. Our 530 first-year students represent the most academically talented enrolled class in college history. Enrollments surpassed budgeted goals by 15 students, and we continued to trend towards a more geographically diverse student-body, with students from 21 states.

We know that our new students will excel just as do our older ones, both in and out of the classroom. 777 students were named to the Dean’s List for the spring semester last year, and three seniors were lauded with full-tuition scholarships in recognition of their efforts at the college. Please join me in congratulating Melucci scholars Rachel Follett, a nursing major, and Brian Pickowicz, a business major. They join the Father Bernard Holmes scholar Kristine Adams, an international relations and Spanish double major in receiving these coveted honors. Congratulations to all!

I am pleased to announce that through a very generous $3.2 million gift from Joseph Jean (Class of 1953) we continue to develop an endowed chair in history and government. It is only the second endowed chair at Saint Anselm College. I would also like to thank Professor Peter Josephson for his service as past Bready Chair and announce that Professor Max Latona will serve as the new chair in the current academic year. Congratulations Max!

I am also happy to share with you that Professor Ahida Pilarski has been appointed Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusiveness for the academic year 2015-2016. During this time, she will lead the formulation and search for a permanent position in charge of these efforts at the College. Professor Pilarski will also chair the Presidential Steering Committee for Diversity and Inclusiveness, which is tasked with fostering and directing progress toward institution-wide inclusiveness, including recruiting, goal-setting, assessment, institution-wide education and training.

This is a very important year in the political cycle, and as you all know, Saint Anselm College is the center of the political universe. All but one of the 20+ presidential candidates in both parties have visited our campus already. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements about primary debates- Saint Anselm historically hosts at least one, and we hope to have exciting news for you soon.

Away from the Hilltop, new Anselmian adventures and achievements abound. Marie and Ron Cole, both graduates of the Class of 1978, established the Cole Fellowship to provide funding each summer to one student doing a full-time internship. Senior Spanish major India Barrows was the first recipient. She spent eight weeks this summer in Spain, where she interned at a local communications firm.

Led by David George, Classics department chair, 15 students and eight alumni worked diligently throughout May and June to further the excavation progress of three archeological digs at our sites in Orvieto, Italy, a city that is about to become much more familiar with Saint Anselm College.

This past January, the college approved a pilot study abroad program: “A semester in Orvieto.” Soon, our students will be able to live, learn, and travel with fellow students and Saint Anselm faculty, enrolling in courses ranging from classics, history, politics, and theology to Italian culture, art and architecture.

Our faculty continue to expand the college’s global outreach, proposing unique and varied programs around the world. From Bosnia, where professor Erik Cleven spent part of his summer with students Kristine Adams and Scott MacNeil exploring interethnic dialogue in a small community, to the tropics of Belize where professors Eric Berry and Lori Laplante led students through their recurring course, Field Studies in Tropical Biology, the reach of a Saint Anselm College education continues to grow.

And closer to home, there is much to celebrate as well. Five monks of Saint Anselm Abbey celebrated their Jubilee of Monastic Profession this summer. Please join me in congratulating:

  • Jerome Day, O.S.B. for 25 years of monastic profession
  • William Sullivan, O.S.B. and Fr. Jude Gray, O.S.B. for 50 years of monastic profession
  • Pius Horvath, O.S.B. and Fr. Lawrence Schlegel, O.S.B. for 65 years of monastic profession

How very fortunate for us, and for the thousands of people who have learned and taught and worked and had their lives transformed on this campus for the past century and a quarter, that these holy and determined men, and their confreres, have welcomed us to share in the life of Saint Anselm College.

With great faith in the future, we also remain grounded by our humble roots: “all colleges grow from small beginnings.” So too, do all good things, and great people.

Saint Anselm is blessed to have extremely dedicated faculty and staff. We stand strong as a community bound by our traditions yet poised to march forward with great enthusiasm. Our collective goal is to educate young men and women in the liberal arts by offering them the highest quality experience during their four years on our magnificent campus.

As we celebrate these accomplishments, and so many others by our students, faculty, and alumni around the world, we remain grounded by our Benedictine roots. We look forward to a bright future for Saint Anselm College, with new achievements and challenges on the horizon- and we always remember that all great things, indeed, grow from small beginnings.

Please be assured of my continued prayers and gratitude for you and those you love.

Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D.

Welcome Home, Class of 2019

Welcome to Saint Anselm College! Today you have experienced a taste of true Anselmian hospitality. There may still be some bags that have to be unpacked and a poster or two to hang on the walls. But savor this moment for you are now a proud member of the Class of 2019. There are many people that took part in making today possible from the orientation leaders to the RA’s, the Dean’s Office to Student Affairs, the grounds crew to dining services and, of course , the athletic teams who assisted with the move-in process. So please join me in thanking everyone who helped make this a special day to remember.

Class of 2019 New Student OrientationThis is indeed a special year to be at Saint Anselm College as we are at the center of political activity in the country. While you were making last minute stopping trips to Target, we were busy hosting the first in the nation presidential forum with 14 candidates just a few weeks ago. There will be more forums as well as policy speeches and debates. This year you will have an opportunity to meet members of the media, political handlers, staffers and yes, the candidates for President of the United States. No other college campus provides their students access like this. And throughout the next calendar year you will be able to show the world what Anselmian hospitality is all about. At Saint Anselm College we make history where history is being made every day.

Over 125 years ago, Abbot Hilary, the college's first president, welcomed students in front of this very building, Alumni Hall, a building constructed twice because it had been destroyed by fire. During the construction of this very plaza a few years ago, bricks were found from the original structure. It was through the perseverance of the first monastic community that this building was reconstructed using many of those remnant bricks. The college then opened and a legacy began.

Your place in our history should not be taken lightly. When we gather together on Saturday evening to raise your class banner you will officially be inducted into the Class of 2019 and you will receive a class pin as a symbol of your Anselmian heritage. At that moment, the 535 bright women and men before me today will become one family, one class, with one mission: to earn a degree at Saint Anselm College by fulfilling all the necessary requirements, and graduate…ON TIME!

This is not an easy task, in fact the academic rigor is meant to be a challenge. It requires hard work, time management, work-life balance and, like the first monks to arrive here, perseverance. We will work with you to keep you on track, but ultimately it is YOUR responsibility. And parents, we need your help to insure a successful four year journey. Since we are not allowed to share personal information unless students sign a release, you too must ask the necessary questions. Do you have enough credits to graduate on time? Have you taken the required courses? Will we see you walking down this center aisle in four years? Students, we all want you to succeed. If you hit a stumbling block, and most of you will, we are here to help you. DO NOT WAIT until it is too late.

As you may know, I am a native of New York City. There are many wonderful places to visit in NYC but my favorite building is The New York Public Library. In front of the main building on Fifth Avenue are two statues of lions. They anchor the building on the left and right side of the main staircase. They are there to protect this hallmark of academia. They were not designed to frighten, but rather to welcome visitors. They look over the crowds that gather to make sure there is peace and order at hand. They guide visitors and create a pathway for learning to take place. They are not just sculptures, they are symbols of the importance of intellectual curiosity and learning in all forms.

These lions also have names. The lion on the left of the building is named Patience and the lion on the right of the building is named Fortitude. Patience and Fortitude. Two words that will become important to you when you begin classes here at Saint Anselm College. You must be patient as the college experience is new. There will be times when you need to take a deep breath. You are navigating new spaces and places and new people. Even the men may need to ask for directions! Be patient as you find your way around campus. Be patient with your roommates and classmates. We are here to help guide you . But only you can control your patience.

Your academic journey will also provide challenges. That is why you need to have fortitude or strength. If you encounter adversity, find the courage to push forward. No matter how well you did in high school, I guarantee you the workload and expectations in college will be more challenging. We want you to grow, to learn, to think. We want to challenge you to do your best. You will rely on your fortitude to excel here at Saint Anselm College. And we are here to help you along the way. You are not alone.

With Patience and Fortitude you will mature into active members of our community. Among you are our future leaders. Some of you will go on to become class presidents, star athletes, politicians, actors and actresses, scientists, nurses, writers, educators, business leaders, innovators just to name a few. You have been selected to come here because each of you brings something unique to our campus community. Today we celebrate your minds and voices, your high schools and hometowns. You can do anything. That is why you were invited to be part of the Class of 2019.

There are three things I would ask you to keep in mind as you begin your academic studies at Saint Anselm College.

The first is Friends. It is critically important that you make at least three close friends this semester. These are friends you can lean on when the going gets tough and celebrate with during the best of times. Friends you can spend time with eating, meeting and greeting. Friends with whom you may play a sport, do community service projects, participate in theater or politics. Friends that will last a lifetime.

The second is Family. Please remember to call home. Or at least send a text message. This newfound freedom is a luxury. Do not forget that your family is always there for you. Time passes quickly, especially in college. Thank your family for all they have done to help you along the path that has led you here today. In a few moments it will be time to say goodbye to one another. It marks a moment when you must say three simple words to your parents and loved ones. Three words that we sometimes take for granted. Three words that express your deepest gratitude. It is NOT Please Send Money. The three words are I Love You.

Finally, there is Faith. Your faith will be strengthened at Saint Anselm College because our community is rooted in our Benedictine tradition. No matter what your religious denomination may be, find a way to strengthen your own spirituality. Make time to attend liturgies. Participate in retreats or community service. Take time for personal reflection. Treasure the beauty of this campus. Your future will be shaped in large part by the development of your faith.

I look forward to getting to know each of you during the course of the next four years. The Class of 2019 is beginning a journey together and in just four short years we will gather again at this very place to celebrate your commencement. Today I congratulate you on your arrival. Newsflash: You now have 48 months to figure out what is next!

In a few minutes the Class of 2019 will be directed to join the recessional as we exit the quad and you begin your academic journey together. But before we leave I ask the students to take a few moments to say good bye to your family. A hug, a kiss, perhaps a fist bump for your siblings and of course those three very important words. So take a few moments right now to say goodbye.

Class of 2019: Welcome and Congratulations. Be active participants in your collegiate experience. And remember with patience and fortitude there are three simple things to treasure: Friends, Family and Faith.  Parents and family members, we will see you during family weekend in October. I wish you all Godspeed as you return to a quieter home.

May God Bless the Class of 2019. And may His blessings be upon us all as we embark on these next four years together. Thank you.

The College Debt Crisis

Alumni Hall on the campus of Saint Anselm CollegeThe Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe have printed letters today that I authored in response to Hillary Clinton’s recently unveiled plan to alleviate student debt. I am pleased with the work that our team at Saint Anselm has put forth on affordability, and am happy to share my thoughts with two of the nation’s venerable newspapers.

Hillary Clinton’s plan to alleviate student debt has real merit, but there are additional solutions to the college debt crisis that we need to discuss.

To start with, the issue of spiraling pricing — a 46 percent rise in average tuition from 2001 to 2012, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — can only be addressed if college administrators are allowed to speak to our peer institutions about setting a reasonable gross price. But that would require an exemption from anti-trust laws. The Department of Justice is currently opposed to such an idea, believing it constitutes collusion that would drive the price up.

In fact, we want to drive the price down by lowering our discount rates to arrive at a more realistic cost structure. But if one college does this by itself, that could hurt, not help, in the marketplace. A lone institution with a reduced price would appear to be out of line with current market conditions, possibly making it appear there was something wrong with the institution. (This has been attempted by colleges in the past and has not worked.) If there was a reset on the average price point, everyone’s price would come down a certain percentage and costs would fall within a certain range across the board.

Student loan programs also need to change. We should adopt income-contingent student-loan payment plans. Currently, federal loans have a set rate over a set term. Young grads who are high-income investment bankers make the same monthly payments for the same period as lower-income teachers. Instead, graduates should pay some percentage of their income over variable periods, with a cap on the amount of interest to be paid.

It may take the teacher longer to pay his or her designated share, but he or she will not be squeezed to the point of having no disposable income. The investment banker could pay off loans more quickly. This income-contingent model could help stimulate the economy by leaving more young people with more disposable income to spend and invest.. It would also decrease the current high default rate on educational loans.

Further, not everyone who takes out a loan needs to do so. Right now, some higher income families take loans because the rates are very low, which means they can make money by investing the borrowed amount. For example, a family might take out a loan at three percent, invest the principal, and earn a compounded return of eight to 10 percent.

The federal government, which backs 90 percents of student loans, does not ask who truly needs a loan. If the number of families able to borrow for college at those low rates were reduced, more students who are truly deserving would be able to obtain student loans.

Lastly, many of the country’s for-profit institutions are taking federal loan money away from traditional non-profits. Their graduate rates are abysmal — in the 20 to 35 percent range — yet their students borrow to pay the company providing “education.” There should be restrictions on the number of for-profits eligible for federal loans, with safeguards based on graduation rates, among other factors, so subpar for-profit colleges are not taking money away from institutions that send students to graduation and on into the workforce.

We academic administrators don’t like to see families struggling to meet college costs. We know the sacrifices that students, parents, and grandparents are making. If we could adopt some or all of these proposals, great progress could be made toward making college more affordable.