An Evening Walk Around the Campus

As I was taking an evening walk recently with our golden retriever, Annie, it struck me how fortunate we are to have such a splendid campus with its well-kept facilities and natural beauty. We are so close to the center of the city, while at the same time, we have the benefits of being situated on 630 rolling acres along the Cape Fear River.

Tender loving care over the first half-century of our existence is evident everywhere, and the Master Plan for the University that was adopted this past winter will ensure that the same care is extended over the next twenty years and more.

The first site on my walk that caught my eye was the Sophomore Residence Hall presently under construction that rests on the north end of Sink Field. It is so quiet now, but I can imagine all the activity once the fall semester begins and this emerging residential quad being the home for 225 students.

As I turned the corner onto Lowdermilk Drive and headed south, I thought about the plans for the “streetscaping” of this drive, along with Stout View Drive, thus providing for much-needed sidewalks for pedestrians and the next generation of trees. We are committed to keeping Methodist not only safe for our community, but also “green.” The first impression of the campus as one enters is to marvel at the landscaping, so we will make sure that this is a feature that remains constant in future development.

When I turned south on Stout View Drive, I immediately thought of things to come, when in less than three months, we will be holding our first home football game and welcoming visitors to campus. To my right is the new Nursing Building, due to open its doors this summer to a record number of nursing students. This state-of-the-art facility, complete with a virtual hospital, offers so much to our students and is a symbol of excellence that we have come to expect here at Methodist.

There was little activity this evening in the area between the Berns Center and the Riddle Center. At times, this can be the busiest area of campus, with students heading in and out of the Green and Gold Café and playing basketball on the courts, not to mention an athletic contest in Riddle. The parking lot/street/pedestrian way is usually congested, and a reminder of more improvements to come when this area will be transformed into a green space bordered by the expanded Student Center, football field, and a new residence hall.  These enhancements will add so much to the vitality of campus life.

Rounding out the rest of the campus on my walk and heading “down back,” there were no tennis matches, late afternoon baseball or softball games, or Professional Golf Management students at the Player Center. They are off to their summer jobs, internships, and travels. But this will soon change as we gear up for the fall semester that begins in August with what may well be another record enrollment – another sign of Methodist’s increasing popularity.

As I head up the hill, through the rest of the residence halls and make my way to what has become our home, I wonder if I am the only college president in America who feels the way I do about my campus. If not, I know there is no president who is prouder of an institution, its founding principles, and its continued commitment to excellence in everything we do.

I invite everyone to take a walk around the campus and celebrate the many blessings we have received as an institution and the shared vision for taking Methodist to the next level. This includes being good stewards of our surroundings so that this and future generations can enjoy the best University campus in America.

Best wishes,
Ben Hancock

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lessons from Commencement

Perhaps the single most significant event on a university campus is Commencement.  After all, for the university, it symbolizes all that we stand for, and for the students, it symbolizes all that they strive for and all that they achieve. It is an ending, but it is also a beginning, as it marks the “crossing over” from one of life’s journeys to another.

Commencement also provides an opportunity to reflect on the academic year that comes to a conclusion. I shared the following highlights with those assembled:

  • Progress on the Strategic Plan
  • Unveiling of a new Master Plan
  • Construction of a new Sophomore Residence Hall and Nursing Building
  • The creation of the Center for Student Success
  • The development of the Methodist University Journey and the creation of Centers in Leadership, Global Education, Community Engagement, and Undergraduate Research and Creativity
  • The inaugural Undergraduate Research Symposium
  • The new School of Health Sciences
  • Athletic conference championships and All-American and All-Conference honors for some of our athletes
  • Impressive speakers on campus, including General Frank Helmick, Retired UPS Chairman/CEO Oz Nelson, and First Citizens Bank Chairman/CEO Frank B. Holding, Jr.

But nothing has been as exciting or as important as the accomplishments of our graduates. They have achieved great success through their academic pursuits, and now continue on to professional positions or graduate schools, while living lives of meaning and purpose.

As I greeted each of the 160 graduates with their sponsors and handed them their diplomas, I was moved by how much a degree from Methodist meant to them and their families. For some, they were the first in their family to graduate from college. For others, major sacrifices were made in order to pursue an education. Others expressed their gratitude for being given this life-changing opportunity to attend Methodist, and for the relationships they developed with faculty, staff, and fellow classmates.

What I learned at Commencement is a reminder of what I have encountered numerous times since arriving at Methodist some fifteen months ago. This is a special place that transforms lives.  Methodist is thriving and continuing to prosper and move forward. Methodist gets it right where it matters the most – putting the success of our students first.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Power of Philanthropy

Every university president’s job description includes fund raising, as private resources are critical to meeting the needs of the institution. This is certainly true at Methodist, and as we launch our bold vision for the future, it is clear that we will need the generous support of those who have given before, as well as support from new friends who are excited about our plans and want to assist us in providing the very best educational experience for our students.

A bold vision requires bold demonstrations of support, so I was particularly pleased and honored that Harvey and Mary Fermanides Wright allowed me to announce their $5 million commitment for scholarships at my Inauguration on March 23. Their “transformational gift” will do more than help future generations of outstanding students attend and be engaged at Methodist. It is also an “inspirational gift” that will challenge other alumni and friends to do their part in moving the University forward.

The true power of philanthropy is its ability to enable individuals to invest in institutions they are passionate about and to allow them to leave a mark that will forever be present.  Often such gifts are made quietly and without any fanfare. Such is the case with Harvey and Mary Wright, who consented to having their gift announced, but sought no recognition or publicity. Their commitment was based solely on the benefits they have already received from a lifetime of involvement and caring about Methodist University and their desire to pass on their passion to future generations who will learn of their love of the University.

We are so grateful to Harvey and Mary Wright for their generosity and visionary gift.  They inspire us to do all that we can to make Methodist the very best university it can be, knowing that our legacy will live on through the experiences of students, made possible through the support of those who light the pathway to a Methodist education. As it should be. This is the power and joy of philanthropy, and how it transforms the lives of students and donors . . .

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s All About Methodist

As I reflect on the all the work that went into the Inauguration festivities last Friday, and then the showcasing of the University over the course of the day, it is worth repeating that the event was not about me, but about Methodist. How fortunate I am to have the opportunity to be in this place at this time, with so many “signature people” among us who care so deeply about this University.

I want to thank everyone for making my family and other guests who visited our campus feel so welcome. I heard so many comments about the hospitality exhibited by our community. And the campus never looked better, thanks to the hard work by everyone.

Special thanks are in order for the Inauguration Steering Committee, chaired by Robin Davenport, for all of their efforts above and beyond the call of duty. What an amazing group of people!

We have such a wonderful university community, and Friday, March 23 indeed provided an opportunity to showcase Methodist. There were so many highlights to the day, including the Leadership Breakfast, “Inaugural Showcase” (featuring the first Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium), Inauguration and Reception – all done first class and all presenting our students, faculty, and staff at their best.

Again, I have the best job in America at the best University in America, and it is no longer a secret!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Passion for Excellence

On Monday, February 27, the Methodist University campus and guests from the community were fortunate to hear Lieutenant General Frank Helmick, Commanding General at Ft. Bragg, talk about leadership and his insights about Iraq.

General Helmick, whose service in the Army spans 37 years, talked about his passion for his work that remains to this day, and how important this is to being successful. He quoted a study that indicated that 50% of Americans are not happy with what they are doing, and challenged the students in attendance to “do what you really love to do.”

He went on to talk about the importance of relationships – with your classmates, your professors, and eventually your peers and colleagues. These all will help create and maintain a culture of excellence, something we talk about a great deal here at Methodist.  General Helmick and I agree that the key to successful organizations, ranging from education to military, is to invest in people. “Signature people” define us and help lead us in making the best decisions for our organizations that serve students and soldiers alike.

Partnerships are very important to a university as well as to individuals. Methodist University is blessed to have an outstanding relationship with Ft. Bragg and the military, and as General Helmick stated during his talk, we are presently investigating additional ways we can work together to benefit soldiers and students alike. I look forward to sharing new developments in this relationship as they unfold.

And yes, General Frank Helmick is one of those “signature people,” a great patriot and leader, who comes along so rarely, sharing his perspective and inspiring us to do our best, have a passion for what we do, and to be committed to a culture of excellence.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Very Special Birthday

Imagine my surprise on January 18 when Gene Clayton and I entered the Berns Center for a so-called meeting, only to find the main floor filled with cheerleaders, the marching band, faculty, staff, students, trustees and familyall there to celebrate our birthday!  And yes, Gene and I share the same day.  (Of course, we did not share the same nursery on that original date, as I was enjoying my entry into the world a little farther to the north in Virginia.)

Of course this was a wonderful event and I was speechless (something that usually doesn’t happen to a university president).  Such an outpouring of support and celebration was something that I have never experienced, and it was very gratifying.

I have reflected on that day for the past few weeks, and I continue to be touched by the genuine affection shared on that occasion. It reinforces all the feelings Debbie and I had when we first considered coming to Methodist. On those early visits to campus and to Fayetteville, we were struck by the friendliness of everyone, not just because of my candidacy, but from people in general who had no knowledge of the reason for my visit and were equally hospitable.

Since joining the Methodist community on March 1 of last year, these moments of inspiration have continued. Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of the quality of our students and employees, of the generosity of our trustees and other friends, and of the personal warmth and caring that is a trademark of this community.

We look forward to sharing many more birthdays and other special occasions here with our students, colleagues, and friends.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The First “Signature Person”

On Wednesday of this week, the University community held the 2011 Wesley Heritage Celebration. Many thanks to the students, faculty, staff, and community members who attended the special chapel service featuring Dr. Mark Wethington’s presentation, “Whence Methodist U?” We then enjoyed a luncheon program that included a presentation by the MU Fall Break Mission Team, special music by Chuck Stephenson, Oriana Clayton, and Jane Gardiner, and a sermon from Wesley Heritage Celebration award winner Matthew Snowberger.

The importance of this day in the life of Methodist University is hard to measure. Not only does it give us an opportunity to celebrate our beginnings or “heritage,” as evidenced by the legacy of John Wesley, but it also gives us an opportunity to celebrate our current blessings through our worship service and other events. In particular, it is gratifying to see our students perform and excel in all of their activities and mission work.

During the opportunities I have to represent Methodist University, I often cite our “signature people” as one of our distinctive features. By this phrase I am referring to the people associated with Methodist who play such a vital role in the life of the campus and who inspire us on a daily basis to “do all the good we can.”

As I experienced the events of the Wesley Heritage Celebration, I realized that the first “signature person” at Methodist University was, and is, John Wesley, who continues to influence this campus. You can see this in those who attend the weekly chapel services, who participate in the mission trips, who witness through the many worship groups, and who take the time to make a difference in the lives of others in very subtle yet important ways.

We are blessed to have this opportunity to celebrate our heritage and recognize those around us who make Methodist University such a wonderful place to learn, work, grow, and worship.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“The Man Who Planted Trees”

In conjunction with my arrival this spring as the new president of the University, I was asked a number of questions so that members of the Methodist community could get to know me better. One of the questions had to do with wanting to know some of my favorite books, and one of those I listed was The Man Who Planted Trees, a story by Jean Giono.  The man featured in this story, Elzeard Bouffier, spent his life anonymously planting acorns across the countryside in southern France, bringing life to a desolate landscape for the benefit of generations that would follow him. Giono, using eloquent and moving prose, shares the story of this one man’s dedication and generosity that spanned many years.

Today I was fortunate to preside over the dedication of the Hendricks Science Complex and a ceremony that recognized the 27-year tenure of President Elton Hendricks and his wife, Jerry.  Here we have another “man who planted trees” spanning three decades, bringing life to our upper campus and replacing the sand spurs with trees transplanted from the lower campus along the Cape Fear River. President Hendricks was likewise dedicated to his task, and quietly and effectively transformed the Methodist University landscape for future generations to enjoy.

One of my favorite sayings from an anonymous source is that “a good book reads you.” As I think about the stories of Jean Giono and Elton Hendricks, I can’t help but reflect on the service of my predecessor and the impact he has had on Methodist University. I also know that as president, I will seek the assistance of those around me in developing the present landscape, both physical and intellectual, to benefit future generations of Methodist students. Thankfully we have someone, the man who planted trees at Methodist, who has shown us the way through his selfless acts and inspiration.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MU on the Move in New York City

I spent two days in New York last week – all part of our efforts to expand MU’s footprint and imprint. First of all, I attended a meeting with presidents from other universities from across the country where we had an opportunity to hear from the heads of some of the leading private foundations. The message they delivered was clear and consistent: a commitment to access to higher education and to degree completion.  I couldn’t help but think of our mission and current initiatives that focus on student success and adding value to a university education. The fact that these are leaders in the foundation world was encouraging and validating, although I know that success in fund raising efforts in support of our initiatives will need to start closer to home as we make a case for why our programs can serve as a national model for higher education.

My second meeting was with a group of editors from The New York Times. They shared various views on how universities could receive national exposure, and gave examples of past successes in such media coverage. Bottom line, they focused on how institutions need to do a better job of telling their story and creating “stories” that will inspire or motivate readers. Once again, I was reminded of our new Admissions view book, often referred to as “the largest view book in the country,” and what a wonderful job we have done in telling the story about some of our amazing students. I would put this publication up against any newspaper in its content and inspirational value. Now we just need to repeat these stories and many others as widely as we can through our marketing efforts and informal communications in our attempt to take our light from underneath the proverbial basket.

The highlight of my trip to New York was a dinner held for alumni, parents and friends as a part of our “MU on the Move” tour to 15 different cities in the U.S. The group assembled was so appreciative of the University’s outreach efforts and hoped we would visit on a regular basis. I also heard some amazing stories that have been a hallmark of these events. These included an alumnus who directs a mission that serves the needs of the city’s homeless, an alumna who is a graduate of our health care management program and works  in downtown New York, and an appreciative parent who believes his son is receiving a great education and unequaled support through his participation in our PGA Golf Management Program.

I always return home from these trips feeling even more motivated and inspired to serve as your president. I am convinced we are on the right track with our educational programs and initiatives like the “MU Journey.” Our alumni, parents and friends provide a living testament to the value of a Methodist degree and remind us of our primary role of preparing our students to be successful in their careers and to lead lives of meaning and purpose.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Year of the Engaged University

At Opening Convocation, I challenged the campus community to become more engaged in the community—on campus, in the greater Cumberland County area, and in hometown communities. The ceremonies around the country marking the 10th anniversary of 9.11 are evidence of our community spirit, and in my opinion, it has never been more important for Americans to be engaged as a distinguishing feature of a democratic society.

As a university, we have been successful, if not nationally recognized, in engaging our students in the classroom, in extracurricular activities, and athletics. But there are more experiences we must offer to prepare our students for productive careers and lives of meaning and purpose. I refer to these experiences as the “MU Journey.”

There are four elements to the MU Journey that I believe are essential experiences and ones that will distinguish a Methodist University education from any other. Leadership experiences will prepare students to assume key positions in their careers, communities, churches, and other organizations. The Globalization initiative will provide every student an opportunity to study abroad and will also seek to double our number of international students to over 200, thus preparing our students to live in a more global society.  Undergraduate Research and Collaboration with faculty will make our students more competitive as they consider graduate or professional school and will enhance academic rigor on campus. The Community Engagement initiative will provide every student with the opportunity for an internship or community-based experience with a team of students, working with a faculty mentor and community sponsor.  These experiences will assist students in deciding on their future careers, give them much-needed experience in being competitive in their job searches, and enhance their problem-solving skills. An intentional consequence of these experiences will be to develop civically minded individuals who will become engaged members of their communities after graduation.

Task forces have been created for each of these initiatives, with the goal of developing an implementation strategy and pilot program by March 2012. Because of these and other initiatives that have been launched over the past few months, and a university-wide emphasis on community engagement, I have deemed this academic year as “The Year of the Engaged University.”  Every Monarch has a journey.  I invite you to join us on that journey, as it has never been a better time to be a Monarch.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment