It's an understatement to say that our country is facing challenging economic times. As I write this letter, the stock market is continuing its skittishness, and the world braces itself for further economic uncertainty. The nation faces a crisis of confidence.
Eight years ago, Knox was suffering its own crisis of confidence. The College lost its second president in four years and was facing a bleak financial situation. The relevance to the public of a liberal arts education in the 21st century was in question. To help the College face these challenges, I set three goals for Knox -- To Nurture Academic Excellence; To Strengthen Institutional Self-Confidence; and To Chart A Course Toward Financial Impregnability.
The first goal wasn't hard. Knox has always had academic excellence, but we didn't talk boldly enough about its excellence, our accomplished graduates, and Knox's contributions to the world. In November 2001, two students -- Frank Elliott '04 and Dan Chibnall '03 -- told me they thought that something was wrong with the Old Main bell tower. The bell had been damaged since the late 1980s, but now the actual tower itself was in need of structural repairs. And it hit me. The 13-year silence of the bell atop Old Main -- the heart of Knox College -- was emblematic of our hesitation to speak boldly about Knox.So, I set out on a campaign to restore Old Main's bell tower.
The campaign immediately addressed my second goal -- I didn't just want to hear the bell ring again, but I wanted to renew our confidence in Knox. Thanks to donations from five trustees and the hard work of Facilities Services, the Old Main bell rang again on February 14, 2002. Two days later, the trustees officially made me president.
On that day, I looked forward to facing and overcoming Knox's many challenges. And now, I can say that we've made progress. Our faculty has successfully implemented a new curriculum that prepares our students for the 21st century, and our admission numbers have set new records each year. Our faculty, staff, and trustees work together each year to balance the College's budget. Alumni giving participation has risen, and more and more donors are making six- and seven-figure gifts to Knox.
At my installation as the 18th president of Knox College on October11, 2002, I asked you -- 0ur alumni and friends -- to hold up a mirror and see what a great college Knox is and how each and every one of you tell Knox's story in your own lives. This President's Report is much like that mirror -- it's a reflection of all the accomplishments Knox College and its community have made over the past eight years.
At College events, I ask Knox students and alumni what they are going to say if someone asks them where they went to college. I used to hear bashful mutterings. Today, I hear "KNOX COLLEGE!" It is the pride and love for our special College that has helped me work towards achieving my three goals and helped Knox maintain its mission to provide a diverse student body with a world-class liberal arts education, no matter their race, sex, or means.
Let the Old Main bell keep ringing!