Spring Convocation 2015

Welcome to Spring Convocation, and welcome to the Luhr Building!

I think it is important to acknowledge, as we gather today, that recent events, locally and globally, have certainly had the attention of this community. These events are a stark reminder that the work of creating and sustaining communities that embrace global diversity and that further peace and prosperity for all is far from finished.

If you were present for the holiday faculty and staff party in December, you know that we had fun joining together in a festive mood with a collective “Ho Ho Ho.” Today I thought we would kick off this convocation with some sentence completions—I’ll start, and you finish.

Look [before you leap].

The early bird [gets the worm].

The grass is always greener [on the other side].

He who hesitates [is lost].

The sun will come out [tomorrow].

Hope for the best, [prepare for the worst].

Fortune [favors the bold].

Better late [than never].

There’s no time [like the present].

Necessity is the mother [of invention].

Good things come [to those who wait].

When the going gets tough, [the tough get going]. 

I think you can see why these sayings come to mind as we gather in this building—members of the Webster University community for the first time since we purchased the building from Eden in 2010. For some of you, it may well be the last time you were in the building since a book chain transferred the final 100 books in the Webster collection from this building to our newly-constructed Emerson Library on June 30, 2003.

The history of Eden’s and Webster’s library collections is interesting—here are a few key developments:

  • Eden first held its collections in their administration building. It was only when the collection became too large for that purpose that they constructed this building which opened in October 1968.
  • Webster’s collections were first housed in our administration building—Webster Hall—when it opened in 1916. I have read the correspondence from those founding years about the urgency of building the collection to achieve North Central Association accreditation—our founders built a solid foundation that we still enjoy today.
  • As the holdings grew, a solution needed to be found, and in 1969, the Eden-Webster Library System was formed and continues to this day. From 1969 until 2003, the holdings were housed in this building. Now, the system collections are distributed between Emerson Library and Eden’s Luhr Reading Room in their administration building. Eden’s Luhr Library was named in 1986 for Adelheid Luhr and her husband Eugene. She was a lay leader in the UCC, an Eden trustee, and generous donor.

And here we are. In my more whimsical moments, this occasion makes me think of the Poltergeist movies—“They’re back.”

There are many people to thank for helping to make this happen—individuals who helped figure out the new terms of the library system agreement, those who helped to negotiate and manage terms of the purchase, those who have helped to strengthen the partnership with Eden—academically and operationally, those who have attended endless numbers of plan commission and city council meetings,  those who assisted our legal effort to secure the rights to this building, and those who have managed the renovation of this space to make it work for our purposes today and into the future.

Please stand, and let us thank each other, and celebrate this accomplishment. 

The use of this building is a success for our community. We will schedule a formal and public ribbon cutting later in March, and I hope you will be able to participate when that date is set. This is a time that has challenged us—and not only Webster, of course—to strengthen our revenue for a sustainable future. Julian will talk more about that in a moment, but I want to take a few moments to share with you news about the ways we are experiencing success in diversifying our revenue sources by attracting support from external sources.

Last fall at the Daniel Webster Society Dinner (record attendance) we honored three donors who have been instrumental in supporting Webster’s academic strength. One of those is Visionary Jean Hobler, whose generosity created space for our dance program. The other visionaries were Jane and Bruce Robert. Jane, an alum and also a trustee, joined with her husband to fund our first endowed professorship, the position held by Lionel Culle.

Many of you have heard my challenge and intention that each of our five colleges would enjoy the support of an endowed professorship. And today, I am glad to announce that we have fully achieved the funding for the second, which will be named the Laurence L. Browning, Jr. Endowed Professorship in Biological Sciences.

I am grateful to the continued generosity of Jinny and the late Larry Browning, principal donors to our Interdisciplinary Science Building, for this gift that strengthens our STEMM programs—in concert with the strategic plan.

And I want to applaud Charlie Hahn, VP for advancement, for his partnership in achieving this goal. My congratulations to Stephanie Schroeder, for this addition to her department, and to Dean David Wilson, for now hosting two professorships in the college. Deans—I look forward to working with each of you to attract this kind of support.

In this centennial year, the advancement team and I are working hand in hand to further Webster through support by our trustees, friends, donors, alums and foundation sources.

The fall centennial gala will replace the DWS dinner for one year. It will be underwritten by donors and serve as a fundraiser for scholarship dollars. Led by trustee Marilyn Fox, we have already secured $200,000 of the $500,000 required for the underwriting.

Six and seven figure asks are out and in process—and we are experiencing surprising levels of trustee giving as well as early repayment of pledges. These successes would not be possible without the strength of Webster’s programs, which are worthy of a donor’s support. For that, I thank all of you and want you to know that we will continue these kinds of efforts—including the submission of an NSF grant this past week, which if funded, would bring in $2.5 million to Webster.

And now, to give us additional updates about academic and operational matters, please join me in welcoming our Provost, Senior Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer Julian Schuster. Julian and I asked the Global Marketing and Communication Team to help all of us remember the journey we have undertaken to create the new strategic plan, Global Impact for the Next Century. They created this video that tells the story that began in 2011 and has grown over that time to involve members of this community—here and across the Webster network of campuses and locations. Enjoy!