Penn State Board of Trustees meets; President Spanier's remarks

May 15, 2009

This is a wonderful time of the year to be on our campus. With the mild weather, beautiful flowers and commencement ceremonies upon us, it seems that everyone is smiling.

But I noticed the person with the biggest grin is Gary Schultz. As you all know, this is Gary's last Board of Trustees meeting before he retires on June 30. We'll have a chance to fully offer our thanks to Gary at a retirement celebration in June, but I would like to publicly recognize his 38 years of service and countless contributions to our community. Gary's most recent honor is the Addison Award, presented by the Borough of State College, for his lifetime of contributions to town-gown relationships. Please join me in thanking Gary.

Now I want to share some much deserved recognition that was recently afforded to the Broadhursts. 

This spring, Jim and Suzy were honored with the Art Rooney Award given by the Catholic Youth Association. Jim and Suzy were chosen for their outstanding achievements with Eat'n Park Hospitality Group and their dedication to so many charities

On May 5, Jim also received Junior Achievement's Golden Achievement Award for 2009. These are great honors that are richly deserved.

I hope you'll take a few minutes to savor "Ice Cream U, the Story of the Nation's Most Successful Collegiate Creamery," which is hot off the presses. Written by Lee Stout, emeritus archivist, it provides an inside look at one of my favorite spots on campus.

I hope you'll also enjoy your copy of the DVD "The Economy and the Graduate." This program aired on the Big Ten Network. Here's a quick preview.

In an uncertain year for college admissions nationally, one thing is sure — Penn State has continued to receive record numbers of admissions applications. We expect to receive 106,000 applications this year, and we are currently 6 percent ahead of last year.

Applications for the Commonwealth campuses are up 4 percent; total international undergraduate applications are up by 35 percent; and applications to Penn College are up 5 percent.

Graduate applications are up 6 percent, and international graduate applications are up 10 percent. Applications to the Dickinson School of Law continue to soar – with an increase of more than 50 percent.

Given these numbers, we are on target for meeting our goals of 6,800 students in the new summer/fall class at University Park and 8,200 at the Commonwealth Campuses.

This weekend marks the 361st commencement exercise in Penn State's history. University-wide, 10,648 students will graduate — 579 with associate degrees; 8,493 with baccalaureate degrees; 1,234 with graduate degrees; 131 with medical degrees; and 211 with law degrees. Since our founding, Penn State has awarded more than 643,000 degrees. 

The Dickinson School of Law held its commencement last Saturday. This weekend's ceremonies begin this afternoon, when we will recognize a remarkable group of scholars in the Medals Ceremony for the Schreyer Honors College and conduct the ROTC commissioning ceremony.

Each year, I am impressed by our noteworthy and ambitious students, and I'd like to share the accomplishments of a few.

This spring, the Rock Ethics Institute recognized five students who demonstrated ethical leadership through personal example with the Stand Up Awards. The students hail from different majors and campuses but share a strong sense of courage and fortitude. The students are:

Koann Eicher from Penn State Shenango for raising awareness about Pennsylvania's Safe Haven Law, which provides for a safe, legal, and confidential alternative to abandoning a newborn;
Shane George from the Smeal College of Business for promoting integrity, respect and the Smeal College of Business Honor Code;

Andie Graham from Penn State DuBois for speaking out against harassment, discrimination, and sexism;

Hilary Griffith from Penn State Fayette for raising awareness about the LGBT community and promoting an environment of acceptance; and Miatta Massaley from the College of the Liberal Arts for helping to develop a free Tenant Landlord Mediation Center.

Another group of students exhibited their skills on the racetrack in Fontana, Calif.

For those of you who think you're doing pretty well when you get 20 miles to the gallon in your car, consider this. A team of Penn State mechanical engineering students wheeled out a car that gets 1,913 miles per gallon at the Shell Eco-marathon. In this international competition, 44 student teams designed, built and drove vehicles with the goal of going the farthest using the least amount of energy.

Penn State's vehicle, aptly named "Blood, Sweat & Gears," received first place in the fuel cell category and fourth place overall. To achieve such high mileage, the car traveled at 15 miles per hour. The leg room is a little tight, but the technology has great promise for the future.

Shifting gears a bit … another promising area of alternative fuel research is cellulosic biofuels. Two weeks ago the U.S. Department of Energy announced that Penn State will get $21 million over five years as part of a federal energy initiative, known as Energy Frontier Research Centers. Eberly Professor of Biology Dan Cosgrove will lead a team of researchers in the study of how to convert plants, such as the switchgrass, into a viable and efficient energy source.

In the news release announcing Penn State's part of the funding, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said, "Penn State has proven again that they are on the forefront of biofuels research, and the work done at this new research center will help us create a 21st-century energy economy, which is critical for America's future."

I'd like to now turn your attention to the arts. We had a very successful year with Professor Kim Cook serving as the inaugural Penn State Laureate. She shared her talent, knowledge and love of music with a broad array of audiences. While she will certainly be a hard act to follow, I'm confident next year's laureate will enlighten and expand the role with his unique talents.

It is my great pleasure to introduce the Penn State Laureate for 2009-10 — Anthony Leach, associate professor of music and music education. Tony is the director and founder of Essence of Joy, and he directs the Penn State University Choir and the Oriana Singers, among others. Tony teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in choral music education, and his choirs have performed at festivals throughout the United States, Canada, England, Italy, South Africa and other countries. On Tuesday, Tony will be taking Essence of Joy to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. We're proud to count Tony among our alumni; he earned his master's and Ph.D. degrees from Penn State after earning a bachelor of science degree in music education from Lebanon Valley College.

Tony, I am delighted that you have accepted the position of Penn State Laureate. Please stand so you can be recognized.

Thank you. I also would like to thank Trustee Anne Riley, who served on the Penn State Laureate selection committee.

This also has been a season of high-profile recognition for our faculty members.

In April, two Penn State faculty members were honored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which has a distinguished history dating back to the American Revolution.

Mary Jane Irwin, Evan Pugh professor and A. Robert Noll Chair in Engineering and the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and Thomas Mallouk, DuPont professor of materials chemistry and physics, are among the new Fellows being honored this year.

Amy Greenberg, professor of American history and women's studies, received a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship Award.

And Webb Miller, the professor of biology and computer science and engineering who is doing Tasmanian tiger research I spoke about at our January meeting, has won the 2009 Accomplishment by a Senior Scientist Award given by the International Society for Computational Biology. He and Professor Stephan Schuster also have been named among 100 of "The World's Most Influential People" by TIME Magazine.

Congratulations also go to Dr. Eugene Lengerich of the College of Medicine, who leads the Northern Appalachia Cancer Network initiative, which is the recipient of the Northeast region's W.K. Kellogg Foundation/C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award, sponsored by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

This has been a great spring for athletics. Penn State's men's and women's fencing team won their 11th NCAA championship.

Penn State's women's rugby team defeated Stanford 46-7 to become the national champions.

Senior Casey Sandy was honored with the prestigious Nissen-Emery award, which is awarded in recognition of outstanding athletic achievement, academic excellence and sportsmanship. It is the highest honor presented in collegiate gymnastics.

Penn State student-athletes also were recognized by the NCAA for their high Academic Progress Rate Scores. Twenty-three Nittany Lion teams posted APR scores above the Division I average, and football leads all Big Ten squads. In addition, Penn State student-athletes are continuing to improve graduation rates and academic performance. This is a credit to the student-athletes, coaches, faculty and academic support personnel.

The other big news in athletics was, as one wrestler put it, that "Christmas came early," with the signing of Cael Sanderson as Penn State's head wrestling coach.

Cael is a wrestling legend and the most admired wrestler of his generation. He is the only wrestler in NCAA history to never lose a match. He's a four-time NCAA champion and an Olympic wrestling gold medalist. Cael also has proven himself to be an inspirational coach. He comes to Penn State after leading the Iowa State Cyclones to three Big 12 titles and three top-five national finishes.

Cael, we are enthusiastically looking forward to you joining the Penn State community. Please stand so you can be recognized.

Thank you. I also want to give special thanks to Trustees Dave Joyner and Ira Lubert for assisting us in the search, screening and recruitment process.

Earlier this week we hosted the 14th annual Road Scholars bus tour. Trustees Riley, Rodney Hughes and Marianne Alexander traveled throughout the state with more than 50 new faculty members from 15 different campuses. We also saw Trustees Cynthia Baldwin and John Surma during our trip, which included stops at Penn State Altoona, Penn State Greater Allegheny, the Johnstown Flood National Memorial, U.S. Steel Corporation Mon Valley Works, H.J. Heinz Innovation Center, Penn State Beaver, Penn State Electro-Optics Center and the Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark.

This road trip is a great opportunity for faculty to better understand that Penn State is one university, geographically dispersed and to meet and make connections with other Penn Staters.

Rod Kirsch and his team of development officers and volunteers are continuing their exceptional effort for For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. We're one year away from the public launch of the campaign and I'm proud to say that we have almost reached the $720 million mark, and it is making a tremendous difference in the lives of our students.

There was one especially intriguing gift. Penn State Harrisburg received a $3 million donation from an anonymous donor who asked that half of the money be used for scholarships and the rest for high-priority initiatives at the campus. It is the biggest single donation ever received by the campus and we were very happy to receive it. Similar gifts, now approaching $100 million, have arrived anonymously at more than a dozen schools across the nation. The schools have in common that they are all headed by women.

I was delighted to see many of you at the Mount Nittany Society dinner in April. More than 600 members attended the dinner, and we inducted 33 charter members to the Elm Circle, the pinnacle of philanthropy at Penn State.

At this time, I would be happy to take questions.

  • Penn State President Graham B. Spanier

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010