Over the past week, Provost Lisa Gentile and I have had the pleasure of attending some fantastic end-of-the-year awards and recognition events. The Honors Banquet, Arts and Science Awards Dinner, and Master Track Dinner were all reminders of the excellence our students attain through their time here at Westminster College. We also attended one of the commissioning ceremonies for our graduating ROTC students. It was inspiring to watch them receive their military designation as second lieutenants.
We look forward to continued commencement celebrations and events at the end of the month. I encourage you to attend President Brian's farewell party on May 29. We will unveil his portrait and celebrate and honor Brian and Debi for their contributions to the college.
My wife, Sandy, and I also enjoyed seeing more than 200 attendees at the 99th Silver Tea. The Silver Tea is truly a time-honored tradition unique to Westminster College. Thanks to those of you who attended and to the Women's Board for their ongoing hard work to raise funds for scholarships and other worthy projects at the college.
Last week, Dr. Tim Culver, noted retention expert from Ruffalo Noel Levitz, conducted a two-day visit to campus. During the visit, Dr. Culver asked us, 'Who owns the student success relationship?' He went on to discuss organizing around a completion agenda for our undergraduate students. He complimented Westminster on the large number of retention initiatives we are already undertaking. He also made several recommendations, such as organizing our advising around student success coaches and focusing on both freshman- to sophomore-year retention, and sophomore- to junior-year retention. Dr. Culver will soon deliver a retention report with suggested next steps for the college.
On the fundraising front, I am pleased to report that almost all of the needed funding for the new Westminster Center for Veteran and Military Services has been secured. We have hired Sylvia O'Hara to be the center's first director. She is currently the associate director of the Veteran Center at the University of Utah. The center will open this fall in Walker One, and be a welcoming place with important resources for our student veterans and their families. Many thanks go to several trustees, staff, and PIN investors who have generously supported this initiative.
In other fundraising news, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation has committed to a second grant in support of the Montessori Institute, and the McCarthy Foundation has committed scholarship support to our athletics programs. Lisa Gentile and I attended a very positive meeting with Lisa Eccles and Robert Graham of the George S. and Dolores Dore' Eccles Foundation, and we were pleased to hear of their continued support of Westminster.
I am also pleased to announce that The Adam R. Bronfman Family Foundation and the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, with the support of Hillel International, have offered Westminster College the opportunity to host Hillel for Utah with the funded leadership of longtime Westminster employee Dana Tumpowsky as a full-time executive director, and an operating budget for the organization. This relationship will begin July 1, 2015, and continues for at least three years as Dana and an advisory board explore the possibilities of gaining their own nonprofit status. In the next two months, we will finalize office space, reporting, and administrative details associated with this opportunity. The good news is that Dana will remain associated with Westminster College.
Last week, the Deans Council working with particular faculty and staff representatives selected our first four faculty fellows. Marilee Coles-Ritchie was selected as the Katherine W. Dumke Center for Civic Engagement Faculty Fellow, Steve Hurlbut was selected as the Eportfolio Faculty Fellow, Tamara Stevenson and Gary Marquardt (a joint proposal) were selected in the Diversity & Inclusion Faculty Fellow position, and Jen Simonds was selected as the Westminster Scholars faculty fellow. The fellows will start in the fall and serve two to three year terms. I add my thanks and congratulations to these faculty members for stepping up to this new opportunity.
I am proud to recognize our men's lacrosse team for their appearance in the national lacrosse championships this week. They were one of only 16 teams nationally to make the championship tournament. The Griffins lost to Georgia Tech, but were winners in my mind just by their national appearance.
Today I will conclude meetings with departments and schools that I began when I became the acting president. It has been an amazing opportunity for me to meet the faculty and staff that make Westminster successful. I have found a tremendous amount of goodwill and enthusiasm for our future along with many challenges and opportunities. I look forward to sharing what I learned in future posts and meetings.