May 11, 2021
Dear Westminster Staff and Faculty,
Last week’s activities marked an incredible end to the academic year. For many of our newer faculty and staff, this was their first Westminster commencement. As many institutions around the country struggle with virtual ceremonies or “carmencements,” we proceeded with a well-planned, COVID-19-cautious, and beautiful series of events that showcased our campus and community. Even underneath the masks, I could sense the customary range of emotions that students brought as they crossed the stage, from anxiety to exuberance. Families and friends were immensely grateful and impressed at the opportunity to commence together and on campus.
I share their gratitude. So many people deserve appreciation, from the many volunteers to the staff of contributing departments—the Registrar, facilities, Student Affairs, Institutional Advancement, and Bon Appétit to name a few—to the deans and their faculty. I never underestimate the importance of seemingly small things like reading the names of graduates; thank you to Chris LeCluyse and Kari Lindsay for their role. The leadership of Pamela Shields, Director of Events, was instrumental in our success, as was the steady and experienced influence of Glenn Smith, Vice President and Dean of Students. Members of the Commencement Committee contributed to making important adjustments while retaining important traditions of the college. Please know that gratitude should be extended to everyone involved, as it truly required the dedication and collaboration of the entire campus to execute these events so well.
Last week were also the final meetings of the academic year for our Board of Trustees. Like many members of the Westminster community, their attendance was necessarily limited at commencement, but their involvement in virtual meetings was extensive. I mentioned 2 of their actions at our end-of-year toast.
First, they recognized the considerable achievement of our faculty, who recommend substantial changes to the faculty manual. Then, they approved those recommendations following thoughtful discussion of the importance of shared governance to the long-term vitality of the college. Second, they agreed to begin restoration of the employee retirement benefit with a 1% increase, effective July 1. Finally, they welcomed a new trustee to the board: Mr. Peter Michell. Mr. Michell retired after several years as a chief financial officer at private institutions like Westminster. He continues to serve on the board of the Kaiser Permanente School of Allied Health Sciences and as a peer reviewer for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
In addition to these actions, the board received reports from several cabinet members regarding our budget, enrollments (more on this in next week’s Griffin Gazette), advancement activities, academic programs, and of course, Westminster at 150. We know that it will take considerable, intentional effort to keep our current students engaged and progressing in their studies, and that potential new students continue to deliberate about which college to enter, if any. Overall, our trustees appreciate our necessary and continued fiscal prudence, share in our cautious optimism, commend the talents of our leadership, and are excited about the possibilities ahead.
Many of us are already looking forward and planning the next events, programs, and activities that will characterize the year(s) ahead. In the meantime, please be sure to catch your breath, give thanks to those around you, and enjoy some of the pleasures of being together this summer.
Bethami A. Dobkin, PhD
Westminster College President