The inauguration of a new president, national recognition for scholarship and service, and visits from numerous notable speakers were among the highlights of the past year at Willamette University.
View a photo gallery of 2012’s major happenings.
Thorsett Inaugurated as Willamette’s 25th President
After a week of events honoring Willamette’s heritage — and looking toward the future — the Board of Trustees installed Stephen E. Thorsett as the university’s 25th president on Feb. 10. The ceremony in Smith Auditorium was marked by music and speeches of welcome from representatives of Oregon’s Native American tribes, state and local government, other higher education institutions and various Willamette constituencies.
National Recognition Increases
Many national college rankings featured Willamette’s College of Liberal Arts. In “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges,” Willamette is touted for its dedicated professors, small class sizes and commitment to service. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance ranked Willamette 72nd for best value among the nation’s private liberal arts colleges. The Princeton Review named Willamette one of the Best in the West, and U.S. News & World Report ranked it as one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges. Forbes’ “America’s Top Colleges” also ranked Willamette 90th in the top 100 overall.
Willamette Community Aids Flood-Relief Efforts
More than 200 Willamette University students, faculty and staff joined flood-abatement efforts throughout Salem in January when rainstorms caused the Willamette River to crest at 30 feet — two feet below a major flood stage. Volunteers visited such sites as South Salem High School and Bush Park.
Fowles Named Head Football Coach
Sixteen years after joining Willamette University’s football coaching staff, Glen Fowles ’96 (left) was named the team’s new head coach Jan. 17. Prior to his promotion, Fowles completed 14 seasons as the team’s offensive coordinator and two as the Bearcat’s strength and conditioning trainer. He replaced Mark Speckman (right), who resigned to become head football coach at Menlo College in California.
Noted Scientist, Climatologist and Writers Visit Campus
A highly acclaimed scientist, a climatologist and two award-winning journalists visited Willamette to share their insights with students and the community this year. As part of the Atkinson Lecture Series, Planetary Scientist Carolyn Porco discussed startling discoveries made by the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004. In November, the second Atkinson speaker — journalist and filmmaker Sebastian Junger — met with students before describing his experiences as an embedded journalist. Also this year, Nick Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times, visited Willamette to speak out against the oppression of women, and Climatologist James Hansen discussed global warming as part of the Dempsey Lecture Series.
Alumnus Competes in Olympic Finals
Former Bearcat runner Nick Symmonds '06 set a personal record at the London Olympics in August while taking fifth place in the final of the 800-meter run. Symmonds registered a time of 1:42.95 to establish a new career-best. His time was 0.81 faster than his previous top time of 1:43.76, set in Italy in 2010.
Students Earn National Awards
Fifteen Willamette students and recent alumni earned prestigious national scholarships and fellowships that provide funding for tuition, research and study opportunities outside the classroom. Among the honorees were two alumni who won Fulbright Grants to research, study and teach abroad: Anton Chiono ’06 (right) and Jaela Dinsmore ’12 (left).
Class of 2012 Honored at Commencement
Gloria Rodriguez, a crusader for education in at-risk communities, delivered the College of Liberal Arts commencement address in May to 427 undergraduates who earned their bachelor’s degrees. At other ceremonies, the Atkinson Graduate School of Management awarded 91 Master of Business Administration degrees to early career and career change students, as well as 29 MBA degrees to graduates of the MBA for Professionals program; the College of Law awarded 133 Juris Doctor and Master of Laws degrees; and the Graduate School of Education awarded 86 Master of Arts in Teaching and Master of Education degrees.
Campus Dedicated to Service
Willamette continued to draw national accolades for civic engagement. Washington Monthly’s 2012 liberal arts college rankings placed Willamette 23rd based on its contribution to the public good and seventh for community service participation. Willamette was ranked 20th in the country for its number of Peace Corps volunteers, 17 of whom served overseas, and it was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction for exemplary service to America’s communities.
New Students Join Willamette
In August, Willamette welcomed one of its most diverse College of Liberal Arts classes in university history. The 530 students in the class of 2016 came from 23 states and four countries, and one third came from traditionally under-represented groups. Willamette University’s graduate schools of education, law and management also welcomed more than 300 new students for the 2012-13 academic year. With 106 new students, the Atkinson Graduate School of Management's Early Career and Career Change MBA welcomed its largest class to date.
Learning Enhanced through Faculty Grants
Willamette professors earned several major grants and awards in 2012 to support projects that enhance opportunities for students both in and out of the classroom. Three grants came from the National Science Foundation, including a $346,900 award to biology professor Susan Kephart (above), who worked with students to increase the scientific understanding of diversity among camas lilies. Psychology professor Melissa Witkow received more than $81,000 to study adolescent bullying, and Haiyan Cheng, an assistant professor in computer science, received more than $132,000 to improve statistical and computational methods for estimating complex systems, such as weather patterns and economic systems.
Willamette Partners to Create Chinese Debate Association
Creating open dialogue and civic engagement among college students in China are goals of the new and evolving Chinese Debate Association, led by Willamette University through a three-year grant. The new association — with help from several universities in the Pacific Northwest —is extending debate throughout China by creating seven regional centers and hiring Chinese-certified debate trainers to coach at least 1,200 Chinese college students.
Investments Made in Willamette
Willamette attracted several major gifts in 2012 to enhance learning opportunities for students. They included $500,000 from the Dempsey Foundation to establish a scholarship fund for environmental and earth science students, $513,000 from the National Science Foundation to continue funding undergraduate math research among a consortium of regional universities, and $700,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create the “Learning by Creating” initiative, which will enable Willamette faculty to explore, develop and implement new curricula and scholarly pursuits in the arts and humanities.
Students Help Launch Multicultural Resource Center
A new center, the Student Center for Equity and Empowerment, opened in Matthews Hall this fall. Championed by several students, the center is aimed at creating dialogue and engagement on such topics as gender, ability, sexual identity and religion.
MBA Faculty earn Accolades
Willamette MBA faculty members made important contributions to the academic and professional communities in 2012. Professor Lisbeth Claus (right) received the prestigious EMMA award for her global HR research, professor Larry Ettner (middle) was named to the Board of Mercy Corps Northwest and professor Henry Bi (left) received awards for his teaching and research.
New Law Dean Appointed
Willamette University President Stephen E. Thorsett named Curtis Bridgeman dean of the university’s College of Law. Bridgeman, the James and Margaret Elizabeth Hennessey Corry Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Florida State University, will begin at Willamette in July 2013. Bridgeman’s appointment is the culmination of a seven-month national search.
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