President Recounts Successes, Challenges and Goals in 2012 State of the College Address

Brother Ron and guestBrother Ronald Also Offers a Preview of the Sesquicentennial Year Ahead

“Saint Mary’s College is thriving in difficult times,” Brother Ronald Gallagher told a gathering of about 75 College and community leaders last week in his annual State of the College address in Lafayette.

In the Lafayette speech and an earlier address at the college, the president traced the Saint Mary’s successes and laid out goals for the next five years, focusing on the community, curriculum and campus.

He also announced initial plans for marking the 150th anniversary of the founding of Saint Mary’s in 1863. Some of the highlights of the sesquicentennial year – dubbed the “Year of the Gael” – will be:

  • a festive “Gaelebration” in the fall open to the entire College community – students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends,
  • a major fundraising dinner for scholarships to be held on Treasure Island,
  • colloquia on Catholic, liberal arts and Lasallian values throughout the year.

Watch the president’s speech on Ustream, preceded by a short video setting the stage for the sesquicentennial.

A Growing, Diverse Community

Speaking of the SMC community, he noted that the college enrolled the largest undergraduate class ever last year and now has more than 2800 undergraduate students and more than 1,200 enrolled in adult and professional programs. Today’s Saint Mary’s students are very diverse – religiously, ethnically and economically – a trend he said will continue.

These students are “looking to become citizens of the world,” Brother Ronald said, a goal Saint Mary’s embraces in its new core curriculum and addresses through January Term travel courses, Study Abroad offerings and programs like the Trans-Global Executive MBA. He said he hopes to explore more opportunities through the college’s connection to about 80 Lasallian colleges worldwide.

He pointed out that the college is making a “lasting impact on the economy of the East Bay.” More than 17,000 alumni are living in the East Bay, including about 2,000 MBA graduates and 2,000 teachers and education administrators. He also noted that SMC students contributed more than 45,000 hours of service to the community last year.

Turning to the curriculum, Brother Ronald hailed the development of the new core curriculum and the renewed Collegiate Seminar program, which will debut with the fall 2012 incoming freshman class. While Saint Mary’s aims to prepare students for a digital and global world, he said, “it’s the Lasallian edge that really makes it distinctive.”

Long List of Achievements

Among the achievements of the last year that Brother Ronald noted in his address are:

  • River of Words, a new program in the Center for Environmental Literacy at the school of education,
  • Performing arts programs that have gained recognition nationally and internationally,
  • Record numbers studying abroad,
  • The expanded and renamed Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art,
  • The new Louis Guisto Baseball Field, and
  • The most successful year ever in Division 1 athletics and in club sports, including championships for men’s basketball, men’s soccer and men’s golf.

He drew applause when he mentioned that SMC’s rugby team had defeated No. 1-ranked Cal the week before and that the college’s golf team had just won its first league championship.

“These successes have increased Saint Mary’s visibility in the community and have brought in a lot of support,” he said.

Economic Challenges

Despite the college’s successes, SMC students, like their counterparts throughout the state, are “challenged by the economy,” he said, adding that “keeping Saint Mary’s affordable is at the top of our list of priorities.”

To that end, he asked those in the audience to help in the campaign to preserve full funding levels for Cal Grants. The proposed state budget calls for $302 million in reductions in the grant program. For students in private, not-for-profit schools, the grants would be reduced from $9,708 a year to $5,472. Preserving Cal Grant funds is crucial, he said, because they offer much-needed aid to about 650 SMC students. Without the Cal Grant, many of these students would not be able to attend Saint Mary’s or other institutions of higher education.

Read more about Saint Mary’s efforts to save Cal Grants, and do your part.

Goals for the Next Five Years

Looking to the future, the president said the college will continue to upgrade its facilities and will expand its infrastructure to meet the needs of today’s students through a number of projects on the drawing board. They include:

  • A greatly expanded Library and Learning Commons,
  • A new digital media center,
  • Upgraded sports facilities,
  • Increased capacity in the residence halls,
  • Expanded parking, and
  • A state-of-the art Athletics and Recreation Center.

By 2016, the college will also have completed the “Campaign for Saint Mary’s, 2009-16,” which is expected to raise more than $100 million for the school.

Teresa Castle
Office of College Communications