A look back at President M. Lee Pelton’s
progress on community outreach and the five points of Willamette’s
Long Range Plan – academic excellence, student life, technology,
diversity and visibility.
In his inaugural address in February 1998, Willamette University
President M. Lee Pelton said, “And while I shall always be
attentive to preserving the University’s core values, I understand
that the best leaders seize opportunities undreamed of and inspire
hope in the promise of a better tomorrow.”
Throughout the past five years, in both halcyon days and periods
of strained regional economy and even national grief, President
Pelton has added to Willamette’s history books a compelling
mix of inspired goals and pragmatic choices.
Long Range Plan
Since his arrival, Willamette opened the doors to the Hallie Ford
Museum of Art and the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center. The Montag
Center was created, Eaton Hall was remodeled and renovated and the
Art Building was expanded. The University also purchased the YWCA
property on the corner of State and Winter streets. While there
is no immediate plan for the building, its availability and location
made it an attractive acquisition for the University and the natural
evolution of the Campus Master Plan.
The University will break ground this year on Kaneko Commons, phase
one in a process that will completely redesign the teaching-learning
experience at Willamette through a University-wide residential commons
program. The Kaneko project is funded by an $11 million donation
from Tokyo International University of America, Willamette’s
sister institution since 1965. These capital improvements total
approximately $27.6 million.
drumbeat for academic excellence has been a constant and steady
theme since 1998.
In five years, Willamette students received three Goldwater, eight
Fulbright, four Udall, one Datatel, one Watson, one National Science
Foundation and six Truman fellowships.
In 1999, the College of Liberal Arts admitted 90 percent of students
who applied with a median g.p.a. of 3.7. In the fall of 2003, Willamette
admitted only 74 percent of those who applied and the median g.p.a.
Endowed scholarship funds have increased by $19 million since
1998. The minority student enrollment in that period increased from
11 percent to 19 percent. Willamette University today has the highest
enrollment of students of color of any university in the Pacific
In the desire to keep pace with technology in the classroom, Willamette’s
technology investments since 1998 have resulted in the installation
of computerized teaching stations with multi-media presentation
capabilities and connections to the Internet in 40 percent of University
classrooms. All academic buildings became wireless in 2002. Technology
has also meant added student services in many areas including admissions,
registration and library access.
Willamette faculty continues to engage in funded research, to
publish in nationally respected academic journals and to lecture
internationally. Since 1985, the Carnegie Foundation and the Council
for the Advancement and Support of Education have named seven Willamette
University faculty members Oregon Professor of the Year.
The combination of outstanding students and respected faculty
have brought national ranking to Willamette with recognition from
the National Survey of Student Engagement prepared by Indiana University
Center for Postsecondary Research and Planning and U.S. News
& World Report.
These rankings and individual stories about Willamette faculty
and students, as well as opinion pieces by President Pelton on issues
of national concern in major media markets across the country, have
helped to increase the visibility of Willamette University.
While national recognition is always appreciated, few university
presidents are as sensitive as President Pelton is to the value
of University/community partnerships. Since his arrival, the president
has remained committed to the need to make Willamette programs more
accessible to local residents. From discussions with local civic
leaders regarding the future development of downtown Salem, to increasing
the participation in University cultural events, he has made university/community
partnerships a key benchmark in his administration.
Francis S. Hoyt
1860-1865 Thomas Milton Gatch
1865-1867 Joseph Henry Wythe
1868-1870 Nelson Rounds
1870-1879 Thomas Milton Gatch
1879-1880 Charles E. Lambert
1880-1891 Thomas Van Scoy
1891-1902 Willis Chatman Hawley
1902-1908 John Hamline Coleman
1908-1914 Fletcher Homan
1915-1934 Carl Gregg Doney
1934-1941 Bruce Richard Baxter
1941-1942 Carl Sumner Knopf
1942-1969 G. Herbert Smith
1969-1973 Roger J. Fritz
1973-1980 Robert Lisensky
1980-1997 Jerry E. Hudson
1998- M. Lee Pelton
presidents are not included in this list
Annually, Willamette University students, undergraduate and graduate,
contribute between 15,000 and 20,000 hours of volunteer service
to the greater Salem community. But the jewel in the crown of the
University/community partnership effort is Willamette Academy, which
opened in 2001.
Each summer, Willamette Academy students (Salem-Keizer School District
middle school students) participate in a 10-day residential program.
During the academic year, students spend one Saturday per month
on campus in academic enrichment activities. Tutoring is offered
three days per week. During the 2003-04 academic year, Willamette
Academy expects to provide each of the 50 current students with
more than 400 hours of focused activity, including almost 250 hours
of classroom instruction. The goal is to improve grades and SAT
scores and lower the dropout rate.
Last June, the Academy received an anonymous $1 million gift from
a Willamette alumni couple. This contribution will ensure the future
of the program. Whether it’s inviting the community to visit
the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, or sharing an evening performance
by the Dance Theatre of Harlem, or providing generous financial
aid packages to local students who enroll at Willamette, under President
Pelton’s leadership, University/community partnerships are
now a key component of campus life.
What five-year review would be complete without talking about fundraising.
Over the past five years, Willamette University has received $67
million in charitable giving.
If you pressed the president to name his most significant achievement,
he would not hesitate to talk about his three children. If you forced
him to focus his answer on the institution, he might allude to the
University’s unique culture.
Willamette University is a place that respects and nurtures potential
and welcomes diversity in all things. It is a place that blends
academic rigor, community service, citizenship and faculty/student
interaction with genuine caring and support. By all accounts, President
Pelton has done his part to ensure that Willamette University continues
to be a place that draws people who are destined to make a difference.
- Janis J. Nichols