Mind & Heart Newsletter: May 2021
As I write this exciting end note on the 2020-21 academic year, I am simply in awe of the ways God has blessed the Whitworth community this year. Despite what was perhaps the most disruptive crisis Whitworth has ever faced, this year was marked not only by sustained and undisrupted residential, in-person instruction, but also by successes and achievements that would be celebrated in any normal year. Historians may take note of the many changes we made to safety and health protocols, or the ways our faculty members provided innovative instruction, or the strange masks that appear in every photo, but if the year's accomplishments are the only thing they examine, they might just think it was one of Whitworth's best years ever and they wouldn't be wrong.
As you read this short report, I know you will be thankful Whitworth has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic so well. It wasn't easy. Faculty, staff and students stepped up in admirable ways to allow the campus to function. Like so many of you, people here are tired and a little worn out. With continued optimistic signs that we are closer to the end of the pandemic than the beginning, and with the rollout of safe and effective vaccines, Whitworth is planning for a return to normal operations this fall. Before then, I pray that everyone can get some much needed rest and renewal and reconnect with loved ones. That's my prayer for you, too.
Finally, this will be my last report to you as Whitworth's president. It has been the honor of a lifetime for Julie and me to serve you for the past 11 years. Our children have grown up on campus, we have one Whitworth alumna (and counting), and our lives have been forever blessed by knowing so many remarkable people in the Whitworth family. As we transition back to Birmingham and to Samford University, please know how much we love you. Once a Whitworthian, always a Whitworthian. May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Thank you for your unwavering support.
Student and Faculty Recognition
Although academic pursuits looked different in many ways this year, Whitworth's students and faculty members continued to shine in their fields. The forensics team had an incredible season as they competed in an online format, taking first place for the eighth time in nine years at the National Christian College Forensics Association's tournament and claiming the No. 1 spot in the International Public Debate Association's season-long standings. Business administration and computer science double major Tricia Cebotari '24 won the junior varsity division of the IPDA's national tournament, and psychology major Chauncella Koulibali '22 was the top overall competitor at the NCCFA national tournament.
In the sciences, two students received distinguished honors at the Murdock College Science Research Conference. Biology major Ryan Bax '21 won the John Van Zytveld Life Sciences Award for his oral presentation, and chemistry major Drew Craddock '21 won the Murdock Poster Prize for Organic Chemistry. And just this month, a new chapter of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, was installed at Whitworth, with 10 faculty members and 11 students inducted. We are excited for how this membership will allow Whitworth to continue to build its research culture and expand its network.
In the arts, our music, art and theatre students learned how to showcase their talents through digital means. Audience members from around the world were able to enjoy Whitworth's theatre and music productions via livestream, and our senior art majors displayed their work both in the Bryan Oliver Gallery and on the gallery's blog. Voice performance major Chloe Millard '22 was selected from a nationwide audition process to join the Opera Neo festival as a studio artist this summer. And Professor of Music Brent Edstrom was named Whitworth's next Amy M. Ryan Endowed Professor. He will succeed fellow creative and Professor of English Laurie Lamon '78, who used her inaugural tenure to invite alumni back to campus to give readings of their works.
Additional accolades for faculty include recognition of two of our professors of history. Dale Soden was awarded the Washington State Historical Society's highest honor, the Robert Gray Medal, and Anthony Clark was elected as a Royal Historical Society Fellow. Associate Professor of Psychology Elizabeth Campbell '05 won the Washington Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Educator of the Year Award. And Associate Professor of Sociology Jason Wollschleger received Whitworth's 2021 Provost's Award for Scholarship, which he will use to explore data he has compiled related to the role of the Black church in the civil rights movement.
School of Business Accreditation
In the fall, the School of Business achieved a long-standing goal when it was granted accreditation by the world's leading organization for assessing the quality of business programs. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) is the gold standard for quality among business programs, extended to only about 5 percent of business programs worldwide. AACSB accreditation was named as a strategic priority for the university in 2011. Since then, the School of Business has made strong curriculum revisions, hired new staff and faculty members, and created a culture of high-quality research among the faculty. It has been exciting to watch the business school's ascent, which I'm confident will continue.
Additional Honors and Awards
Whitworth continues to stand out in regional college rankings and gain recognition on the national level. In its 2021 rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Whitworth the fourth best regional university in the West and the third best value for 2021, up from fourth in 2020. In its web-exclusive ratings, Whitworth tied for No. 3 among the West's regional universities for its strong commitment to undergraduate teaching, ranked No. 2 for best colleges for veterans, and tied for No. 8 for most innovative schools. And for the third time in four years, Whitworth was a recipient of the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, awarded last fall. This national honor recognizes U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Exceptional Generosity Marks Final Year of The Campaign for Whitworth
2020-21 was characterized by two distinct acts of generosity worth noting. On one hand, nearly 1,000 members of the Whitworth family participated in One Pine Day, our annual February giving event. This was the largest number of participants since our first giving day event in 2015. On the other hand, Whitworth received its first eight-figure gift, a $10 million commitment from David and Dana Dornsife in support of the new health sciences building, which broke ground last summer, and our developing doctoral programs in occupational and physical therapy. Both are worth celebrating, as they helped us surpass $155 million in gifts and pledges from more than 22,500 donors to the 11-year campaign, which wraps up at the end of June. It's not too late to join the celebration and make your own gift to The Campaign for Whitworth, especially as we seek to thank 14 important retirees for their many years of service. Visit www.whitworth.edu/crowdfunding for details.
In October, we dedicated the Whitworth Athletics Leadership Team Center (the WALT), named in honor of trustee Walt Oliver '67. The $13 million, state-of-the-art facility houses the coaches and staff of the university's 22 athletic programs, as well as a football locker room, conference rooms, public lounges and a team room. Coaches and students have made great use of the WALT this year and have expressed appreciation for how it has provided Pirate athletics with a sense of a home. Thank you to the generous donors of the Whitworth community who have enabled Whitworth's coaches and athletes to continuously excel in their sports.
On the other side of campus on Hawthorne Road, construction finished this spring on Whitworth's new bookstore and cafe, The Pines. The bookstore is open now, and the cafe is expected to open to campus and the public by the beginning of fall semester.
OCE Receives $1 Million Grant
The Whitworth Office of Church Engagement secured a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. last fall to help establish the "Resilient Church: Discovering the Past, Discerning the Present, Designing for the Future" program, funded through Lilly Endowment's Thriving Congregations Initiative. The first Resilient Church cohort of seven churches has since been selected and will begin their two-year exploration of church resilience at the Whitworth Ministry Summit in June.
Pirates Make the Most of Limited Seasons
Always hungry for competition, Whitworth's student-athletes eagerly awaited the ability to begin their seasons this year after fall sports were pushed back due to the pandemic. Fall and winter sports played condensed schedules during the spring against the Northwest Conference's Washington members amid COVID-19 protocols. The football, volleyball, men's basketball and swimming teams all posted the best records in those sports, although there were no official conference championships. Individual standouts included swimmer Jamie Siegler '21, who broke her own NWC record in the 100-yard breaststroke; women's volleyball player Maddie Lee '22, who led the NWC in total kills; and women's soccer player Jadyn Baumgartner '21, who led the conference in goals.
Spring sports played more traditional schedules, and both the softball and women's tennis teams advanced to the NWC tournament championship matches. Men's golf won the season-ending NWC tournament, with Reilly Hegarty '20 earning medalist and NWC Player of the Year recognition as a graduate student taking advantage of his extra year. Similarly, Nick McGill '20 won the NWC decathlon for the second year in a row, leading the Pirate men's track & field team to a runner-up finish. Sara Gayer '21 earned first team All-Northwest Conference in softball, while Jaxsen Sweum '22 claimed the same honor in baseball.
I'm proud of the outstanding accomplishments of these student athletes, as well as the tremendous resilience our students, athletic trainers and coaching staff showed as they adapted to the numerous changes required of them. Like last year, the conference decided against awarding a McIlroy-Lewis All-Sports Trophy this spring, but the Pirates look forward to resuming their quest for another coveted trophy next year. Go Bucs!
In the fall, and despite a worldwide pandemic, we welcomed Whitworth's sixth largest class of incoming first-year students and largest class of new transfer students in university history. We were thrilled to see so many students realize their dreams of becoming Whitworth Pirates. These new students added to the rich diversity of our student body; over half of them are first-generation college students, from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic populations or international students. If you're in touch with a senior who is considering (or reconsidering) their college options for next year, let them know Whitworth has space, financial aid, opportunities to visit and answers to any questions they have. Connect with admissions at email@example.com or 509.777.4786.
Difficult Conversations About Race
In addition to the public health challenges that have plagued our communities, another sickness – this one not as novel, but no less serious – also deservedly drew our attention this year. Although Whitworth's efforts in this area are far from finished, our community had important and productive conversations, and made some critical changes, to address racism on our campus and in our community. Students often led our efforts to name structural and systemic ways our BIPOC brothers and sisters are discriminated against and the ways Whitworth can live more faithfully into its Christ-centered commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion.
An Exciting Future
I am confident that Whitworth's best days are ahead. By God's grace, and because of the herculean efforts of so many people, Whitworth is poised to have another great year as we emerge from the pandemic. I couldn't be more confident in the trustees' choice of Dr. Scott McQuilkin '84 to lead our campus as they search for Whitworth's 19th president. Please support and pray for Scott and his wife, Janice '85, in the same faithful and generous ways you have supported our family. Thank you.
Beck A. Taylor, Ph.D.