Charting Our Bold Path Forward: Connect Today, Create Tomorrow
In 1842, the Rev. Adam Poe and a group of Delaware, Ohio, visionaries imagined the formation of a university that would bring education to a new spot on the American frontier. One-hundred-and-seventy-five years later, Ohio Wesleyan University is the heir to a legacy that has prepared transformational leaders who have changed the world. Consistent with the language of our charter, our mission today calls us to offer an education grounded in the liberal arts, accessible to all qualified students, and designed to serve the public good.
In October, more than 1,000 alumni and friends of OWU returned to campus to celebrate the 175th anniversary of our founding and the public launch of the Connect Today, Create Tomorrow campaign. As with any historic anniversary, the occasion gave us an opportunity to look back, to recall our founding values, to celebrate the accomplishments in response to those values, and to acknowledge the countless people who have shaped this institution throughout its storied past. The dedication of the Gillespie Honors House and the recognition of nine individuals and families for induction into the Founders’ Circle reminded us of the more recent legacies that sustain and advance our historic commitments.
While we celebrate the rich history we inherit, this ultimately is a time for looking forward. Today we look to a future that retains our historic values and offers an education that prepares students for leadership in the middle of the 21st century. Today’s students will enter a workplace that will be transformed by artificial intelligence and big data. They must graduate with both the skills requisite for their first job and the capacities necessary to adapt and grow as the job landscape changes and they ultimately work in settings most of us cannot even imagine.
This is a season when the values of a liberal arts education are more important than ever. And it is a season when our society, more than ever before, hungers for a new generation of moral leaders for a global society. In short, it is a season that calls for the values inherent in an OWU education, and for the leadership characteristic of OWU alumni.
It is toward these high purposes that our celebratory weekend turned its attention from a historic milestone to a course for Ohio Wesleyan’s future and to the resources necessary to achieve its destiny. The Connect Today, Create Tomorrow campaign is the largest fundraising campaign in OWU history. As its name suggests, this campaign will lead Ohio Wesleyan into the dynamic and rapidly changing world of the future, allowing OWU to fulfill its high calling as a premier undergraduate university that educates leaders for every sector of our society.
Throughout its history, the heart and soul of Ohio Wesleyan has been reflected in the strength of its teaching faculty. We must ensure that we continue to recruit and retain the very best faculty, faculty who are devoted to students and to the enterprise of teaching, who ensure excellence in our curriculum, and who have the courage and vision to innovate in ways that respond to the changing needs of our time.
Central to this vision is The OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan’s signature program pairing rigorous classroom instruction with robust, practical, real-world experiences. Through The OWU Connection, students are challenged to think big (learning to solve complex global problems with intellectual versatility), go global (developing the capacity for international engagement) and get real (gaining hands-on experience through internships and undergraduate research). Toward this end, we will add significantly to our new OWU Career Connection and guarantee that every student has the opportunity to complete a robust internship or research experience in preparation for a meaningful job and a fulfilling life.
Our democratic society is built on the proposition that education is the ladder of opportunity and should be accessible to all qualified students. With family incomes stagnant and with dramatic demographic changes in our society, the single largest element of the Connect Today, Create Tomorrow campaign is endowments to provide financial assistance for academically talented students whose families simply are unable to fully fund a college education. This commitment serves our students; it also advances the common good.
Our physical campus is our laboratory for learning. While the digital age offers important opportunities for learning through technology, there remains no substitute for the experience of engaged, face-to-face learning in the period of transition from late adolescence to full adulthood. The college campus is one of America’s most important treasures. We must continue to invest in our campus, preserving our magnificent historic academic buildings and athletics facilities, and enriching the residential campus where the students spend the largest amount of time.
I am thrilled with and humbled by the early results of the Connect Today, Create Tomorrow campaign, which surpassed the $140 million mark before our public launch and was nearing $145 million as this issue went to press. (For the latest on campaign progress and priorities, visit owu.edu/campaign.) More importantly, I am inspired by the lofty vision shared by our Board of Trustees and faculty. It is this vision for the future that drives our campaign, and it is this vision that allows Ohio Wesleyan to retain its historic position as a beacon of hope for an increasingly complex, interrelated, and interesting world.
As you read this issue of OWU Magazine, I invite you to consider your place in this legacy, and I invite you to join us as, together, we Connect Today, and Create Tomorrow.
President, Ohio Wesleyan University