As we close the books on 2011, I want you to know that I am truly honored to have been your president during Fort Lewis College’s centennial year. We now begin a new century at Fort Lewis College. One hundred years ago, Fort Lewis was finishing its first year as a public educational institution in Hesperus, CO. Our centennial year has been a great opportunity to reflect on all the history that has made Fort Lewis College the remarkable institution it is today. There were great triumphs, as well as struggles, but all of it came together to make this College a better institution. Today we look forward to the centennial PLUS ONE—YEAR 101!
We celebrated the centennial through many wonderful events. Kicking off this special year was a birthday party for Fort Lewis, complete with alumni remembrances, a giant birthday cake, and (who could forget) a flash mob (see the flash mob at http://youtu.be/VuUGHQO-1B8). There were cultural events like FLC Theatre’s original production entitled “We Are the Source,” and the Center of Southwest Studies’ exhibit “Frontier Blues: The Legacy of Fort Lewis College.” There were even athletic events centered on FLC’s birthday, as students, alumni and friends of the College formed the Centennial Team for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. I want to extend my personal thanks to all of those who planned and participated in giving us a centennial year to remember.
As we look forward to the next 100 years at Fort Lewis, one major task laid before us was the creation of a new strategic plan for the College. After listening to the ideas and concerns of campus and the community, the Strategic Planning Committee, comprised of students, faculty, staff and community members, came together to create the primary directions and initiatives that the College will work toward over the next five years. In a general sense, the new strategic plan lays out the path that the College will take to strengthen its service to its students and the community. The theme of the strategic planning process was continuing and strengthening the legacy of excellence that is a tradition at Fort Lewis College. At its December meeting, the Board of Trustees endorsed the strategic plan goals. Now we need to go to work to flesh out the goals with action plans. Thank you to everyone who participated in developing the new strategic plan. I appreciate the spirit of cooperation and I am excited about our bright future.
One cannot talk about the future of Fort Lewis College without mentioning the FLC Native American Tuition Waiver program. The College has been actively pursuing federal assistance for the state of Colorado in upholding the tuition waiver. To date, federal legislation has been introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives that would offer federal dollars to help reimburse the state for the waiver. The reasoning behind FLC’s federal efforts is that the benefit of an FLC education is enjoyed nationwide.
Another initiative that reaches beyond the borders of campus is my work with Complete College America (CCA). CCA’s goal is to work with states to increase the number of quality degrees being earned and to help close the attainment gap among traditionally underrepresented populations.
I recently traveled with the Colorado CCA delegation to Texas for the CCA Alliance of States Annual Convening and Fall Completion Academy. The meeting was a great opportunity to confer with representatives from other states and learn the best practices for helping our students. Our Colorado delegation included Kim Poast and Matt Gianneschi from the Colorado Department of Higher Education; Dick Kaufman from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education; Geri Anderson, vice president and provost of the Community Colleges of Colorado; Representative Tom Massey from the Colorado House of Representatives; and Senator Bob Bacon from the Colorado Senate and chair of Senate Education Committee.
External efforts like CCA have much to offer, but by far the greatest influence on our students is our faculty. Fort Lewis College has one of the most exceptional groups of professors in the country and we enjoy the opportunity to recognize their efforts.
Just one example is the 2011 FLC Featured Scholar Dr. Gary Gianniny. Dr. Gianniny is a professor in our Geosciences Department and a prolific researcher. Part of what makes him such a great teacher is his efforts to bring his students into his research work. As a result, many of Dr. Gianniny’s students enjoy the opportunity to publish their research, something that is incredibly valuable to a student in the sciences.
On the athletic side of things, this past semester saw not one, but two national championships! Congratulations go to the FLC Cycling team for capturing yet another USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike title. This makes a total of 18 national championships for cycling! Also, just this month the Skyhawk Men’s Soccer team won their second NCAA Division II national championship in the past three years. The win came in thrilling fashion with a 3-2 overtime victory in the championship game against Lynn University. All of our Skyhawk student athletes performed exceptionally this year, both on the field and in the classroom. I appreciate our athletes’ balance of active bodies and active minds. Our basketball teams are continuing the winning ways right now as the season heats up. For everything Skyhawk Athletics, visit www.goskyhawks.com.
For a century now, Fort Lewis College has been providing a valuable educational service to this region. The triumphs and challenges that this institution has faced and overcome through the years have made it a unique and special place. I very much look forward to stepping foot into our second century with you. Together we will move forward and do good things. Happy Holidays, everyone!
President Dene Kay Thomas