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Sweet Home Transylvania

Enjoying their class of 1981 reunion are, from left, Janet Sears Bitzko, Amy Black Cross, Jeff Reeves, and Kim Noss Blankenship.

Alumni return to their alma mater to reminisce and celebrate

Approximately 600 alumni and guests came to Lexington for four days of Alumni Weekend 2011 events April 28-May 1, beginning with the traditional outing at Keeneland Race Course on Thursday and ending Sunday morning with a Barr Society brunch at the home of President and Mrs. Owen Williams.

The alumni celebration luncheon on Saturday, held in the William T. Young Campus Center, was a perfect setting for alumni to get reacquainted with classmates and favorite professors. It was also a chance for many of them to get to know R. Owen Williams, who was just completing his first year as president of Transylvania.

Williams used his luncheon address to update the alumni on changes taking place at Transylvania, which he said are following a blueprint laid down in the 2009-2012 Strategic Plan prepared during the presidency of Charles L. Shearer, who retired in 2010. 

"All I'm doing is implementing what Charles and the contributors to the strategic plan came up with," Williams said. "They created a wonderful plan for the future. It's one of the reasons I wanted to come to Transylvania, since the plan resonated so well with my values."

Williams cited five areas of focus from the plan: sustainability, technology, diversity, internationalizing the campus, and community outreach.

As an example of sustainability initiatives, he noted that the university has nearly halved its use of paper, which was 2.6 million pages for the previous year. "That's 342 trees a year, and that's not sustainable," he said. "This approach sends the right message to our students and to prospective students."

Williams said that expenditures on technology have gone up about three times just in the past year, providing professors and students with new tools. "Three years from now, we will see almost no textbooks on this or any other campus," he predicted. "Textbooks are going online, becoming digitized, allowing students to interact with each other and the material."

Diversifying a campus like Transylvania's takes a special commitment, Williams said, because the university is so traditionally wedded to the state of Kentucky. This is crucial right now, since the college-bound demographic in Kentucky is dropping significantly. Citing progress, he noted that applications from students outside the state were up by 22 percent this year.

In terms of a global outlook, Williams pointed to study abroad and a more international approach to the curriculum as key factors in plans going forward. He also said that Transylvania will recruit outside the United States to bring international students to campus. "We must provide our students with exposure to the world they're going to be competing in," he said.

Community outreach means forging more bonds with Lexington, which Transylvania is so fortunate to have as its home, Williams said. "Lexington in many ways is one of the most distinguishing features of Transylvania. Most great liberal arts colleges are in rural destinations that are impossible to get to, and don't offer much once you get there, except what's on campus. In Lexington, we have so much to offer."

As an example of new initiatives with Lexington, Williams cited the recently signed agreement with the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning to explore new programs between the two institutions. (See article on page 7.)

Finally, speaking directly to the alumni in the audience, Williams said, "This is your institution. I had a dream to be a college president, but I never really believed it would happen. But had I known, my dream would have been to be president of this college, because it is such a perfect place. I'm thrilled to be here. It is the honor of a lifetime."

At the conclusion of the luncheon, the Alumni Association elected Candice Caine Zaluski '71 president of the Alumni Executive Board and David Johnson '92 president-elect.

Links to Alumni Weekend 2011 Pages

University Awards

Distinguished Achievement Awards

Distinguished Service Awards

Alumni Weekend 2011 photo gallery

Alumni Weekend 2011 photos on Transylvania Alumni Facebook page



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