As the fall term comes to a close and students, faculty and staff prepare for Transylvania University’s winter break, we take a look back at the calendar year and a number of milestones in 2023 — from a national championship title to new partnerships that benefit students across Kentucky to gifts that celebrate our Pioneers.
Alumnus brings passion for transformative, interdisciplinary learning back to Transylvania as visiting professor
Returning to Transylvania’s campus is a homecoming of sorts for C. Shawn McGuffey. The Kenan Distinguished Visiting Professor began his educational journey as an undergraduate at Transylvania in the 1990s. McGuffey’s return to Transylvania allows him to give back to an institution that he says prepared him well for life, both professionally and spiritually. He sees the visiting professorship as an opportunity to “grow as a professor, teacher and mentor,” noting that he still appreciates the interdisciplinary overlap at Transylvania. At a liberal arts institution, “you’re learning to think about the world and your place in it,” he said. “Transy prepared me to adapt and be able to have difficult conversations with people who think very differently than I do.”
National Book Award winner Imani Perry gives 2023 Kenan Lecture
Imani Perry, a bestselling author who recently won the National Book Award, gave Transylvania’s 2023 William R. Kenan Jr. Lecture on March 2. Perry’s talk — one of the biggest campus events of the school year — was followed by a moderated conversation and Q&A on March 3. The renowned author received the National Book Award for Nonfiction for her “South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation,” published in 2022.
Transylvania caps off historic season with women’s basketball national championship
Not only did the 33-0 Transylvania women’s basketball team win the NCAA Division III title, but they did so in an NBA arena that was also the venue of this year’s DI Final Four. When the Pioneers arrived, it was to a red carpet reception. When the Pioneers won, streamers showered down on them, and their school’s name and mascot flew around the digital displays of the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
In June, the national champions attended the NCAA College Athlete Day at the White House to celebrate their win.
‘Divine Nine’ fraternity, sorority arrive on campus
Transylvania welcomed a historically Black fraternity and sorority to campus this past school year. Two “Divine Nine” member organizations of the National Pan-Hellenic Council — Kappa Alpha Psi and Sigma Gamma Rho — recruited students and introduced them in ceremonies outside the Campus Center in 2023. Sigma Gamma Rho welcomed five new members in the spring.
Bingham Fund approves $25 million grant for teaching excellence at Transylvania
The board of the Bingham Fund for Excellence in Teaching at Transylvania announced a $25 million, 15-year grant to fund up to 12 Bingham Endowed Chairs for Teaching Excellence at Transylvania University.
Starting in 2024, up to three faculty members will be selected each year based on a rigorous application process by an external committee of excellent peer teachers. These five-year Bingham Endowed Chairs will include base salary, benefits and an additional $25,000 annual award to recognize professors whose outstanding and innovative teaching demonstrates Transylvania’s commitment to the very best student educational experience.
U.S. Department of State IDEAS Program awards Transylvania study abroad grant
Transylvania is one of 34 U.S. colleges and universities in 28 U.S. states to be awarded a 2023 grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students Program, which aims to develop and expand study abroad programs around the world. The selected proposals will develop new international partnerships, train faculty and staff, internationalize curriculum, engage diverse students in study abroad, broaden the destinations where U.S. students study and create virtual and hybrid exchanges.
$1 million gift endows Transylvania mathematics chair honoring professor
A million dollar deferred gift left by a Transylvania alumna will support an endowed chair in mathematics honoring a professor who had a big impact on her career.
Named after the late Charles H. Haggard, the endowed chair was funded by Dona Swiger Cooper ’66 to help retain current faculty and recognize their exceptional ability — while also attracting new, top-notch professors into the department. Cooper, who passed away April 14, credited Haggard with being instrumental in preparing her for a career at IBM and Norfolk Southern, where she was director of security and data services.
Transylvania hosts national seminar on liberal arts, digital technology
Transylvania hosted the inaugural Digital Liberal Arts Summer Institute to foster national dialogue about the role of the liberal arts in the digital age. The initiative is sponsored by the school’s Bingham Fund for Excellence in Teaching.
The Institute’s goal is to advance a broader conversation about the role of technology in teaching at the college level, building on Transylvania’s commitment to preparing students to face the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
Prestigious Teagle Foundation/NEH grant awarded to Transylvania to enhance humanities curriculum
Transylvania will receive $250,000 from a joint endeavor between the Teagle Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities to help students engage with literature, philosophy and history. Transylvania’s initiative will ensure that students gain confidence in approaching and discussing transformative texts, those classic and contemporary works that span borders and reflect the diversity and complexity of the human experience.
Transylvania campus ranks among nation’s most beautiful
A 2023 review of colleges ranks Transylvania’s historic campus among the most beautiful in the nation and the only in Kentucky to make the top 50.
Transylvania faced stiff competition to be named the most beautiful college in the state, which ranked fifth overall in the U.S., according to College Rover. (The South as a region has the best looking schools in the country.)
Transylvania welcomes Class of 2027 to campus
Transylvania welcomed its newest Pioneers, the Class of 2027, in August. Nearly 300 strong, more than 80% of the incoming class hails from Kentucky. Seventeen additional states and three countries — China, Nepal and Canada — are also represented. The incoming class also boosted Transylvania’s total enrollment to more than 1,000 students, a projected 4.5% increase from the previous year.
Transylvania honored with 2023 Social Justice Award from Leading Colleges
Transylvania received the 2023 Leading Colleges Award for Social Justice. The school was one of only 27 colleges in the United States and Canada to receive this designation. The awards were given to institutions based on their “attention to social justice and their role as an agent of change.” Transylvania was the only institution in the Commonwealth to receive a Leading Colleges award in any of the organization’s four categories — recruitment, retention, outcomes and social justice.
Partnership opens doors for Transylvania graduates to further their education at Bellarmine
A new partnership between Transylvania and Bellarmine universities ensures Transy graduates can remain in Kentucky to pursue graduate school through guaranteed admission at Bellarmine.
The collaboration between the two premier independent Kentucky universities includes discounted tuition for many of Bellarmine’s graduate programs, along with opportunities for scholarships and financial aid intended to make graduate school affordable.
Transylvania launches new Bingham Center for Teaching Excellence as next step in providing high-quality education for 21st century
With financial support from the Bingham Fund for Excellence in Teaching, Transylvania is launching the Bingham Center for Teaching Excellence. The new center will focus on faculty development and student success, building on a long history of supporting and rewarding excellent teaching at the university.
The Bingham Center will serve as a central location for faculty mentoring and pedagogical advancement while fostering a culture of evidence-based excellence in teaching and learning. The center and its staff will champion innovative teaching methods well suited to a liberal arts education with the primary goal of enhancing student learning.
Memorial gift endows Transylvania professorship, recognizes teaching excellence
A substantial gift from the estate of William R. “Bill” Stamler Jr. will create a new endowed professorship at Transylvania in either English or theater. Named in memory of Mary Buford Hodges Stamler, a 1925 graduate of Transylvania, the gift recognizes excellence in teaching at Kentucky’s first university.
Stamler, who passed away Feb. 8, served as a past chair of the Transylvania Parents Council and, in 2009, received the Transylvania Medal for Distinguished Service. He also served on the boards of his alma mater, Sewanee (which honored him with its Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016), and of Alice Lloyd College.
Transylvania’s Cowgill Center renovations ready for students to enjoy
Originally built in 1999, the Cowgill Center for Business, Economics and Education received a refresh this summer that included the addition of LED lights and controls, a new ceiling grid and acoustic ceiling tile, luxury vinyl tile flooring and carpet throughout the space, a fresh coat of paint and all-new furniture. The overall effect of these upgrades is impressive to behold.
That’s thanks to the generous donation of Buddy ’65 and Judy Cowgill ’64, who funded renovations to the original construction encompassing classrooms, the building’s lobby and faculty and staff offices.
Transylvania esports program wins back-to-back championships in first two seasons
Transylvania’s esports program won its second conference championships in only two seasons of competition.
The school’s Valorant team beat PennWest Edinboro on Dec. 6 to claim their conference title in the National Association of Collegiate Esports Varsity Plus Division. A total of 16 squads competed in the tournament.