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College to University,1980-89 The Bond Years


The Clarion News headline of June 3, 1980, "Thomas A. Bond Named New President of CSC", announced to the college's various constituencies that a new era was about to commence. Dr. Bond, 42, was relatively young as college presidents go. A native of St. Louis, he had earned an undergraduate geology degree form the University of Missouri and graduate geology degrees from the University of Oklahoma. He had held higher education leadership positions in Georgia, Idaho, Texas, and Illinois prior to being nominated for the Clarion presidency. The position he held immediately prior to the Clarion presidency was provost and vice president at Eastern Illinois State College.

Bond Podium
Dr. Thomas Bond
The title of this section is also a thread of a theme that was used by Bond in describing some of the thrusts of his administration. A few brief citations from interviews with Dr. Bond further illuminated his philosophy and provided clues as to the direction of his administration. "Clarion always has its academic reputation to sell." "Students will come to campus for what you offer, not what you don't offer. There is no substitute for quality." "Learning is the forefront of the institution's purposes and goals." This is the past upon which he was building. "A college has got to be part of the community and vice versa. Part of the president's role is to establish that linkage." A mechanism to work in this direction is to "beef up (continuing education) credit offerings by taking them out into the community." "I hope that they (the students) would feel free to talk to me if they had a problem", and like his predecessor, "I like the size of the school."

Writing at the end of the 1980s, three-time interim president, Dr. Charles Leach, noted "The decade of the 1980s was the decade of President Thomas A. Bond. A good share of what Clarion is today is because of his impact." Highlights of the decade include: a change to university status, a substantial increase in enrollment, a significant number of retirements and replacements, advancement in the realm of academic standards, and introduction of campaigns to raise capital funds. An examination of each of these is warranted.

State System formed; Clarion becomes university

By Legislative Act 188 of 1982, all 14 state colleges were taken from the control of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and placed under the jurisdiction of the newly-created Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. This brought considerable local autonomy to each of the institutions. The Act also changed the status of each of the institutions from state colleges to universities and provided more latitude for the development of academic programs.

Enrollment during the 1980s rose by about 20 percent to an all time high of 6,600 students. Not only were there changes in the number, but the composition of the student body continued to evolve. Increasing numbers of minorities and international students were found on the campus. A university retention plan was developed to meet the needs of these and other students. The decade was also marked by an increasing proportion of non-traditional age college students. By mid-decade they comprised about 10 percent of the student body.

Changing of the Guard

During the Bond administration, approximately 80 faculty and 95 staff members retired. The turnover in faculty and staff provided an opportunity to hire persons with terminal degrees and demonstrated research skills, thus improving the quality of education offered and enhancing the image of the institution. It also provided the opportunity to employ females and minorities as role models for the student body.

The pace of change in the academic realm was rapid during Dr. Bond's tenure. Less than 18 months after taking office an article entitled "A Year of Firsts" appeared in the Dec. 28, 1981, issue of The Clarion News. It listed the following accomplishments: (1) a higher level of proficiency requirement in mathematics and writing, (2) a higher grade point average requirement for upperclassmen, (3) approval of a bachelor of science in nursing program, (4) American Library Association reaccreditation, (5) opening of an international student center, (6) development of 3-2 cooperative engineering programs with other universities, and (7) implementing an evening degree program in business administration.

In subsequent years there was re-accreditation or initial accreditation by the State Bureau of Nursing Education, the National League of Nursing, the International Association of Counseling Services, National Council for Accreditation for Teacher Education, and Middle States.

Academic enhancement continues

If the year 1986-1987 may be considered a typical year, then the pace of academic enhancement did not slacken. In the president's report to the faculty during the September 1987 workshop, he presented a list of academic accomplishments. What follows is a sampling from the original list of 100 items: joining the Wallops Island Consortium (for the sciences) and becoming an affiliate of the Chautauqua Program, seeking and recommending ways to infuse the curriculum with serious writing experiences, completing the first full year of operation for the university Honors Program, providing a range of multicultural experiences under the auspices of the Minority Curriculum Development Program, and sponsoring symposiums focusing on women's issues and on acid rain under the auspices of the office of continuing education. As the report notes, "the accomplishments . . . reflect numerous activities . . . to engage students in excellent learning experiences and to improve, as well as maintain, the high quality of academic programs."

In what may be a unique interstate program, Clarion University helped resolve a problem for the state of Maine. Maine had a shortage of certified school librarians and no ALA approved schools within their borders to prepare the needed personnel. In 1985, Clarion's College of Library Science entered into an agreement with Maine to solve the problem. The university would send faculty to Maine to deliver a school librarian certification program. At a commencement exercise held in Maine two years later 25 master of science in library science degrees were awarded.

Also appearing in the above mentioned article were the following community or regionally oriented activities: (1) operating the Clarion Manor Summer Academy for gifted and talented high school students, (2) publishing the Northwestern Pennsylvania Business and Economic Review, (3) qualifying as a Small Business Development Center and establishing an Entrepreneurial Development Center (business incubator), (4) and being awarded a grant for the university's Rural Libraries and Humanities program.

Other programs of community service that received national recognition during this decade were the Coal Institute, the Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship, and the Pennsylvania Science Teacher Education Program.

University supports community

100th anniv as state school
Clarion celebrated its 100th anniversary as a state school under Bond's presidency.
The campus was supportive of the community in other ways. To meet regional needs the following programs were started: Adult Literacy, Adult Development (in conjunction with PARC), and the speech and hearing clinic. The campus actively contributed to campaigns for Children's Hospital, the American Heart Association, and the Cancer Society.

The attitude of the town, or perhaps that of The Clarion News editors, seems to have changed over the years. In former days any incident involving a college student was destined for the front page with considerable emphasis on the word college. This type of emphasis tended to be replaced with headlines like "Frat Dribbles for Diane," referring to a cash raising effort to defray the medical expenses of a local youth.

In spite of all that had been noted earlier in the local paper about the impact of the university, there always lurked in the background a feeling it was not paying its fair share. After all, its $28.5 million physical plant was not on the tax rolls. In attempting to refute this claim it was reported that, with Clarion's 680 employees, the university had become the largest single employer in the county. The economic impact was estimated to be $114.8 million. This included payroll, purchases, and student spending in the community.

The 1981 article also noted that the institution's first capital fund drive was initiated.

While Dr. Bond, no doubt, provided input for all of the items mentioned in the 1981 article, it must be noted that the change process is slow in higher education. Undoubtedly some of these stemmed from the initiatives of earlier administrations.

Athletics soar under Lignelli

Athletics have been only briefly mentioned in this history, but the topic calls for attention at this point. In 1986 Frank Lignelli retired after twenty years as athletic director, although after a sabbatical he was called back into duty from November 1987 through 1990 to guide the athletic program. During his tenure, Clarion athletes, both male and female, chalked up an enviable record. Support for the athletic program grew under Gemmell's leadership, providing the staffing and financial support necessary.  During Lignelli's tenure these athletes won 11 national team championships, 59 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference titles, and numerous other honors. The overall performance of the athletes in the classroom throughout the history of Clarion has been impressive. A report issued in the 1980s indicated that a high percentage of scholar-athletes graduate.

Large scale building projects were few and far between in the 1980s. For the most part, physical plant activity was limited to renovations to the student center, the Chapel, and Davis, Stevens, and Music Halls. Providing handicap accessibility on a campus-wide basis became a priority.

Dr. Bond, thirteenth president of Clarion University, resigned in the spring of 1989 to become president of Eastern New Mexico University. In the June 1989 issue of the Clarion Magazine some of his accomplishments and comments were noted. Dr. Bond was especially pleased with the strengthening of academics and the relationships built between the university and various regional constituencies. Note the congruence with some threads of Dr. Bond's philosophy cited earlier.

Students change

In discussing the nature of the student body he indicated that students "have changed significantly over the time I was here, . . . I think they're more conservative, . . . they're more interested in getting a good education as quick as they can, . . . they're coming to us better prepared. . ." He might have also mentioned that they were becoming more expensive to recruit and retain. By mid-decade the financial aid budget exceeded $10.5 million.

Dr. Bond warned of potential faculty shortages before the end of the century. He also implied that budget problems are going to be endemic if not epidemic in nature, because "The state has told us that we need to do more with less, but the problem is that we're running out of less."

The budget tended to follow in the wake of inflation, inflation in the traditional sense as well as inflation of services and expectations. When this happened the proportion of the budget coming from the Commonwealth eroded from about 60 percent to less than 50 percent. In response, student costs (room, board, tuition, and other fees) rose sharply.

Planning for the future is always a facet of the college presidency. Support of the University Planning Commission prompted a 1986 report which developed a mission statement plus goals for 15 different areas of operation. They cover the gamut from curriculum to student life, from public service to the physical plant, and from professional development to the Venango Campus. The mission and goal statement served as a tool for interim president, Dr. Leach.

After nine years of "Building on the Past," Dr. Bond had accomplished what every good Boy Scout is expected to do, he left the site in an improved condition. At the time of his departure Clarion University of Pennsylvania was a better institution of higher education.