On Founders Day – and her last day as president before becoming interim chancellor of the State System of Higher Education – Dr. Karen Whitney launched Clarion University’s year-long sesquicentennial celebration by sharing its proud 150-year past and its promising future.
"This day marks the official kickoff to a year-long celebration of our 150th anniversary of teaching, research and service to our community, our state, our nation and the world," Whitney said.
Her three most recent predecessors, presidents Joseph Grunenwald, Diane Reinhard and Thomas Bond, joined the celebration. Sen. Scott Hutchinson read a proclamation and Council of Trustees chair J.D. Dunbar ('77, M.S. '79) gave remarks.
Whitney noted that Clarion University has reinvented itself over the last 150 years, from a private Methodist seminary in 1867, to a normal school preparing teachers in the 1880s, to a teachers college in the 1950s, to a state university in the 1980s when it joined with 13 other state universities in the State System of Higher Education.
"For 150 years we have transitioned and transformed," Whitney said. "Our most recent transformation has been from a broadly oriented state university to a very intentional, highly qualified, professionally focused university. We excel in preparing students to successfully enter careers in teaching, business, and health and human services."
Throughout the changes, Whitney said Clarion has not wavered in its commitment to:
• Enabling more students to obtain more Clarion credentials;
• Ensuring academic program excellence and relevance;
• Continuing to be efficient in how the university operates; and
• Confronting major issues of campus and public concern.
"Going forward, we find ourselves a university with abundant strengths and future opportunities, as well as a university that faces persistent challenges. This is nothing new to Clarion," she said. "The challenges we face aren't unique. What is different is that our sense of purpose and importance to society is so clear and steadfast that we are resilient to any challenges."
She speculated on what the future holds for Clarion.
"We will continue to see more students choosing to enroll in professional preparation programs. Today, 80 percent of our students are in professional programs, and we should expect that number to grow to more than 95 percent," Whitney said.
She predicted other areas of growth to be among graduate students (from 17 percent to 25 percent); male students (34 percent to 50 percent); transfer students (21 percent to 30 percent); and online students (22 percent to 33 percent).
Whitney praised Clarion's faculty as the "intellectual heart and soul of Clarion University," noting that 99 percent of faculty hold the highest degrees one can earn in the field and having earned these credentials from some of the most prestigious universities in the country and the world. She praised the staff as being nimble and focusing on student success, and she praised the students as the embodiment of Courageous. Confident. Clarion.
In closing, Whitney repeated her favorite cheer, which she borrowed from Joseph Grunenwald's tenure.
"This expresses my greatest hopes for every member of the Clarion family, for when I say 'Fly, Eagles, fly,' I am setting in flight the very bright, courageous and confident future of each and every Golden Eagle, no matter how near, no matter how far.