State of the College Address 2011

Welcome to you all to this State of the College update.

In our tradition, we always remember that we are in the presence of God. Today I would like to ask God to bless all in this community: students, faculty, staff and all who participate in the work of this College.


When I began in this position more than six years ago, I underlined the importance of our mission as something which we should all understand and support. We come to understand it and support it in a myriad of ways. Our mission asks us:

To probe deeply the mystery of existence by cultivating the ways of knowing and the arts of thinking.

To affirm and foster the Christian understanding of the human person which animates the educational mission of the Catholic Church.

To create a student-centered educational community whose members support one another with mutual understanding and respect.

 This remains a profound statement of mission and sets the bar high for all of us who are engaged in the mission.

We are a complex interwoven community: driven by values of a Lasallian, Catholic and liberal arts institution. Each one of the interlocking circles has a particular role to play in this community and thus a particular perspective on the life and health of the community. As a community, we all have the responsibility for the health of the institution and, ultimately, for the success of our students.

Many of us came to appreciate the whole of the mission by entering through one of the circles and have then come to participate in and embrace all aspects of the mission. It may be through the liberal arts circle that you have come, and then discovered the rich Lasallian and Catholic heritage, or perhaps it was through interest in Catholic higher education that you came, and discovered the deep Lasallian and liberal arts traditions. The number of programs, institutes and events to foster awareness and understanding and commitment to the mission have grown in recent years. To cite a few, the Cummins Institute, the Henning Institute, the Institute for Religious Pluralism, the Committee on Inclusive Excellence, Expressions of Blackness, the annual in-service days, the Rummery Retreats, Mission and Ministry retreats, CILSA, Summer Science research, this coming weekend's Collegiate Seminar Retreat and a new event next week, a retreat for Spanish-speaking workers from Buildings and Grounds, Sodexo and Able janitorial services.

As you can see, we have many stakeholders and participants in this community.

The Brothers, for example, bring the vision and life commitment which has inspired the College since they came in 1868. We Brothers are members of a religious congregation with a global mission of Lasallian education which touches more than 80 countries, almost 100,000 partners and 1 million students. At this time in the history of the College, we are the fewest in number of many groups associated with the College.

The Board of Trustees, 25 in number, are ultimately responsible for the governance of the institution, as fiduciaries. Last weekend we held a retreat at which we discussed the academic profile of the College, the financing and tuition models, the athletics programs and the meaning of the Catholic mission of higher education. The board is an eager and very interested group.

The Faculty, partners with the Brothers in this mission have the primary responsibility for delivering the curriculum. The close relationship of the faculty to the students devolves directly from our Lasallian mission as "student-centered" and remains a point of pride for Saint Mary's. At our "honors at entrance" receptions, the current students always speak of their relationship to faculty members as an important factor in their Saint Mary's experience.

The Students are our reason for existing and are at the center of the mission of Saint Mary's. They are a diverse mix, in age, interest, religious orientation, geographical origin, economic background and ethnic origin. We know that while undergraduates are with us, there is a significant increase in students' perceived importance of :

  • influencing social values
  • helping others who are in difficulty
  • writing original works and creating artistic work
  • helping to promote racial understanding
  • improving understanding of other countries and cultures, and
  • integrating spirituality into their lives.

These are all data points in the CIRP (Cooperative Institutional Research Program) study.

The Public: In this category I can include the local townships, the East Bay, governmental agencies, foundations and corporations, and the media. As we have become a more visible and influential institution, the interest by the various public groups has grown. Perhaps the best example might by the very successful Senatorial debate which was held here last fall. We had a chance to show off not just our beautiful campus but also the efficient and cordial staff and students who worked magnificently as a team. Last month, I visited the Commission on Presidential debates in Washington, D.C. , and we discussed the importance of having a great team on campus who can pull off such an event. I think we will score well in that category. But the public are also those who visit the campus. Last month, there were more than 3,000 grade school children who attended the excellent Jan Term production of Snow White, and there be thousands who attend the current Civil War exhibit in the art gallery. Added to this will be a Civil War re-enactment on Saturday, March 19. The public is discovering the richness which resides here. I also include public servants and governmental officers in this category. Yesterday, I had a conversation with Congresswoman Nancy Skinner regarding the Cal Grant in the ongoing budget talks at the state level. This is a very important grant for Saint Mary's students, as there are more than 500 who receive Cal Grants, totaling more than $5 million dollars. At this time the Cal Grant is not being threatened, but should the referendum proposed by the governor not pass, we would most likely see more cuts to higher education allotments by the state.

The Staff. You are more than 600 strong and in many ways the backbone of the institution. I am particularly impressed by the efficiency and commitment to Saint Mary's exhibited by our staff. Last week we held staff service awards. The stories shared at this event are always inspiring.

Our Regents are more than 40 and they serve in a variety of capacities: as ambassadors and as participants in a host of committees. In this category, I also add the many advisory boards which support SEBA, SOLA, KSOE, SOS, Athletics, the art gallery. The participation of these stakeholders has been increased in recent years through work by the Advancement Office and deans. Many corporation leaders and individuals have joined these groups and have brought energy and resources to the College.

Alumni: Our alumni number more than 40,000. Some are local and participate regularly in College events, whether social, academic, athletic or spiritual. During the last two years the Advancement Office has organized a series of alumni events across the country, highlighted by faculty presentations on topics of interest. These events have been well attended and I have heard many positive responses to our faculty presentations. Thanks to you many faculty members who have given of your expertise. It's a great way to engage our alums.
So I have come full circle to let you know who our stakeholders are. All of them have an interest in the health of Saint Mary's College and in the success of our students and our mission.

How Are We Doing?


The enrollment picture is positive. Our graduate and professional student numbers are on target and our undergraduate numbers are stable and even above target for the year. These numbers remain volatile because of the economy. The quality of students is very high in all programs.


This remains a challenge for the College. We know that because of the economy, many of our students and their families have struggled to find the money to pay tuition. And we are a tuition-driven institution. We don't see any quick fix to this problem. Our donors have been generous in giving for financial aid, but there hasn't been enough to cover all of the requests for aid. Our internal financial management is quite competent, and we have a stable budget, with some depreciation and strategic initiative funding available this year.

Quality of Experience

The quality of the Saint Mary's experience is positive. We have a very talented faculty and very qualified staff. We have distinctive programs in academics which are beginning to get the recognition they deserve. We have a committed Student Life staff who are looking to improve the student experience for both residential and day students, at the undergraduate and graduate level. We have very successful artistic, recreational and athletic programs, which have enhanced the overall experience for all associated with the College. Often the athletic programs get the most media attention, and I would like to congratulate the student athletes and the coaches and staff for representing the college well. I suppose that many of you noticed the accolades for our men's basketball coach, Randy Bennett, who was named Coach of the Year for the league, and for guard Mickey McConnell, who was named Player of the Year. On the women's side, Senior Louella Tomlinson has been setting national records all year and was recently recognized on Australia Day with the Spirit Award given to one Australian on the West Coast who embodies the spirit of Australia.

The quality of the experience at Saint Mary's depends on the mission commitment of all here, and I congratulate your commitment. The quality of the experience also depends on communication that is marked by open, civil, honest, challenging and respectful dialogue, and engagement with each other in respectful ways.


The outlook for facilities is cautious. We do indeed have a very beautiful campus without a doubt. So I give thanks to all who keep it that way as well as to those who have envisioned this campus from the beginning. When we first came here in 1928, the story goes that the Brothers came by train to the front of campus. Having come from the Brickpile in downtown Oakland, many were so disappointed with the muddy, swampy field with a couple of buildings in the center that they tried to get back on the train and go back to Oakland. We are thankful for the vision and commitment of those Brothers who ensured that we actually stayed here!

Our challenge is to keep our facilities up to date and to provide new facilities for the library, recreation, academics and residence life. We are making progress over the last few years, with Filippi Academic Hall, residence hall improvements, and dining and kitchen facilities. But there is much to do.

Where Are We Going?

So where are we going? Here is my vision.

The Community

We will be known as a community of educators in the Catholic higher education tradition, where a dialogue of faith and culture takes place in an institution with a Catholic ethos.

We will be known as a community of educators in the Lasallian tradition. As the Lasallian partners of the Christian Brothers, the faculty and staff will be well educated in the values of the college's mission, and the will have participated in a variety of mission awareness programs.

We will be known for our collaboration with Lasallian institutions across the globe and for our leadership in training Lasallian partners.

We will be known for the quality of our students, who will be a diverse mix, reflecting the increasingly diverse population of California and the western United States. Among our diverse students, we are aware of the significant growth of the Hispanic population in California and the West and will be responsive to their need for an accessible institution of Catholic higher education. We will also seek to enroll a greater population of international students.

We will be known for our outreach to the Church and community, local, national and international. We will work to develop stronger partnerships with Church, business, community and government entities, both local and international.

We will be known for the quality and commitment of our Board of Trustees and Regents and for the engagement and support of our alumni and friends. Clearly, these are important stakeholders who must guarantee the future of the College.

We will remain a relatively small institution. Our undergraduate student population will not grow significantly, certainly not more than 3,000. We will preserve a residential campus with a target of between 60 and 70 percent of students living on campus. We will see moderate (20 to 30 percent) but steady growth in our graduate and professional programs.

We will continue to be accessible to the poor and underserved and the working class, with a significant (25 percent) population of Pell Grant-eligible students.

We will continue to sponsor competitive Division I athletic programs, club sports and recreational sports programs.

We will utilize the 150th anniversary to bring significant, positive, local and national attention to the College. We will expand philanthropic support from many sources, including alumni, parents, friends, foundations and corporations, as well as increase the amount of grants from government entities. We will also generate funding for academic and support services and financial aid, both through annual giving and endowment.

The Curriculum

We will be known for our distinctive approach to a liberal arts education, highlighted by our Collegiate Seminar program and our January Term.

We will be known for excellence and relevance in our programs and the integrative learning across the curriculum.
Our academic experience will provide for a dialogue of faith and reason, examination of serious contemporary issues and culture, and the promotion of social justice.

Our graduate and professional programs will be known for their outreach to the community and the relevance of their offerings. They will be flexible in their ability to tailor courses to students' needs and the needs of the community, both local and global.

We will be provide resources to assist students to achieve success in all of our programs and in the overall student experience. Academic advising and student support services will address the needs of all students, whether residential or commuter, undergraduate or graduate.

The Campus

We will continue to be known for the beauty and architectural coherence of our campus.

In our sesquicentennial campaign, we will generate funding for two major capital projects: a new recreation and aquatics center and a new learning commons as part of an expansion to the library. In the short term, we will also seek funding for an Athletic and Performance Center as an addition to McKeon Pavilion.

Long-term facilities goals will include a campus home for the School of Economics and Business Administration, enhanced facilities for communications and technology and for performing arts, additional residence life facilities, and conference facilities.
Our facilities, whether new or renovated, will be sustainable and ecological.

We will be a campus with a global reach through advanced technological improvements and the use of on-line learning in a variety of programs.


I am convinced that all of this can happen, because many of these goals are already being achieved. We have the right people on board and good momentum in many areas. I want to thank all of you for your commitment as part of this community and for attending today.

Brother Ronald Gallagher, FSC