A Message from President John Sellars
The sun shone brightly, the wind calmed down and the temperatures were perfect for what was a glorious Homecoming Weekend in so many ways. I would like to thank faculty, staff and students, our great alumni and friends, and members of our Board of Trustees for all they did to make this, by any measure, one of the most successful Homecomings in Graceland history.
The Graceland Forever capital campaign launch was one of the truly powerful events I have been involved in since I became president in 2007. The messages and testimonies shared by Board Chair Ken McClain, Campaign Chair Bob White, Board Member Jay Newcom, alumna Pam Ash and alumnus Stu Waite, all struck a chord of unity and high hope for a new era of Graceland growth and success. Dean of the C.H. Sandage School of Business Steve Anders, Dean of the School of Nursing Claudia Horton and veteran educator and Head Women's Volleyball Coach Stew McDole shared messages of Graceland's history and future and of the critical importance of the liberal arts as an integral component of what Graceland provides our students to ensure their future success and happiness.
GU's new Campus Minister Matt Frizzell's invocation also carried a message of unity and strength, a strength we all share because of our common belief in a God who we know watches over the Graceland community in a very special way.
And didn't our student speakers do a fantastic job at the campaign launch? Shay Eskridge and Jonathan Bowman spoke from their hearts about how Graceland has helped shape their lives. Weren't the twins from Hungary, Sari and Dori Bosnyak, wonderful as they shared the story of their family, their journey to Graceland, and how their lives have been enhanced on "the Hill?" Thank you also to Director of Bands Frank Perez and the sounds of the Graceland Jazz Band, for keeping the pace of the event lively.
I want to extend my very special thanks to VP for Institutional Advancement Kelly Everett and his outstanding IA staff for planning and executing a truly memorable event. The launch of Graceland Forever: The Campaign for Graceland University, and the announcement that we have already reached nearly 55 percent of our ambitious goal of raising $75 million, moves us forward on a course of financial strength and confidence. Graceland's future is bright!
My thanks to Alumni Programs Director Paul Davis for his hours of work throughout the year that culminates with a whirlwind, three-day festival of activities, events and parties to honor Graceland's tremendous alumni and friends. Thanks also to the Homecoming Planning Committee for their hours of dedication.
At the Alumni Forum Saturday morning Marian Killpack described a very special person on campus, Pat Hoffman, and all she does (and has done for more than three decades) in the CAP Center, and with her avid support for athletics. Alumni Board President Karla Fennick then presented Pat with the annual 'Behind the Scenes' award. My sincere thanks, Pat, for all you do, and congratulations on this high honor. And congratulations to students Lynley Closson, Parker Grundman and Rebecca Ferguson for receiving the Alumni Endowed Scholarships this year. You are all wonderful members of our community.
Thank you to the many campus volunteers who helped keep all the activities ticking smoothly and on schedule. Your devotion to Graceland is much appreciated. Director of Facility Services Kurt Remmenga and his dedicated crews did a wonderful job, as always, of making our campus beautiful and inviting. They rose to the additional challenge of working around the major construction taking place at the Shaw Center, a 14-month transformation that will result in one of the most beautiful and functional performing arts and campus gathering venues in the Midwest. To Darrin Dickerson and his Sodexho employees, many thanks for the great job you did to provide superb food for the myriad events.
Thank you to Dean of Students Marian Killpack and Student Life and Student Activities Director Brad Carr and his hard-working crews, and COSA, for all their good work with the brilliant array of fun and entertaining events. The Airband competition was once again a huge hit. It is events like Airband that make Graceland such a unique place. Congratulations to brother-sister houses Agape, Amici and Khiyah for your victorious production of Star Wars. I am so proud of our 'House' residential-and-social-life system at Graceland. It is an 'every student is involved, and included' system that is the envy of other universities.
Thanks to Religious Life staff, interns and volunteers for organizing the excellent worship service Sunday at the Lamoni Community of Christ congregation. And, a big thanks to our Admissions team. They were hard at work all weekend welcoming prospective students and their families.
A big congratulation and thanks to the players, coaches and entire athletic staff at GU, led by Athletic Director Jeff Falkner, for an outstanding job. There was never a dull moment as one athletic event after another kept us all rooting for our teams, and alumni teams. We are proud of our student athletes and how they make Graceland shine. And, I heard guests all weekend remarking on our outstanding athletics facilities.
A special round of applause would be appropriate to commend our Fine Arts Division in general for the music events, visual arts exhibitions and theatre production of the Homecoming play, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. What a fun show. Nice job Theatre Coordinator Tracy Salter and all those who assisted you in the challenging job of putting on a first-rate production in the Memorial Student Center Main Room. Area residents, students, alumni and friends could not have enjoyed it more.
And most of all, thanks to our students, our Graceland students, the heart and soul of our university, for bringing us all together as a community with the common purpose of celebrating all that is Graceland. It was a wonderful weekend.
I know I have left people out. There was so much going on this weekend. The events and fellowship we all shared is still swirling through my mind. Let me just say, thank you all. My sincere thanks to all Gracelanders who made Homecoming 2011 a weekend to remember.
John Sellars, Ph.D.