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2009-2010

Letter from President Berkey

Dear WPI Alumni and Other Friends,

As we welcome the Class of 2013 and begin another academic year, I want to bring you some updates on the status and progress of this remarkable institution.

This past year was certainly a trying one in higher education, as well as throughout the economy. Despite the obvious obstacles, WPI continued to advance in many ways. We succeeded in recruiting more than twenty outstanding new members of the faculty, including two new department heads and the first Beswick Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Department of Management; we opened our new residence hall on Boynton Street which recently won LEED certification at the gold level; we have completed an $11.5 million renovation to Goddard Hall to provide an integrated undergraduate laboratory facility, funded by the George I. Alden Trust, our most generous benefactor; the faculty submitted a record number of research proposals to federal agencies, corporations, and foundations; we will welcome the first class of (eleven) Robert and Janet Foisie Scholars this fall; and we have reached the $50 million mark in our $ 200 million capital campaign.

With respect to the economic challenges, WPI has come through this first year of what will surely be a multi-year struggle in very good shape. Although our endowment declined by approximately thirty percent, from about $405 million to approximately $280 million, the WPI Community rallied strongly to minimize the effects of the economic downturn. Our financial aid staff worked assiduously with families in need of assistance, our legislative associates in Boston and Washington D.C. worked effectively to maintain access to grants and loans for students, and all of our departments, faculty, and staff worked together to reduce operating expenses. While maintaining all searches for new faculty, we put a "frost" on staff hiring, filling only the most strategically important open positions. Enrollment remained strong, with significant increases in all areas, including graduate programs and the Division of Corporate and Professional Education. We were able to avoid layoffs, to increase wages and salaries modestly, and to constrain our tuition increase for the coming year to 2.9%, the smallest in decades. Preliminary results for the year ended June 30 indicate a record operating surplus of approximately $8 million (5%) with the operating and capital budgets for the new year well in balance.

I am delighted to report that we have had another banner year in student recruitment, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Graduate enrollments are being aided by a new program of financial incentives for WPI seniors to continue into advanced study with us, primarily at the master's degree level. Our entering freshman class will be the largest in WPI's history, some 930 strong, with outstanding characteristics: 358 had perfect 4.0 grade point averages in high school; 40 were class valedictorians; 31 percent are female—a new record—and 15 percent are domestic students of color. Applications for the Class of 2013 had increased by 10 percent from the previous year and, despite our intention of limiting the class size to 850, the increasing appreciation for the value of a WPI education brought this surprisingly large class of exceptionally well-qualified individuals.

We have begun searches for WPI's first academic deans. Bernard Gordon (honorary, 2007) has generously endowed the Bernard Gordon Dean of Engineering position, which will lead the departments of biomedical, chemical, civil and environmental, electrical and computer, fire protection, and mechanical engineering. The management faculty have proposed, and the administration and Board support, the creation of a business school, led by a dean. The remaining academic departments (the natural sciences, computer science, mathematics, social science and policy studies, and humanities and arts) will be led by a dean of arts and sciences. To fill these new deanships we seek articulate integrators—leaders of vision who will work collaboratively with the provost, the academic department heads, and each other to support and strengthen collaboration within the Institute, and vigorously promote WPI externally in the professions and with the media, corporations, foundations, alumni, and other friends.

Also, Professor Art Heinricher (Mathematics) has been promoted from Associate Dean for the First Year to Dean of Undergraduate Studies, succeeding Provost John Orr; Professor Kristin Wobbe (Chemistry and Biochemistry) has succeeded Art as Associate Dean for the First Year; and Professor Rick Sisson (Mechanical Engineering) has been appointed Dean of Graduate Studies. These six deans, together with Dean Rick Vaz (Electrical and Computer Engineering) in the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division, will comprise a strong academic leadership team under the direction of Provost Orr, a team that will be strongly committed to preserving WPI's collegial, collaborative, and student-centered nature while ensuring that WPI remains well positioned in the vanguard of education, research, innovation in engineering, science, and technology.

WPI has seen increasingly successful performances by student-athletes and coaches over the past several years. In 2008-09, the men's basketball team went to the NCAA tournament for the fifth year in a row, following a 21-6 season; women's basketball set a new program record for victories with a 24-win season and then captured the ECAC Division III New England championship for the second time in three years; the baseball team won more games than any other in the 106-year history of the sport at WPI; and our men's crew competed for the first time at the world renowned Henley Royal Regatta in England in July. This past academic year, a record five student-athletes earned Academic All-America honors for maintaining consistently high GPAs. We are looking forward to another exciting year in WPI athletics.

The details of this brief summary of developments will be unfolded in forthcoming issues of Transformations, in the many programs of outreach to alumni across the nation and around the world, and on our recently redeveloped website. These are some of the ways in which we are trying to increase the active participation by alumni in the life of WPI, to make your relationship to WPI both interesting and rewarding, and to solicit your active support for this marvelous institution. You have much to be proud of and to celebrate! I encourage you to join the WPI alumni chapter, club, or network in your area, to attend WPI events, to register for AlumniConnect and renew communication with fellow alumni and other friends of WPI, to return to campus for Reunion Weekend or Homecoming, and to contribute financially at a level reflecting the value you see in the education you have received and in what is being provided to our outstanding students today. Great universities depend on their alumni, no matter how extensive their resources, to ensure the continuing vitality of these special institutions.

I thank you for all that you do for WPI, and I look forward to our continuing association with you. You have my very best wishes.

 

Yours sincerely,

Dennis D. Berkey

September 10, 2009

 
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