John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Here’s to the Enduring Influence of the Faculty!

I find myself writing a series of posts inspired by my brief participation in my 45th college reunion. This one is about another type of influence faculty have on students, a very tangible and lasting one.

My alma mater is a small, private, liberal arts college. In the past decade four new buildings have been built which have transformed this little campus and insured its prosperity and educational effectiveness for many more years to come. I had the occasion to see these new buildings this past weekend and I took them in with a sense of wonderment, awe, pride, respect, and great appreciation to those who made them possible. And all these buildings were built due to the generosity of alumni who have cherished memories of their times at alma mater, and especially of their faculty who were the ultimate inspiration of these gifts.

I find myself writing a series of posts inspired by my brief participation in my 45th college reunion. This one is about another type of influence faculty have on students, a very tangible and lasting one.

My alma mater is a small, private, liberal arts college. In the past decade four new buildings have been built which have transformed this little campus and insured its prosperity and educational effectiveness for many more years to come. I had the occasion to see these new buildings this past weekend and I took them in with a sense of wonderment, awe, pride, respect, and great appreciation to those who made them possible. And all these buildings were built due to the generosity of alumni who have cherished memories of their times at alma mater, and especially of their faculty who were the ultimate inspiration of these gifts.

I have often reminded administrators that by and large students don’t come back to see them at Homecoming. It’s the faculty they return to see—and their fellow students of course.

I know we don’t think of the faculty as the lead development officers, as the people who bring in the bucks. But at my alma mater they certainly have been. In the past decade, in large part due to the enormous generosity generated by five faculty, four magnificent new buildings have come on line as the result of four donors and their abiding love for certain facult: a new library, new science building, new taj mahal rec center, and a planetarium. One of these buildings is even named for the two faculty that inspired the donor.

Just what is it that the faculty do for students who when they become really wealthy would want to give back in such a manner?

• The faculty were always there for these former students. They were in their offices available, willing, and interested to talk. And they did talk with these students.
• They had these students into their homes for meals and conversation and fellowship with their families.
• They encouraged, praised, pushed, prodded, affirmed, consoled, cheered, supported, guided, supported these former students.
• They liberated these students intellectually.
• They inspired these students to make a difference in the lives of others.
• They inspired these students to hang in there, stick it out.
• They never doubted these students.
• They were always there when needed.
• They maintained interest in these students for a lifetime.
• They showed these students how to return the gift.

Of course the modern college hires a cohort of professional development officers. But the ones that really bring in the bucks are the faculty. For this reason alone, how can colleges in good sense take any actions that actually offer disincentives to faculty to engage in more faculty-student contact? All this emphasis on pursuit of more research dollars now, which often takes time away from students now, is just one more example of the corporatization of the academy. It is an example of short range money making strategies, for reporting to the next meeting of the board. I can’t but wonder if this doesn’t interfere though with the long range funding interests of the institution, those gifts that will surely roll in years later, if only we have intentionally developed a campus culture where the faculty are allowed to do what they do best under ideal circumstances: serve as the real development officers.

-John N. Gardner

One Comment

  1. ALFRED MALLJanuary 8, 2013 at 12:46 pmReply

    GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH FACULTY ENHANCES STUDENT RATE OF SUCCESS

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