As I pack up the thirty cartons of books I brought with me to Drew, wishing the Kindle had been invented a few decades earlier, I’m reminded of my first week at Drew seven summers ago as I was unpacking them.   And I cannot help but think of the eventful times on campus in between.

In 2005, we didn’t have that new LEED-certified McLendon Hall on campus.  Tolley, Brown, and the Suites were still barely liveable, unlike the much-desired renovated residences they have become. The entire back living areas of the campus have been landscaped anew to form a kind-of village, replete with a small grocery.  The Library lacked what this spring has become the beautiful Kean Reading Room that features the Governor’s papers.  There was no much-loved coffee shop in Brothers College, mingling the academic and the social aspects of campus life.  Where the welcoming, sparkling Ehinger University Center will stand, to be opened this Fall, our not-so-good-old and not-so-welcoming university center then stood, or squatted.   Our chief playing field was pitted and in need of renovation where now the new rich  turf with a great centered Drew insignia has been unfurled.

In fact, in 2005, we had not yet formed the Landmark Conference with seven other colleges and universities, a conference now seen as a model for presidential involvement and sound academic policy.  And in 2005, it would be seven years before we would bring home a championship in baseball, as we just did this past spring, a worst-to-first transformation reminiscent of the 1969 Mets.

Academically in 2005, we had no Environmental Studies major and no integrated campus sustainability effort, no business major or public health minor, no Baldwin Honors program, no Civic Scholars program or Center for Civic Engagement, no Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict, no Master of Arts in Teaching Program, no Poetry and Translation MFA, and our Masters in Ministry programs had not yet been thoroughly revised and renewed.  All now present, populated, and accounted for.

In 2005, our theatre program had not yet been named as the best in the country by the Princeton Review.  And while our faculty was productive in its scholarly work, major publications have increased dramatically over the last seven years.  One thing hasn’t changed, the extraordinary dedication and ability of Drew’s professorial teachers; but now, more than ever, they bring into the classroom the ongoing discoveries and controversies of their disciplines, an ongoing invitation to our students to engage in the ongoing life of the mind.

Those students are the same and yet different too—still very bright and very versatile, but far more diverse than ever before.  The number of male students has rebounded, and Drew is gradually growing its international cohort.  Taken together, our students represent the America that now exists rather than one or another sliver of it, and they afford each other the huge leadership value of learning how to embrace difference.  And according to the latest National Survey of Student Engagement, Drew students study more, work more closely with their faculty mentors, and express greater satisfaction than in 2005 or at any time in Drew’s past.

Finally, the three schools that comprise Drew are working together in a range of new ways.  Last year the Theological School and CLA made their first joint faculty appointment, and plans are afoot for a considerably greater number of team-taught courses among the schools.  The notion of a Uni-versity has been strengthened.

In all, Drew seems to me now to be fulfilling a role that my fine predecessor Tom Kean spoke to eloquently, to be a private university of great public benefit.  We have increasingly connected the academic liberal arts to the messy real world.  Befitting its heritage, Drew is responding more energetically than ever to the urgent challenges of our times, while employing the learning of all times to bring to bear on those challenges.

To that I would add the joy, the laughter, the comraderie of so many moments I have been granted in these seven years.  Presidents get attention, for better and worse, but every improvement in Drew’s life that I have mentioned here is owing chiefly to others, and it has been a privilege to work with this community.  I admit that it will be with something of a sense of relief and reunion that I will be unpacking these book cartons in my study at home, preparing for a more scholarly quiet time ahead; but I will miss the good noise that we have all made together, and most of all I will miss the students.

Good bye for now.  I wish each one of you all good things in life, and I will always be supportive of Drew University.

Bob Weisbuch

Posted in Gateway Messenger