Trustees Act on Finances, Hear Updates

J. Richard Thomas makes a proposal for action
J. Richard Thomas, chair of the academics committee of the EMU board of trustees, makes a proposal for action to the full board as President Loren Swartzendruber and board chair Susan E. Godshall listen.
Photo by Jim Bishop

The board of trustees of Eastern Mennonite University heard campus updates and took action on finances during its quarterly meeting on campus, Nov. 10-11.

The 16-member governing body approved a revised, final operating budget for the 2006-07 fiscal year of $26.4 million, a 4.9 percent increase over last year. The budget includes capital budget funding of $826,900 and calls for $1.87 million to the University Fund by the close of the fiscal year on June 30, 2007.

Kirk L. Shisler, vice president for advancement, reported that gifts to the University Fund, which helps close the gap between tuition and actual operating costs of the school, “are more than 20 percent ahead of the same time last year.”

Shisler reported on new initiatives to increase the alumni giving rate above the current rate of 30 percent participation. The good news, he said, is that the average alumni gift for unrestricted purposes has more than doubled in the past five years to $415.

Campus Entryway Discussed

EMU President Loren Swartzendruber gave a progress report from Van Yahres Associates, a Charlottesville, Va., architectural firm, outlining the most recent ideas for developing clearly-marked campus perimeters as well as a more clearly defined entryway.

Dr. Swartzendruber noted that the university has talked with city officials on their plans for improving and widening Mt. Clinton Pike and how that may affect EMU’s plans to create a defined perimeter.

“The city has indicated their willingness to make their plans available so that any development of a campus perimeter can be done with city data in mind,” the president said.

Swartzendruber reported that a Crisis Management Preparedness Team (CMPT) has been meeting regularly to outline plans and procedures in the event of emergency situations ranging from fires and ethical breaches to natural disasters.

“The potential for such a serious disease outbreak as a flu pandemic creates the need for comprehensive planning for a variety of scenarios,” the president said.

Number of Undergraduates Increasing

Kenneth L. Nafziger, vice president for student life, told the board that the number of Virginia undergraduate students has increased from 339 in 1998 to 402 this year. The undergraduate ethnic/international population has also grown to about 20 percent of the total student body.

In addition, EMU attained a first-to-second-year retention rate of 81 percent in last year’s entering class, an improvement of five percentage points – approximately 10 students – over a ten-year average, Dr. Nafziger noted.

The board accepted a recommendation to appoint an associate trustee from the United Methodist Church, who is compatible with the vision of the seminary, to serve on the trustee seminary committee. Approximately 20 percent of the Eastern Mennonite Seminary student body is from that denomination.

The board grappled with requests coming to the university from church-related educational programs in other parts of the world, asking EMU to offer accredited courses for their students.

EMU President Loren Swartzendruber said that “hardly a month goes by that we don’t get impassioned pleas from legitimate, worthy sources – India, Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic being recent examples.

“We agonize over a desire to find ways to respond within the reality of limited resources,” the president said, acknowledging there is a “window of opportunity” to offer an Anabaptist theological presence for the next generation of church leaders worldwide.

Trustee Gilberto Flores of Newton, Kan., said “the Ethiopian Meserete Kristos Church has much to teach the North American church in the wake of a period of persecution. They provide a lesson in humility and perseverance in seeing how God is working around the world.”