Page 2March 16, 2011
Continued from cover
In other words, much the same as it hasalways been, plus a stronger endowment, doc-toral programs and additional campus facili-ties.
History of change
The founding Sisters of Mercy ﬁrst facedthe task of ﬁnding funding to build an infra-structure before and during the Great Depres-sion. Back then, thoughts of the future wereslightly cast aside in pursuit of merely enroll-ing enough women to pay tuition and helpkeep the doors open.But as the educational experience withinGlenwood Hills’ tudor structures stabilizedeconomically, and then grew, past presidents’thoughts inevitably turned to the generationsof students yet to arrive.By the 1960s and ‘70s, Mercyhurst hadtransitioned into offering a coeducationalexperience, and presidents Sister CarolynHerrmann and Marion Shane, Ph.D., led thecollege through an unprecedented time of change. Many of the college’s current aca-demic structures opened, including ZurnHall, and varsity athletics were gradually established as a way to grow admissions. William Garvey, Ph.D., brought the collegefurther into its contemporary state from theearly 1980s through 2005 when he resigned.He pushed forward the construction of theIce Center and establishment of Division Ihockey programs, the Mary D’Angelo Per-forming Arts Center and the Audrey Hirt Academic Center.
Gamble’s assumption of the presidency in March 2006 began another period of growth in college history. In January 2010, heannounced Mercyhurst College would seek university status. The Board of Trustees submitted a 102-page application for such a change to thePennsylvania Department of Educationin October. It remains under review but isexpected to be approved in May.Gamble views the university change asthe ﬁrst step in refocusing Mercyhurst’s cur-rent purpose in higher education. He saidthe perception of the college—previously asa baccalaureate institution whose main mis-sion is to award undergraduate degrees—hadbecome somewhat muddled during the mostrecent growth periods. The college now offers six separate mas-ters of science degrees, maintains fourregional campuses (Erie, North East, Corry and Girard) and boasts a sister campus in Ire-land.None of these traits are typical of small,liberal arts colleges. The title of MercyhurstUniversity, then, would be more apt, Gamblesaid.Still, if university status is approved, hesaid, “If you’re a baccalaureate student atMercyhurst in Erie, it’s going to feel a lot likeit’s always felt.”
Reach for $50 million
While Gamble’s overall plan for the col-lege’s growth is not grand or sweeping inscope, one aspect could carry major impli-cations for Mercyhurst’s long-term staying power.It simply must grow its endowment,Gamble said, to survive and thrive in thefuture world of private higher education.“It’s a very competitive environment,” hesaid. “I don’t think all (private colleges) willsurvive the next decade. My job is to makesure we’re one of the ones that do.” To do so, Gamble told the board theendowment will reach $50 million by 2020. The college’s endowment in 2009-10 was$20.8 million, putting it alongside regionalschools like the College of Mount St. Josephand Ohio Dominican University in terms of available funds. That mark ﬂuctuates annually based on thenumber of scholarships awarded, the ﬁnan-cial climate, construction projects undertakenand the overall operating budget. The higherthe endowment, the more comfortable theadministration feels with dishing out money in each area. The endowment is on pace to grow towardthe $30 million range this year—the highestin college history.Gamble said the work of David Livings-ton, Ph.D., and his advancement ofﬁce staff is behind this year’s growth and the ambitious10-year goal.Livingston, a former religious studies pro-fessor, joined advancement in August 2007 atGamble’s behest.“I ﬁgured if you can sell religious studiesto college freshmen, you can sell anything,”said Gamble, laughing. “What he’s done isremarkable.”Mercyhurst set records for most money raised in its history each year since 2007. Thecollege is now averaging between $4 and 5million in total annual donations.Direct, face-to-face alumni contact standsas one tactic Livingston has employed suc-cessfully in his tenure. The advancementofﬁce strived to bring alumni back into thefold through dozens of events and throughthe admissions and career services staffs’nationwide efforts at reconnection.Prior to 2007, Livingston said, “It was lessof a focus, especially on the national level.”He said women who graduated in the col-lege’s ﬁrst 40 years possessed strong ties tothe school, which translated well into dona-tions. Graduates from the 1970s through the2000s, though, didn’t possess the same tightafﬁliation.Gamble, too, had recognized this down- ward trend.“We had lost connection to our alums,”Gamble said. “It’s the alums and their con-nection to the school that turns into dona-tions down the road, but if you don’t havethem, then you’re in trouble.”Livingston said if and when $50 million is
reached, the goal shifts to the college’s cen-tennial in 2026.“The real goal is to have $100 million by the 100-year anniversary,” he said. “If you want a goal for the school, that’s the one. It’sgoing to be very challenging.”
Doctorates, facilities, prestige
The board extended Gamble’s contract foranother ﬁve years in October, ensuring heremains at the helm through 2015.Looking back at the ﬁrst ﬁve-year crux,he paused when asked to pinpoint which of his administration’s accomplishments he wasmost proud of.Mercyhurst’s “vigorous” study abroad pro-gram, which includes an opportunity for aterm of study in Dungarvan, Ireland, wouldbe at the top of the list, he said.“I think a strong undergraduate educationhas to provide the opportunity to go abroad. Also, the four-credit interdisciplinary courses.One of those two things, I feel best about.”But he also learned from one key misstepduring his ﬁrst half decade. It came to mindmore immediately than any successes.“I would have done the calendar changedifferently,” Gamble said. “That was a mess.”During the 2006-07 school year, Mercy-hurst proposed switching from a trimestersystem to a semester system; students openly revolted against such a move.Gamble said he failed to work hard enoughto inform his constituencies, particularly stu-dents, about the change’s details and beneﬁts.“We didn’t cover ourselves in glory on thatone.”In presenting a 10-year plan, he said herecognizes a greater need to keep everyoneinformed and involved at the beginning. When he spoke to the board and then wroteto faculty, he clearly outlined a set of goalsand sought input.Perhaps the most intriguing of those goalsis the establishment of one or more doctorateprograms, likely in the areas of archaeology,anthropology, education or intelligence stud-ies.Such terminal degree offerings are at leastﬁve years away.Construction expansion, at this point,is more difﬁcult to achieve. The college islandlocked by East 38th Street to the north,residential areas on the east and west andMercyhurst Prep to the south.Beyond the front of campus constructionof the Center for Academic Engagement, which will house the intelligence studies andhospitality management programs, Gambleplans to look within campus boundaries forpotential areas of improvement.“At some point, we have to do something about Briggs and Lewis (Avenues) and theHighland Square area,” he said. “Ultimately,it’s not a good use of space right now.” The college renovated Highland Squarethis summer after students consistently com-plained about living conditions there, butGamble would also like to see a dining hallconstructed on the east end of campus.Plans featuring a type of falling water areaand more vegetation are also in the works toenhance the grotto.“It could be very dramatic,” he said.Finally, he said, growth of the college’snational reputation and prestige remains thedriving factor behind each portion of the 10-year plan.“The best way for students to beneﬁt is if the reputation and the proﬁle of Mercyhurstcontinues to get better,” Gamble said. “If graduates can someday say, ‘I couldn’t evenget in there now,’ that increases the value of their degree.”
Gamble presents 10-year plan
The outright contributions includemoney from all sources including,alumni, trustees, parents, friends ofthe college, corporations andfoundations.
*As of March 11.
Alumni partcipation includes the per-centage of alumni who donated to thecollege during the year.
*As of March 11.