Messages from the President

A compendium of messages from President Blomberg to the community during the past eighteen months of his presidency. 

  • July 11, 2019

    The Passing of Trustee Emerita Nancy Conger

    Dear Campus Community,

    I am sad to share that on July 6, 2019, Ursinus College lost a valued friend and inspiration in Nancy Pearlstine Conger. Nancy was not only a trustee emerita and donor to the college, but her dedication to liberal arts education and to the environment served as an example to us all. Nancy spent most of her professional life in financial services and she proudly served on the Ursinus College Board of Trustees for eight years—Collegeville was her hometown—and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during our commencement ceremony in May. She also served on the board of her alma mater, Wheaton College, for 16 years, including three years as board chair.

    Nancy knew what mattered to her: family, friends, education and preserving the environment for the future. Volunteerism for educational and environmental causes was a hallmark of her life. She held leadership roles with the Land Conservancy of New Jersey—where a preserve is named in her honor—and the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and the Pingry School, both in New Jersey.

    Over her lifetime, Nancy contributed to Ursinus in many ways. She was an active donor supporting the college’s annual fund, the Berman Museum of Art, renovations to Bomberger Hall, Hillel and the Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center. A commitment to Ursinus was something that Nancy saw in her family as well. Her brother, Norman Pearlstine, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on Founders’ Day in 1987. Her mother, Gladys C. Pearlstine, was a life trustee of the college. In 1991, Gladys and her husband, Raymond Pearlstine, donated their home (a wedding gift from Raymond to Gladys) to the college. I am reminded every day of the generosity of the Pearlstine family as the home, known as the R-Glad House, is the president’s residence.

    Please join me in remembering Nancy, her contributions to Ursinus and in offering condolences to her family and friends.

    Sincerely,

    President Blomberg

  • January 18, 2019

    Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    Dear faculty, staff and students,

    Beginning on Monday, Ursinus College is proud to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during our annual MLK Week celebration. As a community, we will continue to discuss and promote the ideas and values he espoused. Dr. King’s life will always serve as an inspiration to America and the world, informing generations and igniting action and service. To honor that spirit, we will hold a week of remembrance themed “Claiming Spaces: Service, Community, Reflection.”

    There is, perhaps, no better time as a campus to reflect upon our community values. So many of you participated in last semester’s conversations about the values that guide our interactions with one another. Next week’s celebration carries that discussion forward, allowing us to create a campus culture that is even more welcoming and respectful.  

    The calendar of events and activities includes a series of talks by faculty and students, discussions, panels of guests and film screenings. The Berman Museum of Art will have four works on temporary display on January 23, 24 and 25 in celebration of MLK Week. These works will be displayed in the Works on Paper Seminar Room and available for class and group visits. You will again see the words of artists, writers, activists and performers prominently displayed across our campus, each quotation suggested by faculty, staff and students.

    The college will be closed on Monday, January 21, to provide an opportunity for faculty and staff to volunteer in their communities, or with Ursinus students during activities on campus. I encourage all members of the campus community to volunteer on Monday. During the week please take part in as many campus events as possible, and share those experiences with us on our many social media accounts.

    Please learn more about our MLK Week activities on our website.

    Sincerely,

    President Blomberg

  • December 12, 2018

    December 2018 Address to Faculty and Staff

    Good afternoon!

    I want to begin by sincerely thanking each of you for your hard work in making this become a truly inspiring semester. It’s natural at this time of year, with the semester winding down, and our holiday coming up, to reflect upon the past few months. And in this case—at this moment in time—we have much to celebrate.

    Just over three years ago, we sat together in Floy Lewis Bakes Center during my inauguration ceremony. At that time, I introduced three ideas that I believe would propel the college forward: the creation of the Philadelphia Experience, the development of the “Commons,” and the construction of the Innovation and Discovery Center.

    It’s hard to believe we’ve made such significant strides since then! Each of these three signature initiatives has been launched and successfully implemented—or is on track to be. Now, I believe we are in a terrific position to carry that momentum even further.

    THAT IS WHAT I WANT TO ASK YOU TODAY:  How should we carry this forward, together?

    In deciding how to discuss our future, I recently re-read my inauguration remarks for inspiration and for some light fact-checking.  I was reminded that I invoked Tolstoy, who wrote there are only two real plots in literature.

    He explained that either (1) “a stranger comes to town,” or (2) “a man goes on a journey.” Three years ago, I said my hope was that we were to about embark on “a journey” … together … rather than you having to deal with “a stranger coming to town.”

    If we can all be honest with each other, I can readily admit there have been times during my first three years that you have likely felt, on occasion, that a “stranger” has been setting the course.

    And, while we have made serious progress—and I mean honest, SERIOUS progress—it hasn’t always felt like we were moving forward with the same vision and culture.  Or that, strategically, we may not have always been traveling on the same journey or quest.

    That is why, today, I ask that you join with me in setting the direction of my next few years as president.

    With the Ursinus 150 strategic plan, Keep the Promise comprehensive campaign and a bold campus master plan taking shape, I hope that we can pursue our next series of bold strategic initiatives in a much more organic, grassroots manner, with a process that invites—and empowers—students, faculty and staff to continue tearing down siloes and finding more ways for open collaboration.

    In truth, WE have already begun that journey. Mark Schneider, Heather Lobban-Viravong and a team of faculty and staff are leading an important effort to clearly articulate our college’s values. Nothing can be more important at this time. Those values are critical because they represent our “TRUE NORTH,” and reflect our shared dedication to one another as colleagues.

    Those community values will provide the structure of what we want our community to be, and I would like that value system to begin driving all of our strategic decision-making beginning this next semester.

    I want these values (1) to resonate, (2) to have purpose, (3) to have intentionality, and (4) to be actionable. I want these words to have meaning. I hope they always infuse our relationships, and how we work with one another towards a common good. In short, I want us each to live and experience them, every day, as part of our cultural fabric.

    We’ve made some progress. The Faculty Governance Committee is taking the lead on discussions about governance reform and engagement, while some working groups are intent on reducing excess work and improving faculty development. Likewise, our staff is involved in discussions about fostering talent, rewarding initiative and lifelong learning and improving professional development opportunities.

    But I believe the greatest opportunity for partnership and strategic growth is to enable our students to bridge the curricular and co-curricular—to use our community values to find ways to tie student affairs with academic affairs, so there is a more seamless and connected vision that extends across the Ursinus student experience.

    As we think about how to work towards that ambitious, transparent goal—one that thrives on collaboration and participation at the grassroots level—let’s fully commit to the idea that our community values will serve as a framework for that important discussion.

    I opened my remarks today mentioning several recent successes. In truth, what has inspired me of late is the progress we have all made in implementing, and embracing, the new core curriculum and our four open questions. The “Ursinus Quest: Open Questions Open Minds” is such a fundamental part of the Ursinus experience that we now reference it in our college’s vision statement!

    Please take a moment to think about that:  We are deliberately building a curricular and extra-curricular culture in which our students are challenged to contemplate these questions in a very meaningful manner—and in a way that will shape their educational trajectory here on campus and beyond.

    I thought about it too. What matters to me is that we lead the college collectively in support of our mission of liberal education—a mission that inspires us to be independent, thoughtful and responsible. And with that comes a set of values that are purposeful and intentional, allowing all of us—our Ursinus community—to enliven our campus and to create actions that are meaningful!

    When we arrive back to campus next January, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in week-long discussions about inclusivity and issues of equality. This is of course meant to honor the legacy of Dr. King, but it is also an appropriate time to engage in our own conversations about community values, and how to make Ursinus a more inclusive community. From that, we can find ways to work more closely together on a series of actionable initiatives that will shape our future and transform our campus community.

    I look forward to working with you to advance this important and campus-changing discussion.

  • October 31, 2018

    An Important Message Regarding the Tragedy in Pittsburgh

    Dear Ursinus Community,

    The horrific and senseless shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27 has no place in our society. We at Ursinus strongly condemn anti-Semitism and all acts of violence rooted in hatred and discrimination.

     

    Members of our community come from different backgrounds, and we must strive to ensure they always feel welcome and respected. Our differences should not divide us, but rather should make us stronger. We at Ursinus—whether Jewish or a follower of a different faith, whether believer or not—stand united against these all too common acts of violence, and along with the larger community express our deepest sympathies to the congregation and to the families of the Tree of Life Synagogue. 

    We are committed to fighting hatred and discrimination, and  will continue to promote acceptance and inclusion on our campus and in the world. Please continue to find strength in one another during difficult times like these.

     

    Sincerely,

     

    President Blomberg

  • October 29, 2018

    A Message Concerning Our Commitment to LGBTQ+ Rights

    Dear Campus Community,

    You may have heard the recent news reports about a potential change in federal policy that would change legal definitions and remove some important protections for transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals.  As you are aware, Ursinus College is committed to protecting the rights of all of the members of our community.  We welcome and respect every person including those who are transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming. Ursinus has adopted a  policy on discriminatory acts , an affirmative action and equal opportunity policy and a student code of conduct, all of which protect the rights of our students, faculty, staff and visitors regardless of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression.

    The college’s non-discrimination policy clearly states our intent. With that said, our commitment to supporting and protecting our LGBTQ+ community will continue regardless of any proposed changes to federal policy.  Please know that as an institution and speaking for myself personally, we are committed to this affirmation of our values. We will remain steadfast in our resolve.

    Sincerely,

    President Blomberg

  • September 7, 2018

    Announcing Inclusive Community Grants and Fellowships

    Dear Ursinus community,

    We are very pleased to announce the creation of two new funding opportunities for faculty, staff and students. The new programs are designed to support the college’s efforts to create an even more diverse and inclusive campus environment.

    Inclusive community fellowships

    Open to all faculty members, this semester-long fellowship will include a course release and $4,000 in funding to allow an Ursinus faculty member to pursue a project that advances the work of diversity and inclusion on campus. The successful proposal will focus on a theme and include curricular and pedagogical elements that are framed within the context of the four open questions: What should matter to me? How should we live together? How can we understand the world? What will I do?

    Proposals will be reviewed by the college’s diversity committee, with the final decisions made jointly by the president’s office, dean’s office and the Institute for Inclusion and Equity. Proposals should be sent to Heather Lobban-Viravong by Friday, Sept. 28.

    Inclusive community grants

    Open to all faculty, staff and students and will provide $250 to $2,500 in funding for a special project during the 2018-19 academic year. These projects should address a campus climate concern and promote dialogue among members of the campus community on topics such as race, socioeconomic status, age, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, national origin, religion and disability. Teams of faculty, staff and students representing various departments or organizations on campus are encouraged to work in partnership with one another to design a project that considers those topics.

    Multiple projects will be chosen for funding and proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis, but must be submitted by these decision dates: Sept. 28, Oct. 26 and Feb. 1.  Proposals should be sent to Heather Lobban-Viravong.

    Faculty, staff and students who apply for either of these opportunities may be invited to give a brief presentation of their proposal to the campus community during a special event during the spring semester. More information on the grants and the fellowship, including guidelines for proposals, can be found on the president’s office website.

    These new opportunities further our commitment to fostering conversations on issues of equity, diversity and social justice. We look forward to seeing your proposals.


    Sincerely,

    Brock Blomberg, president
    Heather Lobban-Viravong, special assistant to the president

  • August 7, 2018

    The Passing of H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest

    Dear Ursinus community, 

    It is with great sadness that I announce to you the passing of H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, a visionary leader, philanthropist and friend of the college and the Berman Museum of Art who, along with his wife, Marguerite, selflessly supported Ursinus as one of its most faithful donors for many years. He died Sunday at age 88. 

    If you’re familiar with Ursinus, you’re familiar with the Lenfest name. Gerry and Marguerite’s generosity to Ursinus spans more than two decades. They have given approximately $8 million to Ursinus since 1995, and their contributions have included support of the Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center (the Lenfest Theater bears their name), as well as extensive support for Berman Museum exhibitions and a significant contribution to the Berman Museum expansion project. 

    In 2011, the Lenfests funded the Lenfest-Strassburger Scholars Program, in memory of John Strassburger, Ursinus’s president from 1995 to 2010. The program continues to support students enrolled at Ursinus. 

    Mr. Lenfest became one of Philadelphia’s most dynamic civic leaders of the last century and was one of the area’s leading philanthropists for nearly two decades, contributing more than $1.3 billion to 1,100 organizations. I encourage you to read more about him, his legacy and his contributions to society in his obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer

    The Ursinus community is forever grateful for the support he and Marguerite provided to our institution. I offer my deepest condolences to Marguerite and the Lenfest family. He will be greatly missed.

     

    Sincerely, 

    President Blomberg

  • July 19, 2018

    Announcing Members of the New Core Values Initiative

    Dear Colleagues,
     

    During a late semester BLT session, I was very pleased that we engaged in a productive conversation about a new policy relating to racist and other discriminatory acts and some of the broader challenges we face as an institution. I want to extend my sincere thanks to those of you who attended the BLT for your thoughtful and constructive insights. 

    Our commitment to inclusion and equity is integral to who we are as a college, and continuing to have conversations about this institutional priority is essential. In pursuit of that goal, we will spend time over the next few months revisiting, clarifying and codifying the core values of Ursinus College. At this time when we are engaging our students in ethical thinking through the framework of the new core’s four open questions, it is only fitting that we engage in similar reflection on our own institutional values. 

    I invited interested members of the Ursinus community to participate in an active team of faculty, staff, students and administrators who will work to identify our core values, along with effective means of ensuring that our community understands and completely commits to these values. 

    Mark Schneider, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college, and Heather Lobban-Viravong, special assistant to the president, will lead the new core values team, which includes:

     

    • Meghan Brodie, assistant professor of theater
    • Missy Bryant, assistant dean of students and co-director of the Institute for Student Success
    • Monique Kelly, manager of campus engagement
    • Nathan Rein, assistant dean of the college and co-director of the Institute for Student Success
    • Domenick Scudera, professor of theater
    • Lauren Shanahan, senior major gifts officer
    • Barb Shilowich, people and culture strategist
    • James Tiggett, telecommunications technology administrator 

    If you are interested in joining the core values team, please contact Mark or Heather. 

    The meaningful actions we take as a result of these discussions will lay the foundation for Ursinus at 150 years and beyond. Ensuring that members of our community understand our core values and are empowered to embody these principles will bring us closer together and position Ursinus for the bright future to which we aspire. 

    The core values team will work together to lead a discussion on core values during the annual community conference on Wednesday, Aug. 22. More information about the conference will be shared with you later this summer. 

    Thank you for your continued dedication to Ursinus College and the students we serve.
     

    Sincerely, 

    President Blomberg

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