Messages from the President
A compendium of messages from President Blomberg to the community during the past eighteen months of his presidency.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
We write today with one voice—the president of the college and the president of the student government—to speak with unity about the issues of racial injustice and inequality. The protests across our nation demand participation and we both agree that our Ursinus family cannot stand by, passively watching in quiet as injustice occurs. Words matter, but they alone are not enough.
We are currently working with partners across campus to help center the voice of the members of our black community and all people of color, so that we can act in solidarity and inspire change. This is no small order. The reality is that racial inequality exists now, much as it has for generations. Our country’s collective indifference has cost us too many lives. We must do better to confront that reality here on campus and in our communities, wherever they may be.
Because we both share and support the values of Ursinus, let us be clear: this is an issue that defines who we are as a campus. At its very core, racial injustice threatens the safety, well-being and progress of all marginalized communities that have, for far too long, been left to fight this battle alone. We speak often of the four questions at Ursinus, and it is time that we apply those questions to this critical matter in a constructive way among one another. We have faith that uncomfortable conversations, sobering as they may be, will lead the faculty, staff and students of Ursinus to a greater understanding of the painful inequalities that divide us. We need to empower our students to lead that dialogue and to channel that pride and passion in a way that provides guidance for us all.
We must do better.
Next Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., we ask all students and members of our campus community to join us for the first of what we hope will be a series of discussions about injustice. For Ursinus to grow and change and lead, we need your support. We will be hosting a virtual open forum to briefly discuss what we plan to do—and what needs to be done. This moment inspires action, but that action is best served if we are moving forward together, as one community. You can sign up for that event now.
More details will be coming soon across all social media, but we encourage you to begin registering for that virtual open forum today.
You may also want to register for a special virtual “Conversations About and Across Difference” that is scheduled for tomorrow at noon. The topic is “What is our responsibility as students, faculty and staff during the current time of crisis within our community?”
More than 150 years ago, President Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” By issuing this statement together, we recognize the devastating role racism continues to play across all people of color, and we hope you will work with us for a better tomorrow, here at Ursinus and wherever your future may take you. #WeareoneUC.
Jalen Everette ’22, president of UCSG
President Brock Blomberg
May 30, 2020
Dear Campus Community,
In the midst of a pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the lives of many individuals and communities across our nation, we are now confronting another sobering reality: the horrific act of police brutality that took place in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Unfortunately, these scenes remain all too common. We have recently addressed similar incidences of racial injustice, yet this latest occurrence demonstrates, yet again, the enormous work that we as a nation must undertake in order to combat a history of deep-seated hatred that feeds those acts of violence all too often enacted against people of color in our society.
The college condemns these acts, and stands in solidarity with those faculty, staff and students who must continually watch as members of their communities are victimized in ways that rob them of the rights and respect accorded to them as human beings. We understand there exists great anger and despair brought on by repeated injustices. We ask each member of the Ursinus family to join us as we look to channel this energy for positive change and work to take action, expand understanding and make a difference at home as well as in our communities beyond campus.
Even though we are physically distant from one another, be assured that the college stands firm in its support of the dignity of black lives and that hatred and acts of violence against blacks and those from any marginalized community will not be ignored. We have decided to host a special Conversations About and Across Difference to promote a constructive and meaningful dialogue in a welcoming virtual environment. Please plan to join us at noon on Thursday, June 4. Sign up here.
Additionally, we continue to seek input and action from faculty and staff, and invite interested students to also participate in existing campus programs such as the Student Perceptions and Collective Solutions for DART (Diversity Action Resource Team). Recent graduates are also encouraged to sign up for this inclusive community grant project. Furthermore, the Racism as a Pandemic program will now take place in the fall. This collaborative event is being co-sponsored by the Institute for Inclusion and Equity, the Wellness Center, the Office of Spiritual Life, and the Office of Prevention & Advocacy. Adapted to recent developments, the discussion will include the impact of COVID-19 on various marginalized communities along with coping strategies and how to serve as allies and offer community care for the well-being of others.
Thank you for your participation and support of these programs. We cannot simply condemn these actions, but must work together to actively confront these injustices and inspire real change.
Heather Lobban-Viravong, vice president for college and community engagement
February 28, 2020
Dear campus community,
Earlier this month in my Blueprint newsletter, I wrote about how we’re preparing for an exciting two days on our campus this spring, as we begin to bring a memorable sesquicentennial year to a close.
I’d like to enthusiastically invite you to join me in commemorating the grand opening of the Schellhase Commons on Friday, April 3, at 3:30 p.m., and our very first Music on Main festival on Saturday, April 4, from noon to 5 p.m.
The Commons is an important new gateway for Ursinus. Not only is it a vital connector to our local neighborhood and surrounding communities, it also is a hub for activity and excitement for those of us on campus, complete with a coffeehouse, bookstore and a “home base” for our admissions team. Additionally, the Commons will serve as a welcome center for prospective students and their families and will connect generations of proud Ursinus alumni.
On April 3, we will hold a formal dedication program and ceremonial ribbon cutting for the Schellhase Commons, which will be immediately followed by a festive reception and stationed tours of the building. As part of the record gift commitment from Will ’61 and Joan Abele earlier this year, the Commons is being named for Richard ’45 and Kay ’57 Schellhase—the Rev. Schellhase was a significant mentor to Will. More information will follow, but please mark this event on your calendars now. Earlier on that same day, we will welcome hundreds of admitted students and their families to campus for Admitted Students Day. That evening, will celebrate the Bear2Bear Benefit & Bash.
The next day, on April 4, the Commons will serve as the “main stage” for an afternoon filled with live music and food trucks, 50+ vendors and—of course—more chances to tour our new gateway. The Music on Main festival will feature 28 bands across six stages on our Main Street porches. Performers will include our own Ursinus students and alumni, as well as students from surrounding school districts. Well-known bands from across the region representing all music genres will also join us. This is an occasion like no other, and we hope you and your friends and families can help make it a memorable afternoon.
This has quickly become the signature weekend of the college’s year-long 150th anniversary celebration, and I’m so excited to share it with you, as well as our friends and neighbors. Again, please circle these dates on your calendar now.
I hope you will join me during this festive time for our college!
February 17, 2020
Dear Campus Community,
It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the sad news that Carol Williams, a mainstay in the registrar’s office and a familiar face to students, faculty and staff alike, lost her valiant battle with cancer on Friday, February 14.
A devoted member of the Ursinus community for nearly 30 years, Carol came to the college in July 1991 as a member of the library staff before moving to the registrar’s office in 1993, where she became a fixture, lending a helping hand to countless faculty and students.
Among her campus colleagues, Registrar Barbara Boris was more than a co-worker. She was her best friend and knew her better than anyone at Ursinus. “She was very proud of helping students start their journey and working with them through graduation. Carol always remembered students’ names and liked to remind those who were surprised by it that it was part of her job.”
Never one to sugarcoat anything, Carol was a passionate Philly sports fan. She played basketball and softball herself, and loved watching football, basketball and baseball. She could celebrate and commiserate with her fellow Philly enthusiasts better than anybody on campus.
Carol loved being outside. You could usually find her hiking, biking and even taking joy in cutting her grass on her riding mower. She loved to travel, especially to her beach destinations—Daytona, Fla., St. Maarten and Sea Isle City—and in recent years, visited our national parks: the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Zion.
Born in Norristown, Carol was a graduate of Methacton High School. She lived in Schwenksville and loved spending time with her husband, Andy; sons, Ryan and Kyle (and Kyle’s wife, Amber); grandchildren, Keegan and Emery; and her beloved dog, Randall.
A service for Carol will take place on campus in Bomberger Hall this Friday, February 21. The family will receive visitors from 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. and the service will begin at 3 p.m.
Please join me in offering condolences to Carol’s family and friends.
January 16, 2020
Dear faculty, staff and students,
Ursinus College is proud to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during our annual MLK Week celebration, beginning on Monday with a day of service.
As a community, we take time to focus the week on discussion, understanding and promotion of the ideas and values Dr. King espoused. His life will always serve as an inspiration to America and the world, informing generations and igniting action and service. To honor that spirit, the theme of next week’s celebration is “Service, Community, Reflection.”
The calendar of events and activities includes a series of talks by faculty and students, discussions, panels of guests and film screenings. During MLK Week, the Berman Museum of Art will open an exhibition of three works by artist and Ursinus professor emeritus Donald E. Camp, along with a piece by contemporary artist Kara Walker. Contact the Berman for class and group visits.
We have also added a few new quotes submitted by faculty, staff and students to the annual banner display. This collection includes the words of artists, writers, activists and performers proudly shared across our campus.
The college is closed on Monday, January 20, but I encourage all members of the campus community to volunteer on Monday in their communities, or with Ursinus students during their day of service.
I hope you will join us in celebration of MLK Week next week. To learn more about the planned activities, please visit our website.
January 17, 2020
Dear Campus Community,
In a special event this afternoon, Ursinus College announced that Joan and Will Abele ’61 have donated $11 million to support the long-term sustainability of the Abele Scholars Program. Not only is the gift the largest in the college’s storied history, but the Abeles’ generosity has also allowed the college to exceed $100 million in the Keep the Promise comprehensive campaign. It truly was a momentous occasion, and one that will forever be remembered for reflecting the spirit of the liberal arts and the long-held values that all of us, as members of the Ursinus family, have come to cherish. It comes as no surprise that today’s announcement occurs on Benjamin Franklin Day—a meaningful and symbolic way to honor the “pay-it-forward” pledge that each Abele Scholar makes when selected for the program.
Today’s announcement has already resulted in significant media attention. We ask that you spend time reading the article on the college’s website, which includes a commemorative video that celebrates the occasion. You may also want to read more about the gift in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer.
Please join us in thanking Will and Joan Abele for their commitment and dedication to Ursinus College.
Brock Blomberg, President
July 11, 2019
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.
January 18, 2019
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.
December 12, 2018
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
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.
October 29, 2018
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.