West Liberty University President Robin C. Capehart turned to the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he addressed the challenges facing higher education in his annual State of the University address today.

President Robin Capehart presents award to Dr. Zachary Loughman.

President Robin Capehart presents award to Dr. Zachary Loughman.

The speech was part of the opening convocation and general faculty meeting held in Kelly Theatre at noon.

“Last week, we as a nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the immortal words delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King as he offered his vision of an America where opportunity and success rested upon the content of a person’s character – not the color of his skin. Several years later, Dr. King penned a book in which he talked about obstacles and challenges,” Capehart said after welcoming faculty and staff to the annual event.

He then referenced a quote from King: ‘But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. The large house in which we live demands that we transform this worldwide neighborhood into a worldwide brotherhood. Together we must learn to live and work together or we will be forced to perish as fools.’

“True, we may never face the nature and the depth of the challenges and obstacles that confronted Dr. King and millions of Americans. However, his words still offer a great deal of wisdom for people and organizations that find themselves in challenging times,” Capehart said.

Capehart, who recently marked the end of his sixth year in office, referred to the political, economic, social and technological pressures currently affecting higher education.

“Budget cuts for this year and next will reduce our state appropriation at least $1.6 million,” he stated. Additional challenges mentioned by the president included demographic shifts that have decreased traditional college-age students and online learning that has increased higher education provider competition.

“Yet, despite these escalating challenges, we’re pleased to report that the state of the university is strong, and that the investments we’ve made in retaining high quality faculty over the last six years and programs that are robust have positioned us well for a successful future,” he added. He also encouraged everyone to remain vigilant and involved in the strategic thought process as the University develops a new strategic plan, led by the Provost Dr. Brian Crawford.

Capehart ended his speech by thanking faculty and staff and encouraging them to work together.

“We want to be a great university, so let us make the choices that will set us on that path. As Dr. King stated, those choices include staying awake, adjusting to new ideas, remaining vigilant and working together to face the challenge of change. Each passing year brings new challenges, yet it also produces new opportunities. The college or university that recognizes and takes advantages of those opportunities will be the institution that will thrive and prosper in the future in terms of benefitting its students and the community. We intend to be that university.”

Also during the convocation, Crawford introduced new faculty members and presented years of service awards to longtime faculty. WLU currently counts 144 instructors as full-time faculty. He also announced those who achieved tenure, Dr. Keely Camden, Dr. Catma Serkan and Robert Villamagna. Faculty promotions included: James Crumbacher promoted to instructor; Craig Crow, Scott Hanna, Melissa Hudson, Aaron Huffman, Catherine Monteroso and Sarah Schimmel, promoted to assistant professor; Christopher Barrick, Serkan Catma and Theopolis Lockridge, promoted to associate professor; and  Sheli Bernstein-Goff, Linda Cowan, Brian Fencl, Matthew Harder, Melinda Kreisberg and Mohamed Youssef, promoted to professor.

Additionally, President Capehart presented special awards for staff excellence:

  • Harry and Constance Hein Classified Staff Award, Mary Lou Conley, program assistant II, Highlands Center.
  • Excellence in Professional Activity Award for 2012-13, Dr. Zachary J. Loughman, assistant professor of biology.
  • Excellence in Teaching Award for 2012-13, Dr. Matthew J. Zdilla, assistant professor of biology.
  • Excellence in Service Award for 2012-13, Dr. Traci J. Tuttle, assistant professor of education.
  • Excellence in Classified Staff Service Award for 2012-13, Courtney L. Drahos, administrative associate, campus tour/visit coordinator.

WLU Years of Service Awards

10 Year:

John C. Giesmann, records officer; Sheli Bernstein-Goff, professor of social work; Patrick J. Henry, chief of operations; Tammi L. Secrist, director of marketing and special events.

15 Year:

Judy E. Carney, assistant professor of math; Cheryl R. Harshman, director of the library; Randall A. Hollingshead, trades specialist; Donna S. Howard, administrative assistant II; Lisa M. Marple, Supervisor, student accounts; Joseph R. Mills, assistant director, Physical Plant; Ronald A. Witt, executive director, Institute for Innovation in Education.

20 Year:

Mary Ann Edwards, executive secretary to the president

25 Year:

Jennifer D. Blaskovich, academic lab instructor assistant; Robin A. Brunner, program assistant II; Donna J. Lukich, professor of nursing

35 Year:

Sylvia “Beth” E. Barr, payroll representative and Thomas A. Hostutler, campus police officer.