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President's Message

Colleges and Communities need each other

Editor’s Note: These comments represent excerpts from President Steffy’s remarks on January 9, 2003, to the more than 300 alumni, trustees, faculty and staff attending the celebratory “Evening With Muhlenberg” event at the Essex House Hotel in New York.

The current mood of the Muhlenberg faculty and staff is one of re-examination, renewal and anticipation of the future. As I met this fall and winter with record turnouts of alumni, parents and friends at events in the Lehigh Valley, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Florida, it quickly became evident that these constituencies also were keenly interested in the College’s future and in the celebration of its ongoing accomplishments.

During its 154 years Muhlenberg has undergone numerous transitions. In most instances, the institution emerged far stronger than before. For example, immediately following the Civil War, the College found itself in severe financial straits. The Reverend Theodore Seip came to the rescue. He became Muhlenberg’s first director of development and worked with banks in Reading and Lebanon to save the College. He later became the institution’s third president. Again, in the post World War II years, the College faced a “life or death” situation because of considerable debt and local banks’ unwillingness to advance further loans. The problem was solved by the decision to become coeducational – ahead of nearby Lehigh University and Lafayette College. This action, debated since the middle 1930s, not only rescued Muhlenberg financially, but also made the College far stronger in every respect.

In the College’s more recent history, I believe that another, more extended transition is taking place. It began in the mid 1980s and might be labeled “Muhlenberg’s March to the 21st Century.” It continued through two presidencies and includes this very year. The period began with the heightened recognition by faculty and staff that students were, are, and must always be the center of the “Muhlenberg Experience,” and that we must demonstrate this credo every hour of every day if we are to be successful in moving the College forward. Because of the phenomenal achievements of this period relative to student enrollments, faculty and student quality, institutional visibility, expanded facilities and constituency development, there is now a far greater opportunity than ever before to solidify Muhlenberg’s position among the most prestigious liberal arts institutions in the nation.

Change leads to opportunity. We ask for your continued support, your ideas, and your goodwill as we look forward to the arrival of a new president and a bright future.

James Steffy, Interim President


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