William H. Crouch, Jr.
For 20 years, I have been honored to serve as the President of Georgetown College. Now, as we approach 225 years of education on our grounds, we have the opportunity to reflect on our past.
Elijah Craig, that courageous minister who left Virginia in the midst of his own religious persecution and brought his church to settle here at the Royal Spring in the late 1780s, immediately established a place of education and challenged all to follow in order â€śto prepare young people for the frontier!â€ťÂ I am proud that now, nearly 225 years later, we are still about that task.
Georgetown College exists to provide students with transforming experiences that encourage growth through self-reflection. We seek to help students find their purpose. We desire for them to find hope and preparation for a life well-lived. How is this accomplished? We do this through a Christian community of accountability, grace, hospitality and fellowship. And for 224 years we have produced graduates who feel called to take the gifts God has given them and maximize them to live a life of purpose with the ability to think critically, to live courageously with the tools we help them develop and to impact the world with their passion.
The frontier that Elijah Craig spoke of in 1787 is quite different today. He was concerned about preparing students to go West in the rapidly expanding young country. Today, the frontier has no boundaries. Preparing students today requires different methodologies, skills and training. This means every university, including Georgetown College, must change in order to fulfill its purpose.
Over the past two decades many changes have occurred at this place. After 30 years of dreaming, a magnificent new library we call the Ensor Learning Resource Center was constructed. We have grown the faculty from 52 Ph.D.â€™s to 113 today. We reworked our General Education curriculum and added several innovative academic programs. The Anne Wright Wilson Fine ArtsÂ Building was constructed providing the communityâ€™s largest art gallery, the Ruth Pearce Wilson Lab Theater was given new life helping enhance the quality of life in the community, the Nunnelly Music Building has received wonderful new pianos, and both a magnificent grand piano and organ have been added in John L. Hill Chapel. All this is due to the generosity of wonderful alumni and friends. The athletic programs have continued to expand with new facilities and new teams. And, because of new programs and partnerships, the demographics of the campus both geographically and culturally have grown to better reflect those of our country.
In 2006, the trustees made a very difficult decision, that, in order for the College to continue to thrive, it needed to be governed independently from the Kentucky Baptist Convention by a self-perpetuating board of trustees. That move was completed in 2010.
Georgetown Collegeâ€™s Board of Trustees is now focused on a vision that takes three critical elements from our past and makes them the pillars we will build our future upon:Â Academic Excellence, a purposeful Christian Identity and strong Character-Building Athletics. To do this effectively, we must carefully balance our purpose as an institution when these pillars seem at odds with each other, because our uniqueness comes from the combination of all three.
Academic excellence will be measured by our ability to strive for Phi Beta Kappa standards. Phi Beta Kappa is, as a society, composed of the highest achieving colleges/universities in America as selected by their own body. Our vision is to use the societyâ€™s academic expectations as a way to constantly measure how we are doing in achieving higher degrees of excellence as they measure it, all the while remaining steadfast in proudly living up to our Christian identity.
Why is this important? We believe that there should always be a place for a highly selective, residential liberal arts institution as part of the changing fabric of higher education in America. As online education and for-profit education continues to explode around the country, the only colleges/ universities like Georgetown College that might survive are those that are academically distinctive. We will use these standards to make sure we areÂ continually improving and always distinguished. Recent national rankings indicate that this strategy is indeed working.
The Christian Identity of Georgetown College is a priority for our trustees as well as for current students and the thousands of alumni who chose this caring institution over all others. It is in our institutional DNA to be a Christian College. The trustees and I are in total agreement that we will remain so. Our research has shown that many institutions that once were affiliated with a denomination become secular after the separation. We are now in the process of setting into the by-laws of the College expectations of the President and the selection of trustees that will strengthen our ability to remain Christ-centered. We also are committed to the importance of our role as an educational institution to challenge our students to think critically about all issues and for us not to be a place of where students are expected to think as we do. We must have a Christian identity built on academic freedom, hospitality and respect of all people.
Why is this important? The worldâ€™s moral fiber is being tested every day. Values, as taught and demonstrated by Christ, take more courage than ever for humans to live up to. We must provide a living environment where students see these values at work, understand their origins and importance, and then have the courage to live them out. To do this, we will, as an institution, seek to model Christ. When we fail, and we will, we will practice grace with each other and enjoy the fellowship of those committed to a life of faith.
Does this conflict with the other pillars? It certainly can. We could become a place that censors the free expression of faculty. We could become a place that judges one another if we do not see everything the same way or watch the same TV news stations or line up on different sides of issues. The balance is to be firmly in Christ without throwing stones at those who see issues differently. Also, at the center of Georgetown College, is our long standing commitment to care for students. We should not affiliate with any athletic organization that has so many regulations we cannot provide the care that, as a Christian college, we should offer.
Georgetown College has produced Olympic medalists and won national athletic championships. We have produced graduates who have impacted the world aided by the tools they learned on our fields and in our gyms. Today, nearly 500 of our 1200 undergraduate students play on our intercollegiate teams. We like to compete hard and we love to win!
In recent years, we have become a leader in the NAIAâ€™s program called â€śChampions of Character.â€ť All of our coaches have been through character training and are evaluated, in part, on the character decision-making of their teams. A year ago we started the Georgetown College â€śAcademy for Character in Sport.â€ť This is an effort to spotlight individuals and teams that make good character decisions.
We will continue to have character at the heart of our programs. And we will continue to give students access to education and the ability to compete in intercollegiate athletics at a national contention level. We are currently exploring whether NAIA or the NCAA is the best fit for us academically, spiritually and financially.
Why is strong character inÂ athletics important to us? Evidence is beginning to be seen that the longer young people play athletics the more likely their character-related decisions can diminish. This concerns us greatly. We are a small place but we believe we can be an example to others on how to do sports the right way and still compete on the national stage.
Balance is always difficult in all areas of life. Seeking balance means we move forward at times, stall at others, and perhaps even move backwards sometimes as challenges are thrown at us by the economy, changing demographics, natural disasters, technological breakthroughs and human frailties. But this I believe about Georgetown College: we are a college/university that God has blessed for over two centuries and while this world seems to change at such a fast pace, God is a changeless God that is constant in all circumstances. This God will be with us now and with all future students, faculty, staff and leaders for decades to come.
Our new national academic rankings are wonderful and we are proud of them, but they pale in comparison to one changed life! We who work here believe that there are students who need our guidance, wisdom, maturity and love. We have done that well in the past and, with Godâ€™s blessings, we will for decades to come!
Follow me on Twitter @DrCrouch_GC.