Endicott College's seventh President Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D. shares his vision for the future of the College—emphasizing the continued development of the co-op/internship model, gaining global recognition for the institution, and the issue of college affordability and accessibility.
DiSalvo's address was delivered in front of dignitaries, delegates, alumni, faculty, staff, and students at his inauguration ceremony on Friday, September 27, 2019 at Melissa Hempstead Stadium.
Good morning and thank you.
Board Chair Cynthia Merkle and Members of the Board of Trustees,
Members of the Faculty, Staff, Students, Parents and Alumni,
Mayor Mike Cahill and Community Leaders,
Friends and Family especially my wife Eileen and our sons Tom, Andrew and Connor, I am honored and humbled to stand before you today as the seventh President of Endicott College. I am extremely grateful to the Board of Trustees for placing their trust in me to lead this great institution of higher learning. This journey has taken a tremendous amount of hard work with many stops along the way. Today would not be possible if it were not for the sacrifices made by my sons and my incredible wife Eileen, for the time I spent on the road, the years studying for my advanced degrees and for the many relocations - from NY to Chicago to CT to Wisconsin to NH and finally to the North Shore of Boston.
As parents we often speak of the sacrifices we make for our children. But we should not underestimate the sacrifices our children make for us. Words cannot express my love and gratitude to each of you for helping to make my dreams —this dream—come true. I love you all.
It is indeed a day for gratitude as we have much to celebrate today. For this is more than an inauguration. It is in fact a celebration of the power of education itself. Something to which many of us here have dedicated most of our professional lives. And we all know, first-hand, the power of education—in all of its forms—to change lives. To broaden perspectives. Whether it’s the classic novel that triggers contemporary questions. The mentoring relationship that can set an inquisitive mind on a rewarding new path. The internship that sparks a passion for a previously unknown profession.
In my own life, I have not only seen the power of education up close, I have lived it. In my family, I am the first member of my generation to have the privilege of attending college. From an early age, I was surrounded by those who believed deeply in the importance of higher education.
Eileen and I grew up in a middle class section of Queens, N.Y. It was a blue collar neighborhood predominantly made up of police officers, firefighters and construction workers. A place where men, mostly, would wake up in the wee hours of the morning to go to work. And when they got home in the late afternoon, with calloused hands and sore feet, they would rush off to another job—maybe repairing televisions or selling real estate. They did all the work around the house, spending little on themselves and becoming fathers to a host of young people in the neighborhood.
The moms worked just as hard. Most were homemakers who ran the house, chaperoned school trips and were Den Mothers for the Cub Scouts. They wanted nothing more for their children then to have the benefit—and opportunity—of a quality education. In order to make tuition payments, they might find a job working in an airport gift shop or managing catering operations for the local sports teams, staying deep into the night to prepare for the next day’s event. Yet they still made time to serve as their home’s chief operating officer, really the glue that held these families together.
That’s not the story of just a typical family in the 1970s. It’s the story of my family. Of my own parents who worked all those jobs—and more—so that my sister and I could have the opportunity they never had to attend college. They dreamed, and they worked towards that dream.
Because my parents had tremendous faith in the power of education and what they thought it could do—and they were right. Their hard work ensured that their son could go on to receive a college education, attain a master’s degree, earn a doctorate and stand before you as a college president. So I would like to thank them—here, publicly—for their vision, their sacrifice and teamwork. And speaking of teamwork, it’s fitting to honor the best team I’ve ever known today as, next week my parents, Arline and Sal DiSalvo, sitting right there in the front row, will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. Thank you mom and dad.
Mine is but one of the countless stories that attest to the power of education. And that power is timeless. Yet how we educate does change over time—perhaps more so in the past quarter century than at any point in history. And therein lies the opportunity. To retain those timeless principles—what works—and evolve them to meet the needs and opportunities of learners today and in the days to come.
These changes are exciting ones. Yes, change can bring with it uncertainty, but there is so much promise in the changes we see around us. The democratization of education, adapting to different learning styles—and to those who learn differently. Reaching more people in new ways. Willing and engaged learners who might otherwise have been cut off from the richness of higher education in years past. Students perhaps with slightly different demographics from the catalogs of old. This is the opportunity. And Endicott College is so perfectly poised to seize that opportunity.
Endicott College. When Eileen and I were asked to consider applying for this opportunity we discovered a beautiful campus and a beautiful canvas on which to work. Now, it is impossible to speak of the gifts of Endicott College without speaking of and honoring the legacy of Dr. Richard Wylie. From the very beginning of his presidency, Dr. Wylie had the vision to see far beyond merely what was, instead imagining what Endicott could be. Coupled with that vision was courage—courage that was tested right away with an existential crisis, when in his first year many questioned whether Endicott College could—or should—survive. He had the willingness to boldly embrace change, growing from a two-year women’s junior college to a four-year college, leading the way to co-education and so much more.
For over three decades, Dr. Wylie’s passion and vision for Endicott were both its compass and its rocket fuel. Many people have told me they are big shoes to fill. All the more challenging since I only wear a size eight and a half. But quite honestly, I don’t intend to try to fill them. But what we can do is honor his legacy and the evolving Endicott story by building upon this magnificent foundation and the cornerstone that he set in place.
As many of you know, there is a scholarship which awards financial aid to students in Doc’s name. Two recipients of the Wylie scholarship are with us today, both from the Class of 2020: Julie Champigny and Ashley Palmer. I would ask them to stand and be recognized.
Less than a year and a half ago, this community suffered a great loss. Amidst the heartache there was gratitude for the foundation and vision Dr. Wylie provided. Dr. Kathleen Barnes had the unenviable task of shepherding Endicott during this unprecedented transition for the college. Everyone seated here today has a deep appreciation for the extraordinary challenge you faced. On behalf of the Endicott community, I extend heartfelt gratitude to you, Dr. Barnes, for your stewardship of Endicott during that time.
So, what exactly is the role of a college president? When I first became a college president a decade ago, my three sons (then in their early teens) would say, “Dad, what do you do all day?” As many of you know, one of the gifts of having children is that they deliver to you—unprompted—little doses of humility, often on a daily basis.
In response to their question, I resisted the temptation to simply show them my calendar. Instead, I told them that being a college president is a bit like being the conductor of an orchestra. A conductor, of course, makes NO music on their own. It’s the orchestra that makes the music. It is the conductor’s job to meld the individual parts into a greater whole.
Just as an orchestra has its sections, we have our various departments. I’ll leave it to the faculty and staff to determine who gets to be the woodwinds, strings and percussion.
So yes, the conductor here at Endicott College has changed, but we still have the same incredible orchestra. Our faculty and staff will continue to perform together in the great symphony that is higher education at Endicott. Our repertoire will consist of the familiar as well as the new. We will not abandon the masterworks that have created Endicott College. But together we will perform new pieces, engaging new audiences while remaining connected to our long-time fans—our alumni, parents, friends and benefactors.
What, exactly, will that look like, in today’s world? A fast-paced, noisy, world where constant change is the new normal? It is in fact a world that needs exactly what Endicott College has to offer.
We live in an age buried in content, media and information. Where we are participants in a steady stream of dialogue—civic, political, professional, social and personal. So many have so much to say, creating so much content. But what informs that content, what should inform that content? Informed, inquisitive, life-long learners. And helping to feed those learners? THAT is our place. We must remind our students that you cannot have your heads buried in your smart phones all of the time. Having conversations where you look another human being in the eyes will better prepare you for that job interview, that interpersonal relationship, that long term success in the workplace—and beyond.
This world that is filled with complex issues and a variety of increasing challenges can also become a smaller, better-connected place where newly-familiar faces and efforts to find a common language often lead to innovation and collaboration. Therefore, we must provide our students with the global experience necessary to thrive in that global society.
Study abroad opportunities are not just about taking courses in a foreign country. It also means traveling to places you have dreamed about, immersing yourself in new cultures and customs and getting a taste of foreign lands. We can do this by expanding options around the globe beyond Madrid, Spain and Cork, Ireland, by owning and operating more of our own programs. In this way our students who study abroad will take our courses, taught by our faculty, on our campuses. Which means you never leave Endicott College, but rather spend a semester at an Endicott location somewhere else on the planet. There is no additional tuition and your financial aid does not change. For the cost of a plane ticket we can provide Endicott students with a premier global experience so that they are ready to meet the world on its ever-changing terms.
A great differentiator for Endicott College is our internship program. Three internships, including a full semester internship senior year, leading to full time employment in your field of study immediately after graduation. Many schools boast about job placement rankings, but few can match Endicott’s ability to help students get jobs in their academic field of choice. Much like our study abroad program, we have an extraordinary base on which to build.
Going forward, our internship opportunities must be expanded beyond a fifty mile radius. Our students are ready for this study away opportunity. With this initiative, student cohorts will be able to seek internships from Wall Street to Capitol Hill, from the Windy City to the Big Easy, from Silicon Valley to Faneuil Hall. And as our students make their presence known among the best companies, labs and schools, they will bring with them the Endicott story, continuing to expand our Endicott brand and reputation.
As our story is shared more broadly, academic quality will continue to increase as we attract and retain the best and the brightest. Too many people think they know the Endicott of today. I have said publicly that Endicott is the best kept secret. And I don’t want us to be a secret anymore. We’re more than a pretty place. We continue to grow and transform and all of us can work together to tell our story. The small place people once knew has grown into a complex institution with nine schools, 2,900 undergraduates and nearly 2,000 graduate students.
The four buildings that existed in 1939 are now surrounded by a 235 acre campus landscape that boasts 56 buildings, including three magnificent seaside estates, high quality athletic facilities, and a prominent location in downtown Boston just one block from Boston Commons. Yes, we have quite a story to tell the world and we will do just that. Our light will no longer remain under a bushel basket. It will shine brightly for all to see.
Our story will continue to evolve. We will embark on a bold initiative whereby living and learning become integrated through programs designed for affinity groups. It’s an incredible way to learn. Students in thematic housing can choose to build a community that enhances what they are learning in the classroom. Living Learning communities will connect our faculty to our students outside of the classroom to learn not just about the academic discipline but about life in general. A rich learning environment. And we will connect our Boston location to our beautiful Beverly campus, thereby presenting students the opportunity to explore cultural events, attend sporting events and serve the greater Boston community. Indeed, the best of both worlds.
Yes, our story is a magnificent one, an exciting one. An inspiring one. And yet we cannot rest on our laurels. I’ve sensed this spirit in my many conversations with our students. I have asked students if they could change one thing and money were not an object what it would be. For many there is a growing sense that we need a state of the art nursing facility to keep pace with our competitors. And in the “nice problems to have” department, as an endorsement of Endicott’s growing strength, we need more residence halls to meet the demands of our growing population and yes, more parking!
Then there is the elephant in the room whenever anyone discusses an ambitious agenda in higher education: affordability. Affordability needs more than hand-wringing and complaining about cost. Someone needs to do something about it. To go beyond the philosophical discussions—which though important are not helpful to those planning to pay their tuition in the near term, the next semester or in the next decade. We must grow wisely, always mindful that we maintain our place as an industry leader by keeping our price point low and, with it, our discount rate below 40 percent.
We will lead the way on the topic of college affordability by engaging our elected officials in a conversation—a very necessary conversation—to seek an exemption to federal anti-trust laws so that we can talk to our peer institutions about a reset of the gross price in the higher education sector. College debt forgiveness is merely a short term approach to a systemic problem. Instead, we should act on instituting income contingent loan repayment plans so students can afford to pay back their loans and still have some disposable income to save for a car or a home—to build a life. And loan repayments should not be a burden on those who chose to enter the service sector. Let us not forget it is the nurses who care for us and the teachers who educate us. I can tell you that without either of them I would not be standing in front of you today.
All of these initiatives come at a price. So we must embark on Endicott’s first ever comprehensive capital campaign. Such a campaign is a challenge—and an opportunity—to launch a new chapter in the history of Endicott College. We must raise funds for new programs and centers, for campus beautification projects, for student scholarships and to grow our endowment. For it is the investments on the endowment that produce interest income used for financial aid packages.
The larger the endowment, the more competitive we can be in attracting even more quality students to attend this great institution. This is especially important as we seek to attract a more diverse and inclusive student body, faculty and staff. I’m sure many of you share my belief that the college campus should be reflective of the world in which we live. And with the proper resources we can transform our campus together. The good news is Endicott is clearly a very worthy investment and I’m confident that together we can make a strong case to those who seek to be the change they wish to see in the world. So we will be engaging in conversations with our trustees, our donors, our parents and our alumni. With the firm belief that together we can transform this institution even further. That our passion for Endicott will continue to be contagious. We will rely on broad-based participation because making a gift is just as important as the size of the gift. I know we will succeed in this important endeavor. Because where there’s a will, we want to be in it!
I am so grateful, honored—and most of all excited—to have the privilege of leading as together we write the next chapter in the Endicott story. There is much we will seek to accomplish and I’m confident our entire community will rise to the occasion. Ensuring we remain at the forefront of innovation in higher education. That Endicott remains affordable and within reach. Together we will produce high performing teams and leaders, meeting the demands of the market and continuing to hire the best and brightest faculty, supporting their teaching, research and publications. Supporting all of this, we will grow the endowment to a level never before seen at this institution, creating greater sustainability as a thriving institution of higher learning.
And we will make sure we share—broadly, widely, proudly—the Endicott story. Spreading the word that Endicott is more than the name of a beautiful campus with three beaches. That Endicott is a leader in academic offerings, internship experiences and delivery methodologies, providing our students with opportunities—both abroad and throughout this great country—that are nothing less than life-changing.
Our story, the Endicott story, is really about our people. It is less about the past and more about the future. It is less about the internship, but more about the intern. It is less about the care, and more about the caregiver. It is less about the dream, but more about the dreamer. That next chapter for Endicott begins now, when I can say with optimism, excitement and great pride—it’s a great day to be a Gull!