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Catawba College President Makes Case for Increasing College Endowment

October 27, 2004

Category: Academics, Alumni


Catawba College President Dr. Robert Knott emphasized the importance of significantly growing the College’s endowment if Catawba is to be successful in its goal of becoming a more selective institution.   Knott told College trustees gathered for their semi-annual meeting that in the intensely competitive marketplace for academically talented students a strong endowment allows an institution to both attract and retain those students.

“A good two-thirds of a typical endowment is for funded institutional aid to students,” Knott said.   “A larger endowment would allow us to reduce our dependency on the gift line and to use those annual gifts to instead enhance programs.”

Currently in its silent phase, both a goal amount and a duration for the College’s endowment campaign will be announced next May.   Members of the Board of Trustees are already serving as leaders of the endowment effort, with Chester A. “Junie” Michael, II ’70of Mooresville, president of Parkway Ford in Winston-Salem, tapped as the campaign chair.

Knott also briefed trustees on the state of the College, sharing with them the news that Catawba’s retention rate had improved dramatically in the course of a year, rising to its highest level in over 30 years.   He said that 76 percent of Catawba’s freshmen students in 2003-2004 had persisted to become sophomore students in the 2004-2005 academic year. Some of the reasons for that student persistence are apparent to College administrators, he said.

“Clearly the athletic and performance programs have an effect outside the classroom.   Those that leave us did not find the fit outside of the classroom,” Knott explained.   “Financial aid is a reason they stay in addition to programs, and a strong endowment would allow us to give more to the best and most deserving students.

“We have an opportunity in this community to transform the lives of students placed in our charge to the extent that they are willing to receive the opportunity to be transformed,” Knott noted.   “I continue to be encouraged by how many are receptive.”

Dr. Barbara Hetrick, vice president and dean of the college, told trustees of efforts underway in an Enrollment Task Force to help continue to strengthen Catawba’s retention rate.   “To improve retention by 12 points in one year is unheard of at academic institutions,” she said.   “Our early success has led to tremendous optimism on campus.   We all know we have to work hard to maintain this momentum, but we want to be part of the success story.   Our community is committed to Catawba College.

“We have the talent, creativity and energy on campus to move Catawba ahead.   Our only limitation is our lack of resources,” Hetrick continued.   “We need your support so we can keep up with the higher and greater demands that better students are placing on us.”

Trustees approved the College’s audit report for 2003-2004 and as well as a final version of its operating budget for the 2004-2005 academic year.   They were also unanimous in their approval of three strategies outlined in the preface of the College’s quality enhancement plan, subject to faculty approval.   These included authorization to enhance the First Year Experience, create a layered collegiate experience, and utilize the Lilly Center programs to emphasize vocation to students.

A new student government constitution was approved unanimously.   And, trustees authorized Knott and Senior Vice President Tom Childress to approach three individuals about joining the Board of Trustees.

In other matters, two trustees were recognized by their peers for their recent gifts to the institution.   At the business meeting, Knott unveiled a plaque recognizing Trustee Patsy Rendleman ’47 of Salisbury for helping fund the renovation of a conference room in the Hedrick Administration Building. Larry Cloninger ’74 and wife Susan, also of Salisbury, were recognized at a dinner held at the Cloninger Guest House for their financial contributions to help refurbish it.