A Rollins Perspective

Part III: Setting the Course

By Lorrie Kyle Ramey ’70

“What we have is a student prepared totally, holistically, if you will, for any demands that life might bring, demands that really can only be addressed by people who have had a well-rounded education, who have been exposed to various disciplines, who have tasted of the delights of intellectual inquiry.”

President Rita Bornstein, 1990

Jack Critchfield, Thaddeus Seymour, Rita Bornstein and Hugh McKean

Former Presidents Jack Critchfield, Thaddeus Seymour, and Hugh McKean at the inauguration of Rollins' first female president, Rita Bornstein, 1991

The search for “Dad Thad”’s successor produced a result that would have made Lucy Cross smile: Rollins’ first female president. Dr. Rita Bornstein had broken fundraising records in her role as vice president for development of the University of Miami. What could she do for Rollins? The Hurricanes’ tiny neighbor to the north would soon discover that its 13th president had more in mind than just stoking its coffers. She quickly convened a team of faculty and administrators to consider Rollins’ future. The Task Force on the 21st Century hammered out a new mission statement for the College. In the fall of 1991, President Bornstein and the Task Force canceled classes for an all-College Summit, which produced goals and objectives that provided the foundation for planning across the institution.

They would also provide the basis for the largest fundraising campaign in the College’s history. The Campaign For Rollins, with an eye-popping $100-million goal, was formally announced in the fall of 1996. At the top of the campaign wish list: scholarships, endowment for faculty chairs, and a new campus center. By the campaign’s conclusion in 2001, the total raised was $160.2 million, including a $10-million gift for scholarships from George Cornell in honor of his wife, Harriet; 14 endowed chairs; another $10-million gift from Cornell to endow the presidency itself; and funds for six new or expanded buildings—the Bush Executive Center, Charles Rice Family Bookstore, Harold & Ted Alfond Sports Center, Marshall & Vera Lea Rinker Building, Olin Electronic Research & Information Center, and, yes, a campus center, named in honor of its lead donors, the Cornells. Rollins also celebrated its first formal entrance, the McKean Gateway, named in honor of the College’s much-loved former first couple, Hugh and Jeannette McKean.

Rollins’ former dean of the faculty and provost, Dr. Roger Casey, quipped that President Bornstein was “a weapon of mass construction.” From 1990 to 2004, Rollins renovated, expanded, added, or broke ground for 24 facilities. Among those was the College’s development of the former Park Avenue Building site. In its place, an 82,000-square-foot retail/office complex and parking garage brought new economic life to the south end of Park Avenue, and revenue to support the College’s educational programs. Acquisitions of nearby property also added five acres to the lakebound campus.

In 1994, Rollins introduced the Rollins Conference Course, a curricular experiment for first-year students that harkened back to Hamilton Holt’s Conference Plan. Entering students studied with professors who also served as their academic advisers and were assisted outside the classroom by peer mentors. To add further value to their liberal arts education, the Rollins Advantage Program (RAP) offered students preparation in career-related areas such as Computer Competency and Business Basics.

At the Hamilton Holt School, the graduate program in counseling earned accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a validation achieved by only seven independent institutions in the nation. The Crummer School also garnered national accolades, with kudos from U.S. News & World Report and Forbes.

A new undergraduate major in International Business was introduced in 1998. The multidisciplinary program, which linked economics, political science, cultural studies, and language, together with an international internship, quickly became the College’s most popular major. Minors in Archaeology, Asian Studies, Film Studies, Jewish Studies, and Sustainable Development and the Environment assured that students could study the past, the present, and solutions for a green future. New master’s programs in Human Resources and Corporate Communication and Technology experienced uneven success, with the MACCT receiving the pink slip. Keeping up with the times, departments updated their names: Foreign Languages translated to Modern Languages and Literatures, Mathematics converted to Mathematics and Computer Science, and Politics reconvened as Political Science.

In 1998, following considerable sturm und drang—the courageous intervention of “The Three Amigos” (English Professor Alan Nordstrom, former Dean of the Chapel Arnold Wettstein, and SGA President Creighton Knight) notwithstanding, Winter Term was reduced to an optional three-week session and the academic calendar was reconfigured. By the following year, it had been further abbreviated and renamed Intersession.

No Rollins presidency has seemed immune from controversy, and Bornstein’s would not be the exception. In 1994, Rollins hit the headlines of The New York Times when representatives from Okinawa requested return of the Japanese statue housed in the lobby of the Warren Administration Building. The statue, which had been removed during U.S. occupation of the Ryukyu Islands, had been a gift to Hamilton Holt from a Rollins alum. Research, debate, and, ultimately, acquiescence followed. The statue was returned, a replica supplied by the Okinawans took its place, and an international incident was avoided. In an especially fitting postscript to the saga, President Bornstein traveled to Okinawa in 1997 to assist in the dedication of a peace monument that took its inspiration from the peace monument Holt had installed at Rollins nearly 60 years before.

With the new century—and the new millennium—looming, President Bornstein raised the question of what the liberal arts (and a college education) should look like for future generations of students. In 1997, under the umbrella of the College’s Christian A. Johnson Institute for Effective Teaching and with the cosponsorship of The College Board, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), and the American Council of Learned Societies, Rollins spearheaded a national conversation on pragmatic liberal education in the 21st century. Modeled loosely on Holt’s 1931 curriculum conference with John Dewey and keynoted by eminent scholars Alexander Astin, Troy Duster, Louis Menand, and Lee Shulman, The Rollins Colloquy drew nearly 200 higher education leaders, college presidents, and Rollins faculty to consider how to engage students directly with contemporary issues—“to get…the feel of the fur on the tail of the world.” The results were published as Education and Democracy: Re-imagining Liberal Learning in America.

Though it had always been a component of the Rollins experience, service became even more central to the College’s educational mission. Service-learning courses in less-developed countries had begun in 1988, with a Winter Term journey to Jamaica. In 1991, the Center for Public Service was established to coordinate community service activities and assist faculty in integrating service into the curriculum. By 2001, it had been joined by the Office of Community Engagement, as well as leadership education programs.

In 2004, following a review of demand and the abundant supply of educational providers in Brevard County, the Board of Trustees decided that the Brevard Campus, which had relocated from Patrick Air Force Base to Rockledge in 1988 and to West Melbourne in 1994, was no longer serving a unique mission for the Space Coast community and should be closed. The program’s final commencement, which concluded a 53-year chapter in the College’s history, also marked one of the final pages of Rita Bornstein’s presidency. In 2003, she had announced her intention to step down the following summer, but her continuing association with the College was assured by her appointment to a newly created chair in philanthropy and leadership development.

That chair, along with five more, was made possible by George Cornell’s more than $105-million bequest. He and his wife had been exceptionally generous to the College during their lives, and their affection for Rollins was memorialized by their extraordinary legacy. The administration of that legacy would fall to Rollins’ 14th president.

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