Inaugural Address – Dr. Dan Hanson
Board Chairman, Teahon, Chancellor Carpenter, President Hanson and Dr. Ediger and the Madrigal Singers; Thank you. I would like to welcome Governor David Heineman; Senator Lavon Heidemann; local elected officials; fellow college and university presidents and representatives; current and former members of the Nebraska State College System Board of Trustees, members of our Alumni Association, the Peru State College Foundation Board; faculty; faculty emeriti, staff; and administrators.
I also want to thank my friends and colleagues who have taken the time from their important work to be here today.
Before I go any further, I want to extend my thanks to our students. You are the reason we come to work every day. Your stories inspire us, your enthusiasm motivates us, and your potential awes us. What a privilege it is to work with you. Thank you for your warm welcome to this campus. Both Elaine and I appreciate it more than we can say. Today I also want to acknowledge your commitment to service. Over 275 of you have volunteered to be a part of the inaugural service projects and to help host our guests today. Thank you.
Also, I want to take just a few moments to acknowledge my family members who are here to celebrate with us. To my cousins and Elaine’s cousins, our sisters, and brothers-in-law; I can’t believe the miles you traveled to join us today. Thank you.
To my parents, Herb and Joyce Hanson, and my in-laws, Galen and Kathleen Docken, thank you for your love, confidence and support.
To my daughters, Heather and Abby, you give purpose, joy, and meaning to my life. Note that Heather is not able to be with us today. She is following my advice, putting her education first by studying for a difficult exam in her intense Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the University of Iowa.
You have already been introduced to my wonderful wife and my partner in this venture, Elaine. I can’t imagine a better first lady for Peru State College. Your unquestionable support, your passion for volunteerism, your love of our students and your ability to organize community-wide efforts are amazing, and you always have fun while getting things done. Thank you.
While today is a presidential inauguration, this day is not meant to be about me. Rather, this is a time to celebrate the heritage and strength of Peru State College, and to be reminded of the important role the college plays in the State of Nebraska and the region (now and in the future).
We, as Americans have a long history of valuing education. If you read the history of higher education or if you travel across the Midwest, you find towns and communities that invested substantial resources in higher education. Colleges sprang up across the frontier very soon after these towns and communities were settled. It is hard now to imagine the difficulty of life on the frontier; clearing land, breaking sod, and carving out a business - all without the conveniences of electricity or power equipment.
Americans saw higher education as the hope of the future; as a place of opportunity for young people; as a way to improve communities; and as the key to a democratic society. It was for these reasons that early settlers committed large amounts of scarce resources to the establishment of institutions of higher learning (Rudolph, 1962).
In the mid 1850s, the first settlers arrived in Peru, Nebraska, many from Peru, Illinois. They came to take advantage of the opening of the Nebraska Territory for settlement. Finding ways to cross the Missouri, building docks along the shores, hauling supplies and equipment up the substantial hills, and building homes and businesses by hand was not an easy life. But as they looked out over the hills of Peru they could see beyond their hard work to a better future. In less than 10 years their confidence in the future and their faith in the capacity of Americans to achieve a better world drove the settlers to invest in the future by establishing a college. Their innovative thinking and commitment of land and financial resources led Senator Colonel T. J. Majors to present a bill to fund a State Normal School in Peru on June 20, 1867. The infant State of Nebraska (only a few months old at this time) appropriated what was then an impressive sum of $3,000 to operate the institution, thereby establishing the State Normal School of Peru as Nebraska’s first institution of higher education (Rudolph, 1962).
The efforts of these early settlers and the diligent work of the generations of faculty and staff since have had an immeasurable impact on Nebraska, the United States and the world. You only need to visit with a few of our passionate and dedicated alumni to realize Peru State College is truly a place of opportunity and empowerment.
Graduates of this college have contributed to improving our world.
- Edison Pettit, a Peru native, was one of the first astronomers to measure the temperatures of the moon, mars, and other planets and, in fact, a lunar crater is named for him.
- Ellsworth “Worth” Conkle was a Broadway playwright who expressed Nebraska’s heritage in his productions.
- G. Robert Coatney, who was both an alumnus and a faculty member, was a leader in the cure for malaria.
- William Edmondson, another Peru native, served as ambassador to South Africa.
- Eulie Overall was the first African American to teach in the Omaha Public Schools.
- Marion Marsh Brown, who was both an alumna and a faculty member, is a nationally recognized author writing over 20 books and 200 short stories.
- An Auburn Nebraska native, Alexander Stoddard, was a national leader in John Dewey’s progressive movement in education, chairing the United States Educational Policies Commission for a decade, advising General MacArthur in the organization of the Japanese school system after World War II, and leading in the early educational use of Public Television.
- Ken Boxley, a California native, attended Peru State College as part of the V-12 Officers training program for the Navy. He played quarterback for the Bobcats, going on to enjoy tremendous success in the telecommunications business. He now gives back to the college by funding the Boxley full tuition scholarships for students pursuing the Master of Education Degree.
As these individuals walked as students across this Campus of a Thousand Oaks, the impact their education would have was only a vision and a dream. Ambassadors, writers, playwrights, scientists, health care professionals, lawyers, musicians, professors, senators, business leaders, education leaders, human rights activists, and legions of teachers have realized their potential and had their dreams empowered on this campus.
Higher Education is still viewed as the best way to build the future for individuals and for society. For some it is the only way to a better life. For this reason policy makers across the country have focused their attention on expansion of access and the reduction of costs. Economist, Ben Bernanke, chair of the Federal Reserve, stated (in 2008) that “the best way to improve economic opportunity and to reduce inequality is to increase the educational attainment and skills of American workers” (Bowen, Chingos, & Mcpherson, 2009, p. 1).
Here in Nebraska, the three colleges of the Nebraska State College system are instrumental in providing access and opportunity to rural Nebraska. Our Governor, Dave Heineman, has been an advocate for affordability and restraint in tuition increases. Currently he is leading a P-16 (pre-school through college) initiative focused on increasing college attendance and graduation rates; increasing the education level of Nebraska’s citizenry and work force; and keeping well-educated young people in Nebraska. So college education, across the country and here in Nebraska, continues to be an investment in the future to improve communities and the lives of individuals, and strengthen our democratic society. Education remains the key to the American Dream. There has never been a time when the mission of Peru State College is more vital and important.
Our challenge in these difficult economic times, as it was on the frontier in 1867, is to invest in a better future by finding ways to fund and improve higher education.
When I arrived at Peru State College this past August, I found the pioneering spirit alive and well. I found a vibrant growing organization looking toward the future. I found a College experiencing its largest enrollment in history with talented, energetic faculty, staff, and administrators committed to its mission. I found a beautiful campus with state-of-the-art facilities - the result of more than 40 million dollars invested by the State of Nebraska since 2000. I found people in Peru, Auburn, Brownville, Nebraska City, Tecumseh, Falls City, Johnson and communities throughout southeast Nebraska and beyond who embrace the college for its symbolic and economic importance. I also found school districts that open their doors to our teacher preparation program and who are glad to partner with us in educational endeavors in the region. And perhaps best of all, I found outstanding students who are eager to engage and grow.
I found a place poised to move to an even higher level; building a community of excellence focused on student achievement. Working together, community leaders, alumni, friends of the college, faculty, staff, administrators, and students, we can take the next step toward excellence: emerging throughout Nebraska and the Midwest as a higher education leader for access, excellence, engagement and innovation.
Peru State College’s mission and tradition of welcoming and empowering all students is critical in this quickly changing world. Postsecondary education is becoming imperative for almost everyone. Our mission of access and affordability is critical to creating a better future (AAC&U, College Learning for the New Global Century, 2007).
Together we can continue to improve as an institution that takes pride in the quality of our programs, our affordability and in the kind of access people need to create opportunities, giving hope to those who would not otherwise have the chance to grow.
According to the publication, College Learning for the New Global Century, “committing to access and affordability requires an equally strong commitment to educational excellence.” (2007, p. 1). Being the best at what we do is required to meet the needs of our diverse student body. Excellence requires growth and change. The Greater Expectations Report on higher education states, “Teaching techniques, course content, and college organization that may have been adequate when mostly white and privileged young men went to college” no longer meet the needs of today’s students (2002, p. 2).
Together we can build excellence by our willingness to change to create dynamic learning environments for all students.
Excellence requires engagement with our students in and out of the classroom, online and on campus by faculty, staff and administration. Effective new teaching and learning environments focus on engagement. These environments emphasize student interaction with the concepts versus a focus on presentation of the concepts to be learned. Students are immersed in a supportive and challenging educational environment.
Together we can create student-centered, engaging, learning environments that provide the challenge and support necessary for our students.
An innovative and entrepreneurial spirit has been a tradition at Peru State College. It began with the vision and commitment of early community leaders, Senator T.J. Majors and the State of Nebraska, and it continues today. Peru State College pioneered innovative online programs to give access to many motivated nontraditional students before most colleges considered this option. According to the Kauffman Foundation innovativeness and entrepreneurship “can empower ordinary people to do extraordinary things… It fosters a mindset that exposes opportunities, ignites ambition and unleashes untapped human potential” (Pruitt & Schoeniger, 2009).
Together we can continue to empower the innovative thinking necessary to build a better future for Nebraska, the United States, and the world.
Access …Excellence… Engagement… Innovation….These are words that will define our future. As we look over the hills of Peru today, let’s be as bold and visionary as our founders, looking to the future with confidence in the capacity of Americans to achieve a better world. With the spirit of our founders, the vision of our leaders, the commitment of our alumni, the strength of the Nebraska State College System, the support of our friends in southeast Nebraska and beyond, the passion of our faculty, staff, and administration and the energy and potential of our students, Peru State College will empower new generations of students to build a better world (Rudolph, 1962).
Association of American Colleges and Universities (2002). Greater expectations: A new vision for learning as a nation goes to college (A National Panel Report). Washington, DC: AAC&U.
Association of American Colleges and Universities (2007). College learning for the new global century. (A Report from the National Leadership Council for Liberal Education & America’s Promise). Washington, DC: AAC&U.
Bowen, W. G., Chingos, M. M., & McPherson, M. S. (2009). Crossing the finish line: Completing college at America’s public universities. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Cormier, P. P. (1997). Inaugural speech. Unpublished manuscript, Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia.
Glenn, R. (2009). Inaugural speech. Unpublished manuscript, Athens State University, Alabama.
Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., &Whitt, E. J. (2005). Student success in college. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Leskes, A. & Miller, R. (2006). Purposeful pathways: helping students achieve key learning outcomes. Washington, DC: AAC&U.
Pruitt, B. & Schoeniger, G. (2009). Kauffman Foundation [On-line]. Available: www.kauffman.org.
Rudolph, F. (1962). The American college and university: A history. New York, NY: Random House, Inc