Earlier this morning, I was excited to walk ‘neath the elms through this beautiful campus, past the historic brick buildings, on my way to a new office to serve my first day as Eureka College’s new president.
I am excited and deeply humbled to have been selected by our board of trustees to lead Eureka College during this critical time in the College’s history and in higher education. I have heard from many people who are equally excited about the milestone that my appointment represents; the first female and first African American president in history. Given the rich history and founding of the college, I, too, am proud and fully appreciate the symbolism of my appointment. I can only hope it serves as an inspiration to others and a statement of our Eureka College values.
Growing up in St. Louis, I was and continue to blessed with a strong and supportive family. I always had dreams of making a difference in the world and have lived by the saying that to whom much is given, much is required. How would I have ever have known I would someday be asked to lead one of America’s most extraordinary and historic liberal arts colleges just up the road in Illinois?
Telly and I are so pleased to have joined the EC Family. It is a family whose values I want my 9-year-old daughter, Kaiya, and 16-year-old stepson, TJ, to be influenced by as well.
In addition to being grounded by family and friends, I intend to use my nearly 20 years of higher education experience as a professor and administrator at Boston College and Saint Louis University, as well as my Ph.D. from the University of Kansas to help me lead our amazingly talented team at Eureka College to its best days yet.
I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a word of gratitude and congratulations to Dr. J. David Arnold and all who have worked so closely with him during his eleven years as president. I have known and admired Dave since I first worked with him in Missouri 20 years ago and, of course, for the past two years since he brought me to Central Illinois to help him develop the new Eureka College strategic plan we call “Intentional Transformation.” I assure you we will work to build on his many successes.
Over the past two years, I been fortunate to meet hundreds of students, parents, alumni, donors, Reagan Society members and others in the Eureka College family. Eureka College is made up of one of the most incredible communities in all of American higher education. I like to say we are Uniquely Eureka. We have 161 years of success for which to be very proud.
It is Uniquely Eureka that we were founded by abolitionists rooted in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), by the close friends of Abraham Lincoln, committed to educate all people. We are the first in the state and third in the nation to admit men and women equally, from the very start.
It is Uniquely Eureka that we are the smallest college to ever graduate a U.S. President and continue to tell his story as an inspiring model of American opportunity.
It is Uniquely Eureka that our exclusive personalized size gives our students the highest opportunity ratio of any college.
It is Uniquely Eureka that our generous supporters not only give of their treasure but also establish long-lasting relationships with our students. Last year, we were the top-ranked college in Illinois for money raised as a proportion of our operating budget. That is Uniquely Eureka.
With so many rankings in higher education these days, I truly believe the only ranking that ultimately matters are the outcomes we help our students achieve. When it comes to outcomes, I believe Eureka College cannot be beat.
Our graduates are instilled with the values of critical liberal arts thinking and servant leadership by faculty and staff support. They engage in experiential learning opportunities that are second to none. There is plenty of proof. Our graduates have literally changed the world and continue to do so.
Next month, the freshman will come onto this campus to begin their college careers. As all alumni remember, they will line up at opening convocation and place a sprig of ivy in a basket, symbolic of placing themselves in the learning community. Our goal for them in their time as Eureka College students is to unleash their full talent and genius, helping them discover their vision and voice, and preparing them to learn, serve and lead in the world.
As we work to achieve this mission, I have a simple request of you. I am asking for your continued support, generous involvement, and, of course, your prayers. From all of us at Eureka College, have a happy 4th of July as we all appreciate the blessings of liberty and the freedom we have to be Uniquely Eureka.
Jamel Santa Cruze Bell, Ph.D.
Source: Eureka College E-News