Five years ago, I was privileged and honored to become the 14th president of Paine College. From the beginning we set out to execute an ambitious long-range strategic plan. We are making significant progress towards achieving this plan.
For example, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges reaffirmed the institution’s accreditation. Within the past year, the college implemented a new academic school structure.
Paine College has witnessed an increase in alumni giving, from 3 percent in 2007 to 19.5 percent in 2011. In addition, capital improvements through our Campus Master Plan have raised the school’s profile, including the massive facelift that dramatically improved our curb appeal along 15th Street.
Paine also continues to be an essential member of the Central Savannah River Area community by maintaining a vital alumni presence; making regional economic development contributions; our civic board involvement; and through our faculty’s academic research.
We also have demanded accountability from our employees, administrators, faculty and students. Clear goals and metrics for success have defined our ability to monitor progress and take corrective actions when needed.
WHILE WE HAVE made many strong gains, we have also faced challenges. Late last September, we became aware that the school would experience an unanticipated financial shortfall for fiscal year 2012. Immediately, Paine sought to ascertain the scope of the financial deficit. We are confident there will be no disruption either to daily operations or plans for continued growth.
Since becoming aware of these budget issues, Paine has moved swiftly to identify the necessary steps to ensure our continued financial health. The school promptly put in place financial responsibility measures, including the termination of corresponding personnel and a complete review of college fiscal policies and procedures.
We have hired a controller and assistant controller for the fiscal management team, each with almost 25 years of experience. In addition, we have started a national search for a chief fiscal officer, who will be hired in July.
Let me be clear. Paine adheres to the highest standards of financial integrity. We greatly value the trust that our students, faculty and the community place in us on a daily basis. We have learned from the events of the past several months and continue to move forward with a plan that ensures fiscal stability.
FIVE YEARS AGO, when I addressed the college during investiture, I quoted from psychiatrist M. Scott Peck. He said, “The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
Paine College is a small institution offering a big education. We will continue to work closely with the college’s Board of Trustees, our students, faculty and the community to fulfill the school’s historic mission and our aspirations to become one of the region’s premier liberal arts institutions.
(The writer, before assuming Paine College’s presidency, was
executive vice president of Claflin College in Orangeburg, S.C.)