Letter from the President, August 2008

by Frederick M. "Fritz" Weis

Fritz WeisDear Alumnae, Parents, and Friends:

When I came to Scripps just one year ago to begin serving as interim president, I had some idea of what to expect: supportive alumnae and parents, dedicated faculty and staff, committed trustees, and absolutely outstanding students. I knew Scripps was on the move and considered a “hot” school by many prospective students — but I had no idea the surprises in store for me.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Those of us who know and love this place should be used to great things happening at Scripps.

Student Successes

This spring, we learned that four Scripps students and one recent alumna were named Fulbright Scholars, a record for Scripps. Equally impressive, our students were awarded the competitive Truman Scholarship, Davis Peace Prize, and Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. You can read about them, and about many other award winning students, in this issue of the magazine.

Many of our 186 graduating seniors are taking advantage of offers to some of the nation’s top graduate programs, including Caltech, MIT, Stanford, Yale, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, Cornell, Claremont Graduate University, The Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and USC, among many others. And ten of our graduates are entering the competitive two-year Teach For America program.

Perhaps because the word is out among prospective high school students that Scripps is a rising power in education, and women’s education in particular, this year we face another housing crunch. Yes, more students are going to have to double, or triple up, and we are offering creative solutions through nearby off-campus housing options. But I view this as a “problem” we can work with and solve, especially as it sends a clear message that what we do here is valuable and attractive to young women throughout the nation and the world. The increased demand for housing certainly adds a heightened level of intensity to the College’s planning for a new residence hall.

Incoming Class of 2012

Our Office of Admission had another stellar year, with 1,931 applicants for the incoming first-year class. We admitted 837, for an acceptance rate of 43% (only 13% of the nation’s colleges and universities have an acceptance rate below 50%). Students come from 33 states and eight countries, with 38% from California. We are pleased to increase our diversity by welcoming this fall 12 African-Americans, 41 Asian/Asian Americans, 20 Latinas, and two Native Americans. This may not fully or accurately convey diversity at Scripps, as 74 students chose not to declare a particular ethnicity.

The Office of Admission is also very pleased to report that Scripps has 24 National Merit Scholars in the first-year class. This is sure to place Scripps among the top liberal arts colleges in the nation for number of scholars, and will likely make us number one again among women’s colleges. This is an enormous achievement for Scripps and speaks to our academic excellence and the quality of the Scripps experience.

Faculty Achievements

The Dean of Faculty recently sent out a list of our faculty’s publications, honors, awards, and grants for the year that ran four pages. This impressive summary includes — among many others — a grant to support one professor’s trip to the Black Sea region this summer to research interactions between the ancient Greeks and indigenous populations of the region, news on a faculty member’s successful NSF-REU grant in mathematics as principal investigator, another’s Mellon grant for teaching music theory at a liberal arts college, and a professor’s award to investigate the neural mechanisms associated with the eff ect of loving-kindness meditation on generosity and trust. The full list is in the faculty section of the Scripps website. Read, enjoy, and join me in praising them for their many accomplishments.

Scripps College Academy and Media Attention

Scripps’ innovative enrichment program, the Scripps College Academy, for 9th and 10th graders in the greater Los Angeles area, now in its sixth year, held its two-week residential program on campus at the end of June. I hope you have followed the success and expansion of the program into a yearlong enterprise that gives academically motivated but underserved students a chance to experience the rigors and rewards of a liberal arts education during the summer and then offers critical support, such as homework help, counseling, and follow-up sessions during the school year.

I can speak firsthand about the benefits of the Academy, as I was privileged to attend the closing session on Saturday, June 28, when the students — mostly fifteen-year-olds — gave multimedia presentations of their research projects to parents and friends in Garrison Theater. They had worked in small groups, led by Scripps faculty, to explore topics such as “Representations of Cultures in Television,” “Language, Prejudice, and Accents: What’s the Big Deal?”, “The Cost of Beauty,” and “The Truth Behind the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.” The students had done their research and spoke passionately and eloquently; I learned something from each one.

I encourage you to learn more about the Scripps Academy by listening to a segment that aired on NPR affiliate KPCC, on June 27, available through a link on the Scripps website. The program and the College also received excellent visibility when Fox News Midday Sunday devoted its entire 30 minutes on June 29 to the Academy. Featured were four Lynwood High School students who are now going on to Scripps, Williams, and Wellesley, as well as Academy director Sylvia Ruiz ’05 and Ashley Franklin ’09, another program graduate.

Campus Additions

  • Elm Tree Lawn: The original trees have been removed and the new ones have arrived — looking healthy and, yes, young. By the time you read this, the new elms will be planted, with a new lawn surrounding them. We will need to protect the young trees while they establish themselves, so it is unlikely that we will hold any events on the new Elm Tree Lawn for some time. Patience is key, so that we can look forward to many years of enjoyment and celebration under the elms.
  • Sallie Tiernan Field House: We near completion on the long-awaited recreation and fitness center at Scripps, named for former trustee and chair of the Board, the late Sallie Tiernan ’45. It is a magnificent structure that, as soon as it received a coat of traditional “Scripps white” paint, looked right in place, as if it had always been part of the campus plan. The facility — with adjacent swimming pool and regulation lacrosse/soccer field, as well as a 230-space parking garage beneath the field — will open in mid-August, under the direction of Tamsen Kathleen Burke, who comes to us from the University of Chicago, where she developed and implemented a comprehensive recreation, intramural sports, and sports club program and services for students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Burke was also an associate professor in the Department of Physical Education and Athletics. Her background in operations, fiscal management, and academic instruction will be extremely valuable as we launch exciting programs in our new facility.

We will have a grand dedication of the Tiernan Field House on Saturday, October 4, 2008. I hope you will join the College community in celebrating our addition to student and community life. Watch for details of the event on the College website.

Gifts to the College

I want to pay tribute to Scripps’ many friends, who give time and effort and financial support in making Scripps College continue to thrive. Thank you so much. While I cannot thank each one personally in this letter, I want to call attention to two significant gifts the College received this past fiscal year, as they strongly affect the excellence of our teaching. The first is a gift of 27 photographs from Michael and Jane Hurley Wilson ’64 representing some of the finest work of 19th and 20th century artists, such as Julia Margaret Cameron and Diane Arbus (Cameron’s famous Portrait of Kate Keown, now owned by Scripps, is shown on page 11 of this magazine). The Wilsons’ visionary gift adds immeasurably to the College’s permanent art collection, which is a valuable resource for both teaching and research.

The second gift is a $100,000 planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Studies. This grant will help Scripps’ Core faculty evaluate the results of a recent external assessment, plan for the implementation of the assessment team’s recommendations, and create an even stronger, more cohesive Core program.

Presidential Search

The College continues the search for the right candidate to be Scripps’ seventh president. Trustee Lynne Brickner ’74 leads a new presidential search committee composed of trustees, alumnae, faculty, staff, and a student. Just as soon as there is news to report, I will inform you by email and through the presidential transition website. I am happy to continue to serve the College as interim president through the academic year 2008-09 as we share many more successes at Scripps.

I hope the remainder of your summer is enjoyable and productive and that I have a chance to greet you in person during the months ahead.

With best wishes,

Frederick M. “Fritz” Weis
Interim President


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