BOLIVAR—Oct. 11 was a day of celebration at Southwest Baptist University (SBU) as the university honored its president, C. Pat Taylor, for his 15 years of service.
In a ceremony that came as a surprise to Taylor and his wife, Judy, during the SBU Board of Trustees luncheon, there was a steady stream of people coming forward with commendations, resolutions and letters of congratulations. One of those who spoke was State Rep. Shane Schoeller, R-Willard and the House Speaker Pro Tem who is an alumnus of SBU.
“We need more bright lights in our nation like Southwest Baptist University,” he said.
Also presenting a personal letter and U.S. Congressional Record of commendation on behalf of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt was Dan Wadlington. Sen. Blunt, R-Mo., is an SBU alumnus and a former president of SBU.
On the student side, Taylor was recognized by the Student Government Association, the Faculty Senate, and the Staff Council. Trustees Mark Rains, Rick Moore, and Don Fahri also had items to share in a event that caught the SBU president off guard and at times edged close to being a bit of roast.
The university has had to adjust its budget downward about $165,000 from $48.4 million to $48.25 million, and the economy has begun to take its toll on campus enrollment, but Taylor remains upbeat.
“We are very blessed at SBU to have 444 freshmen and 114 transfers,” he said, also noting that there are 1,571 undergraduate students on campus (down 17 from last year).
Maintaining excellent academic quality and a sound Christian environment remain top priorities in Bolivar. Taylor cited a chilling statistic that 46 percent of new freshmen were prone to reconsider their first university or college choice. Because of the poor economy, those students are now looking at two-year institutions as an affordable alternative.
“On a daily basis, we must challenge ourselves to think creatively and to think outside of the traditional box,” he said. “We cannot operate business as usual. We must adapt and make changes annually, offering new programs and new delivery methods.”
SBU failed to balance its budget last year for the first time in six years. The shortage only amounted to .7 percent, but Taylor is determined to avoid a trend. Another concern is a growing debt load that students are taking on each year.
The overall value of the university has grown from $64.8 million to $72.7 million, which is a 12 percent annual increase. Taylor cited a record fundraising year that brought in $6.85 million in gifts, the growth of the endowment to $17.8 million by the end of May 2010, and the completion of the Mabee Chapel renovation project.
Oct. 11 was also a time for SBU to display its brand new SBU Health Sciences, Davis Family Physical Therapy Center. A Sept. 26 open house at the center drew more than 300, and a Sept. 29 dedication banquet was attended by 118 guests. The 40,000-square-foot building, which is shaped like a spine, houses the university’s doctoral program in physical therapy.
Trustees were given a tour of the new facility and had many positive comments.
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor