It was one of the finest honors of my life when, on November 15, the Rose-Hulman Board of Trustees asked me to take the helm as the institute’s 16th president. It was especially meaningful for me because I’ve had the privilege of serving here for nearly 30 years, starting as controller in 1989 and most recently as senior vice president and chief administrative officer. Being asked to serve as president is both an honor and an enormous responsibility, but one I welcome wholeheartedly.
One of my priorities as president will be to expand our involvement in the Wabash Valley, even beyond our current levels. Presently, our students, faculty and staff are engaged in the Terre Haute community in numerous ways. Just a few examples include our work with Reach Services designing toys for children with mobility issues and other special needs, our holiday season bicycle assembly day in cooperation with Chances and Services for Youth and our Ryves Up! after-school gardening, math, and science program for students at Franklin Elementary School.
I’m proud of all of our local involvement, but I believe there are more opportunities to expand what we do for the benefit of our students and our neighbors. As a long-time resident of Terre Haute, I’m excited to revisit the ways we interact with the community and to discover new avenues to employ our unique resources to address the challenges we all face.
My other significant priorities will revolve around maintaining the level of progress we’ve witnessed on our campus for the past several years, including the renovation of our student union building and the forthcoming construction of a new academic building. It’s also very exciting that we are more than halfway through a fundraising campaign, called Mission Driven, which will help to ensure that we maintain our high standards in all areas while simultaneously making a Rose-Hulman education more affordable for the world’s best students, regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances.
Rose-Hulman is a special place unlike any other. Our talented students selected Rose over other schools primarily because of our excellent teaching resources, but also because of the positive feeling they had when they first stepped on campus. I’m proud that we also provide them with one of the country’s best career services offices, excellent facilities and a reputation – we’ve been ranked No. 1 for 20 straight years – that serves them well long after they graduate.
But an important ingredient in our continued success rests on the health and livability of the Terre Haute community. When Terre Haute improves, so do we all.
As president, I’m looking forward to discovering new ways for us to engage with the local community to ensure our mutual success. We’ll be celebrating our 150th anniversary in just a few years and I look forward to working with our outstanding faculty, staff and students, and members of the Terre Haute community, to lay the groundwork for our next century-and-a-half and beyond as an integral part of the place we call home.
Robert A. Coons is the President of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology