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Dr. Baker's Campaign Kick Off Celebration speech


What a great evening this is for Ohio Northern University!! Tonight we get the opportunity to focus on our future, our Tomorrow. And, what a future it is going to be. In 10-15 years, we intend to be an institution of national prominence and regard. We expect to enroll students from all over the country and around the worlds. We expect to join the company of institutions like Drake, Creighton, Lehigh, Richmond, Bucknell, Case and Wake Forest.

In aspiring to this future, we are, in many ways, simply fulfilling the vision of our founder, Henry Solomon Lehr. After all, it was he who said that the wanted to make ONU "one of the great schools of the U.S." It was he who staged the famous McKinley-Campbell gubernatorial debate in Ada at the end of the 19th century to the delight of the 10,000 people that came to see it. And, it was he who was so widely known and regarded that some asked him to run for Governor in 1895; moreover, William Jennings Bryan, who gave a commencement speech at ONU, asked him to become Secretary of the Treasury if Bryan were to win the presidential election of 1896.  Lehr, in short, was not just a visionary educator and successful entrepreneur.  He was also a leading personality of his time with a network of acquaintances and friends that extended all the way to the Governor's Mansion and the White House. It was only natural, therefore, that he would forsee that the university he created would be nationally known and regarded.

Our dream, then, has clear historic roots.  But, how do we intend to achieve it?  We've spent a lot of time in the past year thinking about this and we've outlined our plans in a number of presentations and speeches.  Tonight, though, let me summarize our strategies very briefly.  In essence, we believe we need to do three basic things in order to achieve national prominence and to be able to compete with the finest universities in the nation.

Increase Our Faculty - The schools we aspire to be like have, on average far more faculty than ONU.  As a consequence, they have many more people who are doing the things--for example, research, consulting, presentations, active professional involvement--that build reputation and recognition.  H.S. Lehr understood this relationship well and that's the reason he recruited some of the leading teachers of his time--people like the renowned grammarian John Park, the outstanding geographer and mathematician, Frederick Maglott, and the historian, Simeon Fess--to teach at his school.  

Recruit a National/International Student Body - Students needs to be attracted to ONU by the quality and comprehensiveness of our programs and the reputation and excellence of our faculty.  As we move to the next level, in other words, we cannot be restricted by geography in our recruitment of students. We need to look for them all over the country and around the worlds.  This orientation will give us access to students we have rarely considered in the past and it will bring a level of diversity to our student body that can only enrich the education we offer our students.

Create New and Dynamic Programming - Throughout its history, ONU has done a remarkable job of developing, adapting, and modifying its curricula to meet the changing needs of the professions we serve and the circumstances and conditions of the world in which we live.  Pharmacy was once a 4 year program; then it became a 5 year experience; and today the only program we offer in this area is a 6 year doctorate. In the last three years, we have added majors in nursing, forensic biology and pharmaceutical business to our curriculum as well as a whole new degree, the LLM, in Law. This development must continue and must include non-traditional programs and delivery systems.

Can we do this? Yes, we believe we can. Indeed, it is, in part, for purposes of developing the resources we will need to achieve our goals that we are formally announcing our campaign tonight. But, I will leave the details of this campaign and its importance to our goals to Oscar. He has done an absolutely fantastic job of leading the campaign and is exceedingly knowledgeable about it. I want to focus the remainder of my time this evening on a couple of critical questions about our aspirations.

The first is whether they are realistic. We think they are. In fact, we think they are VERY realistic. Indeed, when someone asks this question, we generally respond with a simple: "Look Around." ONU is ranked second among comprehensive degree granting institutions in the Midwest by US News and World Report and is featured in Princeton's "Best Colleges," Peterson's top 100 private institutions, and in Colleges of Distinction.  Our engineering college was ranked 38th in a recent US News poll and our pharmacy college, the largest in the region, is in the top 10 nationally. Our law students led the state last year with a 95% pass rate on the Ohio Bar and our pharmacists regularly pass their state boards at a 90% or better rate. Our campus includes 285 acres of beautifully maintained land and we have created new learning facilities for our sciences, pharmacy, business and law in the past 5 years.  Our faculty come from some of the finest universities in the world and are increasing recognized for their superior contributions in teaching and research. Our staff is equally well prepared and their dedication to ONU is unparalleled.  [Just look at what they did to create this environment tonight!!!] Finally, our students get better every year.  This fall, more than 40% graduated in the top 10% of their high school class and their average ACT was 25.4.

In short, we believe the foundations needed to achieve our aspirations of visibility and national prominence are clearly in place. Why, though, should we aspire to be a leading institution in this country? Why, in other words, is our vision focused on moving to the next level?  Well, one important reason, as I mentioned at the outset, is that this was the goal of our founder, H.S. Lehr.  But, there are other reasons. For example, throughout its 137 year history, ONU, like most other universities and colleges, has sought to contribute to the welfare of our society. From our classrooms have emerged the founder of the Cleveland Clinic, George Crile (1884), the founder of the Getty oil empire, George Franklin Getty who graduated in science in 1879, and 5 United States senators.  Indeed, one of the latter, Senator Frank Willis, might have become President of the United States had he not been tragically struck down by a heart attack as he was campaigning in l928.  We have also graduated extraordinary judges, teachers, and entrepreneurs of all varieties who have served the common good in their professions, communities, churches and families.

We want to continue and, most importantly, expand these contributions in the future.  To do this we need to continue to build our institution and the excellence that is found within it. And, the way we do this is by doing the things I've talked about, that is, building world class programs, recruiting students nationally and internationally, and increasing our faculty numbers significantly, that will bring us national prominence.