The Augustana: Winter 2012

View from Summit Avenue
A Message from Rob Oliver, President of Augustana College

As most of you know, the education of young people is an issue that’s close to my heart and one that’s always on my mind. Frankly, it concerns me a great deal – not only as a college president, but also as a parent and, more importantly, as a citizen.

Here in South Dakota, public education is a hot topic indeed. Across our nation, it’s the same story. Following the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, fiscal challenges have pushed many states to chip away at already-slim K-12 and higher education budgets seeking efficiency while simultaneously demanding improvements in effectiveness of educational programming. While the challenge to do more with less is worthy and will always be with us, we must also incorporate the call to provide leadership and sacrifice to resolve this complex challenge and serve young people and our greater society. It will not be a simple fix or it would have already happened. It should also not be haphazard, as the stakes are high.

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Features in this Issue

I believe the bottom line is this: We have a moral responsibility to leave this country a better place than what we found it. That means we need to do all we can to ensure that today’s children receive the kind of education that will push them to question, discuss, explore, seek and find better ways to preserve our environment; guarantee equality; extend life; advocate for humanity; grow our economies; share cultures; and advance technology.

I recently had the chance to read about a fellow named Jack Cassidy, CEO of Cincinnati Bell, a regional provider of phone, internet, wireless and digital television services to consumers and businesses.

After learning about the failings of Taft Information Technology High School, an inner-city school in Cincinnati plagued by low graduation rates and even lower reading and math proficiency scores, Cassidy became one of education’s most unlikely champions. He didn’t have a background in education and certainly didn’t consider himself a scholar. Yet, he decided to do something out of what he called “moral responsibility.”

Out of a mix of civic and corporate duty, he offered up his time and treasure to transform the school saying, “…as a capitalist, I want a return on my investment. Business is the consumer of the product that schools produce…”

As I’ve said many times, I believe education is the best and most lasting stimulus for building our economy and developing a civil society. So, after reading about Cassidy, we began to lay the groundwork for this issue of The Augustana.

Themed “Champions,” this issue celebrates those who, like Cassidy, are champions of education. Some serve the role in the most traditional way – in the classroom – while others, like Dr. Cari Skogberg Eastman ‘96, are championing causes related to humanity which, in turn, educate the public about serious issues of civility, morality and equality. 

Whether in a classroom, as an administrator, a university president, or on a desert migrant trail, we found a common thread woven among those who are featured in this issue – they care. They care about the future. So, they’re doing all they can to help nurture and support the young people of today – the same individuals who will lead our world tomorrow.

As the issue came together – one question became crystal clear: Do we need the government in order to be morally responsible as citizens? Could we look within ourselves, as Jack Cassidy did, and invest our own time and treasure to ensure a brighter tomorrow?

I think we can. Do you?

Enjoy this issue!

Yours, for Augustana,

Rob Oliver

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