2022 Faculty-Staff Convocation and Celebration

Dr. Kenneth S. Hawkinson, President, Kutztown University 

Welcome to the 2022 Faculty and Staff Convocation and Celebration.  It is with great joy that I speak to the you, the faculty, staff, administrators, and other guests, today.  I am truly thankful that we are able to celebrate, together, and in-person, this convocation.

I would like to acknowledge our Council of Trustee members for all they do for our university!  My thanks to Robert Grim; chair; Kevin Hardin, secretary; and Evan Santos, student trustee, for being here today. 

We also have the president of our student government, Kayla Sherry, with us today.

I would like to recognize my office staff; Toyia Heyward and Pam Rex, who were instrumental in putting this event together. 

And let me also acknowledge my wife Ann Marie Hayes-Hawkinson who works quietly behind the scenes to promote KU with many audiences – she is tireless in her support of the university and support of me.

Finally, please welcome Vice President Matt Santos who is in the audience today – Matt we hope to have you back soon!

I believe that the purpose of this gathering is to celebrate the accomplishments of our faculty and staff, and to update you on significant happenings at the university and on our progress in moving the university forward. 

But let me begin by saying a few words about the struggles we have been through the last two and a half years.

Pandemic and Other Challenges

It has been over two years since my message went out to our university community announcing the many changes we had undertaken to move nearly all our functions online or through some form of virtual communication in the spring of 2020.  I had often said leading up to 2020 that it would be a year of “perfect vision.”  It turned out to be a year of unknowns, continual adjustments to our protocols, and trying to find our way through the deep fog of a worldwide pandemic.

I was in continual contact with faculty, students, supervisors, health experts, state system officials, and many others throughout this period and want to thank them for their courage, professionalism, and competence. Many of these individuals served on the Emergency Management Committee and I want to thank all members of this committee for their tireless efforts in putting our reopening plans together.

In the coming year, I will continue to meet with numerous units, offices, and constituents and to meet with the many Advisory Groups that have been established.  My schedule is provided to the Council of Trustees before each meeting and is public record for anyone to review in the trustee meeting book that is available in the library.  

In addition, I continue to serve on the board of directors for Hawk Mountain and Berks Encore.  I am Chair of the Board of Directors for PSAC and Chair the board that governs the CBFS and serve on other statewide committees.  I meet regularly with the mayor of Kutztown and host town/gown meetings at my house for local elected officials, police chiefs, and leading members of the business community. 

Ann Marie and I will continue to host numerous events at our home.  The eighth faculty art exhibit is being hung in the residence now with numerous works on display, and faculty continue to submit their books for display in the library.  Many hundreds of people view the art and books each year, and we are delighted to display the talent and scholarship of our faculty.

With regard to covid, as we open next week, Kutztown University continues to strongly encourage members of our campus community to get vaccinated and get your booster shots. While we do not have the authority to require the vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine is an important tool to help us fight the pandemic. 

Our nation has reopened and there will no longer be requirements with regard to mask wearing or social distancing – individuals most certainly can wear a mask if they choose and we hope members of our community will be compassionate to each other’s needs when in confined spaces.

On this webpage you will find the latest information on our covid protocols, including instructions for what to do if you test positive for COVID-19.  We will continue to update information and protocols, as warranted. 

As last year, we are committed to keeping our promise to our students and will make every effort to not convert any in-person classes to on-line, if at all possible.

State System Update

As many of you are aware, Kutztown University, the State System, and higher education institutions across the country are at a crossroads.  There are many challenges and we will continue to work with the chancellor and board of governors to find pathways to improve our operating model to address the changing needs of our students. 

Through the Comprehensive Planning Process, greater accountability has been placed on universities to ensure that their income matches their expenses.  While we have done better than most in our enrollment this year – Interim Vice President McCargo will present to you some very positive trends in our enrollment in a few minutes -- we have been in a downward trend for 10 years and it is required of us to align our expenditures and workforce to our current complement of students.  We have done well.  We are now going into our fifth year with a balanced budget.  We have had to make tough decisions, and many have sacrificed, and as a result have managed to adjust our workforce through attrition and greater efficiency – we have not resorted to retrenchment or furlough.  I am assured that we will not be integrated with any other university.

I’m delighted to share that through the advocacy of our chancellor and many others who helped in the effort, the Governor and Legislature have provided a significant increase in our state funding both in terms of base appropriation and one-time money.  These funds will help us to replenish needed operating funds, invest in needed positions, and supported strategic initiatives that will enhance the mission and the lives of our many constituents at the university.

Vice President Matt Delaney will go into greater detail on this in a few minutes.

Last year, at this event, we highlighted our new Strategic Plan and you will find the goals of our plan in your agenda.  The Strategic Planning Committee, under the exceptional leadership of Dr. Cathy McGeehan, has been at work all year in continually improving our plan and monitoring the many action items that have been submitted to fulfill the goals and objectives of the university.  All at our university can participate in this process by submitting ideas and funding requests through their units – there are countless great ideas out there and we hope you will share them with us.  More information on how to do this will be shared with you all in the coming months.

Looking to the agenda for this morning, I will ask each of my cabinet officers to update you on the accomplishments and updates from their areas. 

In addition, we will honor those who have been selected to receive university awards such as Employee of the Month and Year, and the recognition of other honorees and award recipients.

We will also recognize those faculty tenured or promoted effective this fall.

Finally, I will provide closing comments at the end.

Before we move on to these presentations, it is my pleasure to welcome all the new faculty and staff who have joined us over the past year and who are with us today.  Ann Marie and I look forward to meeting you all in person at the various receptions we will have at our house this year.

Would those new employees who are with us today please stand and be recognized.

To our new employees…When I began my presidency at Kutztown University in July of 2015, I spoke of “place.”  I used a formula:  Values plus space equals “place”.  To simply occupy “space” leads to a very unfulfilling life.  But when one adds values to that space - it converts to a “place” – a community wherein one lives and learns and transcends to a level greater than one can reach as an individual.  

Kutztown University is such a place – where students can come to a safe and enriching environment, in a beautiful part of the world, and learn, and grow, and mature into enlightened and productive citizens.

This is a wonderful place to live and work, and we thank you for joining our community. 

Closing Comments

Congratulations to all those who were honored with awards, tenure, and promotion – your dedication to our institution truly makes a positive contribution to our community.

We had many accomplishments last year and many challenges – and I look forward to the accomplishments to come … as well as the challenges – they are inevitable but working together we can meet them and come out stronger as an institution. 

I pledge to continue to work with the faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, and all other constituencies to do all in my power to continue to move the university forward, to ensure our sustainability, and enhance the important role our university plays in our region and society. 

Before we wrapped up this year’s Faculty and Staff Convocation, I want to share with you an important and inspiring event that happened yesterday at the President’s Residence.  I bestowed a President’s Medal to Ms. Bessie Crenshaw, the first African American to graduate from Kutztown University. 

“Inspired” is how I felt last spring when I saw Ms. Crenshaw’s life story displayed on posters in our student union and watched her wonderful interview.  I was inspired because despite many challenges and even injustices in her life – she persevered and led a model life spent serving others.  She greatly honored us by being willing to accept this medal and allow Kutztown University to recognize her incredible courage, resolve, and compassion. 

So, let me tell you all a bit about Ms. Crenshaw’s life and contributions. 

Bessie Reese Crenshaw graduated from Reading High School in 1946 and enrolled in Kutztown State Teachers’ College that fall; she was the only Black student enrolled at the time. As I mentioned, in 1950, she became the first African American to graduate from the institution, earning a B.S. in education.

From the time she was a young child, Ms. Crenshaw knew she wanted to be a teacher. Upon graduation, Crenshaw found that Reading and Berks County were not ready to hire an African American teacher, so she began her career North Carolina.  She eventually received a master’s degree from North Carolina College at Durham.

Ms. Crenshaw returned to Reading in 1969, where she taught third grade for 20 years at 10th and Green Elementary School. After her retirement, she continued her commitment to education through her support of numerous organizations that helped young people.   

It is essential that her amazing story be told and remembered and serve as an inspiration to our students and all those in our community.  As we continue to work for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion we must look to giants such as Bessie Crenshaw to inspire us to be better people and to be a better society.

And so, this concludes our Faculty and Staff Convocation and Celebration.  Let us all strive to go forward with a humility and a gratefulness that will unite us as we work to create an enlightened community, and strong educational experience for our students. 

My best wishes to you all!  Have a great year! 

It’s Good to be Golden!