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Sue Bush
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Increased Enrollment,$500K Gift Mark MCLA New Year

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, September 05, 2006

MCLA President Mary K. Grant
North Adams - Good news and a sense of cautious optimism were as tangible as the eggs and bagels being served up during a Sept. 5 Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts fall semester breakfast.

Increased Enrollment

Among the breakfast highlights was news that MCLA enrollment is up from last year, with about 1,500 students enrolled for the 2006-07 academic year. The 2005-06 enrollment stood at 1,430 students, according to college Communications Specialist Karen Gardner.

Incoming freshmen number 313 students, up 14 percent from last year, and there are 150 students who have transferred to the school from other learning institutions, said MCLA president Mary K. Grant during her public remarks.

The Class of 2010 is accompanied by signs of the times, Grant said, and noted that most members of the freshmen class were not born when Germany was divided as "East Germany" and "West Germany."

For these students, "Mr. Rogers" [Fred Rogers, the host of the "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" children's televsion program, who died in 2003] is the most trusted man in America as opposed to former television news anchor Walter Cronkite, she added.

$500,000 Gift Pledged

A $500,000 gift has been pledged and should be presented to the college in November, Grant said.

The donor's identity is being withheld while details of the gift are worked out, said Marianne Drake, MCLA chief advancement officer.

The revenues are expected to be used to establish an Endowed Chair program, Drake said during a noontime telephone interview.

"This will allow us to bring in people with a different expertise to teach on campus," she said, and noted that visiting faculty could spend a semester at MCLA or arrange for a two or three-year commitment.

The donor has indicated that a second substantial financial gift may be added to the first, Drake said.

The announcement of an initial gift and the possibility of a second has raised MCLA faculty morale and generated an elevated sense of optimism throughout the campus, Drake said.

"It really is exciting," she said. "This gift has set a tone for the coming year."

The gift indicates a confidence in MCLA, its' faculty and its' existing education program, Drake said.

Additional information will be forthcoming during the weeks ahead, she said.

"We are working out all the details but we did want to share this with our college community," she said. "It is wonderful news."

Better Days Predicted For Higher Public Ed

During the breakfast, Grant told over 200 MCLA faculty, staff, administrators, student leaders and media members that the state has restored some funding to state colleges, and the additional revenues are welcomed and appreciated.

But more state funding is needed to keep state colleges moving forward, she said.

The current fiscal year MCLA budget is about $31.8 million; 41 percent of that is funded via state appropriation, according to information provided by Gardner.

City Mayor John Barrett III told those at the breakfast that he believes better days are coming for state colleges, and left no doubt as to what action would produce that result.

"[Gov. Mitt Romney] is going to be gone in a few months," Barrett said, and his comment drew loud applause.

Quasimodo For Governor?

Barrett acknowledged an increase in some state funding but emphasized that changes must occur at the legislative and executive branches of state government before state funding is restored to pre-Romney levels.

There is a renewed legislative interest in providing revenues to state colleges, Barrett said. As for Romney's replacement, he said:

"Right now, they could elect Quasimodo the bellringer [as Governor] and we'd be in better shape."

State Rep. Christopher Speranzo D-Pittsfield thanked Barrett for his Romney remarks, and noted that since Barrett took verbal aim at the Governor, he didn't have to do it himself.

Navigating the waters of public education under Romney's watch has been extremely difficult, Speranzo said. Great leadership was required at state college campuses, he stressed.

"You have such a leader in Mary Grant," Speranzo said.

Show Schools The Money

During a telephone interview that followed the breakfast, Grant said that state elected officials from Romney to state legislators are devoting new attention to public higher education. Conversations and discussions that focus on state colleges are appreciated, she said.

"We need the funds to follow," she noted.

Support For MCLA Is County-Wide

Regional support for the college is very visible, Grant said.

Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto and state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli D-Lenox were among the weekend campus visitors, she said.

Grant said that the incoming freshmen class is a multi-cultural, diverse group of enthusiastic, motivated students.

"They came to everything," she said, referring to an ambitious agenda of scheduled campus events. "I think we're off to a great year."

When asked for her thoughts on the $500,000 gift, Grant said termed her reaction as "thrilled."

"This says to me that there is a level of trust in investing in the college community," she said.

When asked if she is hopeful that the donation will generate additional gifts, her reply was a quick, emphatic "You betcha!"

Zavattaro Acknowledged For 15 Years As APA President

MCLA Coordinator of Network Services Charles Cianfarini has replaced former Association of Professional Administrator President Sharon Zavattaro. During his breakfast remarks, Cianfarini presented Zavattaro with a certificate of appreciation for Zavattaro's 15 years as the MCLA APA chapter president.

Additional speakers included MCLA Faculty Association President Maynard Seider, Krista Roche of the Student Government Association, and Liz Mann of the American Federation of State, County, [and] Municipal Employees labor union.

The "Opening Days" events of the Labor Day weekend were successful, Grant said during the breakfast.

So successful, in fact, that a trek along Mount Greylock appeared to "find" two students.

Grant said that an apparent counting error caused a college employee to report that 48 students took part in the traditional hike. The same employee later reported that 50 students returned from the trip, Grant said.

"It's good for enrollment when you come down with more than what you went up with," she said.

The inclement weekend weather stopped most first-year students from attempting the hike and trips to area museums were scheduled in place of the trek, Grant said.

Murdock Hall Open House

College faculty and staff will be offered a first look at a newly renovated Murdock Hall during a Sept. 21 open house slated to begin at 2 p.m. and end at 5 p.m., Grant announced.

"Wait 'til you see the inside of that building," she said.

The estimated $8.4 million construction project began in 2005. The renovations included building state-of-the art classrooms in the 112-year-old building as well as computer labs and conference areas. Murdock Hall was built in 1894 and was first known as the North Adams Normal School.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at or 802-823-9367.
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