The greatest strength of Birmingham-Southern College resides in its people—in the students, faculty, staff, graduates, trustees, and clergy who breathe life into this community each day. While the individuals in these ranks have changed over the 155 years of the College’s existence, one thing has remained constant: Birmingham-Southern College’s commitment to develop young men and women mentally, morally, and physically and equip them for lives of useful service to the world. Our dedication to this mission is fierce. It is unwavering. It has seen the College through many trying times—from the carnage of the Civil War, through the scarcity of the Great Depression, to dark days of the early 1970s when the College considered removing itself from its Hilltop perch in western Birmingham. The financial crisis through which the College is passing and the recent decision of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools that was based solely on where we were in 2009-2010 versus where we are today, is another example of the obstacles that this extraordinary College has faced. Through it all, Birmingham-Southern College has prevailed and emerged a stronger place for having weathered those challenges. This is not pie-in-the-sky optimism but a matter of record. I have been in fights before, and this is a fight I know we can win.
There is considerable evidence that Birmingham-Southern College is coming back and is coming back stronger than ever. Our financial position continues to improve; our budget for the fiscal year recently ended is in balance. New fiscal controls are in place. New auditors have been engaged. Giving to the College is reaching near historical highs and we look for even better things in the days ahead. Our Board of Trustees is deeply committed to the College and the two Methodist conferences with which the College is proudly affiliated have rallied in strong support. We have tackled significant fiscal challenges and are in the process of concluding agreements that will reduce substantially the College’s debt service payments over the long haul. These are structural financial changes that will pay big dividends as the future unfolds. Thus, the College is well-positioned to launch BSC 2020, a comprehensive and broad strategic planning process that will engage all constituencies of the College and important civic leaders in Birmingham and beyond. We will never forget that our college is an integral part of this wonderful city. These are exciting times. All of the pieces are in place for the creation of a plan for BSC’s future—one that will carry us forward for another 150 years.
During this past year, the College’s faculty undertook a review of our general education program and produced the Explorations Curriculum—an innovative and bold program in general education that emphasizes the capacities and skills students should learn in college, not merely the completion of a series of “check box” requirements arrayed by academic discipline as is common at many other colleges and universities. We are committed to assessing the learning outcomes in each area of the new curriculum, improving upon what we know to be true: that a BSC education develops in our students the capacity to think critically, to write well, to solve complex problems, and to work as members of a team. We want our students to be intellectually agile enough to prosper in the economy of the future. Through athletics, residence life, and our religious programs, we nurture students outside of the classroom, developing young women and men of character who will lead our world in the days ahead.
Our goal, not our dream, is to become one of finest liberal arts colleges in the nation. This is what has animated us in the past and will propel us into the future. Forward, ever.
Gen. Charles C. Krulak began his duties June 1 as the 13th president of Birmingham-Southern College. He is former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and chairman and CEO of MBNA Europe LTD. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.