“Ask the President”
At the start of the Inauguration dinner, Holly Jackson-Sullivan, vice president of advancement and community relations, explained that, in addition to performances by vocal ensemble Off Kilter, the program for the evening would be President William T. “Tom” Bogart answering questions posed by people in attendance.
She instructed people to write their questions on pieces of paper located on the tables and explained that students would collect them.
Below are the questions that Dr. Bogart answered in person and those that were not answered at the dinner because of time constraints.
----- Questions pulled from the basket and answered during the Inauguration Dinner: -----
Q: What’s next?
Q: If you had the time to take some courses at MC, what would you want to study, and why?
A: “I would like to learn to play the guitar, I would like to be able to speak Spanish and read Russian. Given the Japanese culture of this area, I would like to study that, too.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: “Not doing the chores that Mary wants me to do and getting Elizabeth to do them. Seriously, I like to run early in the morning. I like to eat dessert, and I read – it’s true. I also enjoy spending time with family and friends.”
Q: When you were 10 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: “I wanted to be an archaeologist because I read James Michener’s The Source. But then I found out what they got paid. I always figured I would be an engineer at a big company when I grew up – my dad worked at NASA, Martin Marietta and IBM.”
Q: What is your favorite book and why? And, at what age did you read it?
A: “Honestly, my favorite book is the one I’m reading now. However, a recent favorite book is The Lost Books of the Odyssey because of its links to a literary classic, a fairytale. I’m a nerd; I admit it.”
Q: If you had to pick one thing about Maryville College that made you decide to join our community, what would it be?
A: “People – like you. And all of you. The view of the mountains from campus doesn’t hurt.”
Q: What has surprised you the most about MC?
“Again, it’s the people. When you make a move and it involves family, it’s a big decision. You have that question, ‘Is it as good as it looked on first impression?’ What has been so gratifying is the many people who have done so much to make my family and I feel at home.
Q: Did you ever make a goal while playing soccer for Rice University? In a game? Against whom?
A: “Yes. Memorable ones include against University of Texas in Austin, Texas A&M in College Station, LSU in Baton Rouge, and at home against University of Arkansas. We beat University of Texas in Austin, and some Rice alumni at the game were so excited they took the whole team out to dinner.”
Q: Are you going to Scotland next May with the Choir?
A: “Yes. Mary, Elizabeth and maybe a nephew plan to go.”
Q: What is the “Engineers’ Cheer” at Rice University?
A: “ex dy / dx, ex dx, secant tangent cosine sine, 3.14159, x2 y2 BTU, compass slide rule Go Rice U! And yes, the student section really did yell that cheer at games. My other favorite was the ‘Philosopher’s Cheer’: We’re from Rice, ain’t that nice? Who are you? Do you know?”
Q: Where did you take Mary on your first date?
A: “We went to a comedy club. I had free tickets. We both love to laugh.”
Q: What are the top three things you hope to accomplish in the next five years?
A: “First, to see Anderson Hall completely renovated. Second, to finish the fundraising for the Clayton Center. And third, to have a really exciting strategic plan in place that will have us looking ahead to the College’s bicentennial in 2019.”
Q: How do we get students to come to learn and worship in our churches?
A: “Feeding them is always good! … Really, what I want to say is ‘Continue to do what you’re doing.’ Every year, during the Move-In Day for returning students, the College hosts the Church and College Picnic, which is a great way for area congregations to reach out to our students. When I first attended this picnic last year, I was overwhelmed when I saw several dozen congregations of all religious flavors represented. It reminded me of the close ties we have with churches. The support of the College by the faith community is real.”
Q: How do you pronounce M-A-R-Y-V-I-L-L-E?
A: “Ah, an important theological question – am I a two-syllable or three-syllable person? I have made a commitment to use only two syllables most of the time.”
----- Questions that were not answered at the dinner:-----
Q: Why did you want to be a college president? Isn’t teaching easier?
A: “I like being part of building something bigger than myself. As a teacher, I got to do that with students in my classes and with colleagues as we built the curriculum. As a president, I get to do so with colleagues across the institution and in the community. Teaching is hard work, and part of my job as president is to teach in the sense of helping people make connections both with each other and across concepts that might not seem linked at first.”
Q: Do you have a favorite author(s)?
A: “Italo Calvino, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert are examples of authors whose work have had a major influence on me. But that just scratches the surface.”
Q: What will we be most proud of when we celebrate the MC bicentennial in 2019?
A: “Our distinguished history of service and the way that MC has consistently chosen to do the right thing even when it’s not easy.”
Q: What is the biggest “screw up” you are trying to avoid in your new position?
A: “Making people believe that I’m not listening to them or that they’re not important. Because I have a scary title it’s easy to inadvertently intimidate people.”
Q: What is your plan/strategy for raising the considerable funds to complete the “Bridge to Distinction”?
A: “We’ve spent a lot of time this year spreading the word to potential donors regarding the projects in the Bridge to Distinction. We have also been working to clearly communicate that MC is an effective steward of resources. As financial markets continue to recover and people have assets that have appreciated, we will continue to work with them to link their dreams of what they’d like to accomplish with MC’s mission and goals.”
Q: When do you anticipate the college replacing Davis, Copeland, and Gamble residence halls?
A: “They were completely renovated recently, so I don’t anticipate replacing them in the near future.”
Q: What is the College’s plan for technology as it relates to the faculty?
A: “We are moving to a program where all faculty have a laptop and as many classrooms as possible have a network connection and a ceiling-mounted projector. This is a more flexible and efficient way of delivering the benefits of ‘smart classrooms,’ and it will also help us support the technology because we will have a small number of computer types to service.”
Q: How soon do you expect to renovate Anderson Hall?
A: “I expect that the renovation will occur during the 2013-14 academic year. We are working to create a space for the faculty and classes to operate during that time, with the upper floors of Pearsons Hall being the most likely home for most of the faculty.”
Q: I am sure that in your preparation for applying for the office of president of Maryville College, you became aware of the many projects that have been completed and those in development. Are there any in development that you might be able to enhance and/or projects you hope to start?
A: “We have the ongoing challenge of making sure that our curriculum, personnel and facilities are the best possible for delivering on our promise to students. I am also excited about building even more relationships with the other educational institutions – research centers like ORNL – and businesses in the region.”
Q: What percentage of the student body is from Blount County?
A: “Considering both full-time and part-time students, 26 percent are from Blount County.”
Q: What are your endowment goals?
A: “I would like to see the endowment grow so as to be able to help meet as much of the financial need as possible of students. We have a strong commitment to making our education, which is expensive because it relies on intensive personal interaction, affordable to students who can benefit from it. Scholarships funded by endowment are a vital part of that goal.”
Q: What is your vision for Maryville today and 15 years down the road?
A: “We will continue to be a strong liberal arts college that emphasizes developing the whole person, including especially the complementarity between faith and learning. Our enrollment will be at a sustainable level of at least 1,200 students and will include a wide variety of students. We will not only be a model of good stewardship of natural and financial resources, but we will be known as such throughout the region and nationally.”
Q: What is the key to student retention and student success at Maryville College?
A: “The key is to recruit students who have the potential to succeed and then to focus on helping them succeed. There is no single activity that guarantees success; rather, it is the interaction of everyone here that builds the environment that attracts and retains students.”
Q: What has surprised, frightened, pleased you about the MC community?
A: “It’s not completely a surprise, because it’s part of what attracted me. But something that’s rare is the way that students truly feel ownership of the College, including taking personal responsibility for their education. Our students truly understand that this is not a rehearsal for life but an important part of life, and they are a daily inspiration.”
Q: Will you ever bring back a marching band or a bagpipe band?
A: “I have been excited to see the progress of the pep band and think that it might be possible to use that foundation to build a marching band. Because we are now the rehearsal home of Knoxville Pipes and Drum, I’m hoping that we can recruit even more great students like Sam Newton ’13 so that we can build a full bagpipe band.”
Q: If you could have a new building on campus named after you during your tenure, what would it be?
A: “Anything focused on students. Among the projects I expect us to undertake are new or expanded space for science and for sport and fitness. Honestly, I don’t need a building. If MC is successful and I have been able to contribute to that success, I like Christopher Wren’s epitaph in St. Paul’s: Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice. (Reader, if you need a memorial, look around.)”
Q: Which former president of Maryville College grew up on an Indian reservation in Whiterocks, Utah?
A: “Dr. Lloyd.”
Q: How many communities have you lived in?
A: “10 places for at least a year: Berea, Ohio; Joppatowne, Md.; Succasunna, N.J.; Manassas, Va.; Houston, Tex.; Princeton, N.J.; Shaker Heights and University Heights, Ohio (counting as one place); Ann Arbor, Mich.; York, Pa.; Maryville, Tenn. But if you asked me where I’m from, I’ll say Fort Worth, Tex. It’s where my parents were born and raised, where we went every year to visit family, and where my parents moved when my dad retired. So it’s the one place I’ve gone to my whole life and it always feels like home.”
Q: What are the prospects for a recover in enrollment numbers?
A: “All the indicators are consistent with us bringing in the freshman class we want next year. As we continue to recruit the appropriate size incoming class and improve our retention, we will hit our target enrollment in about three years.”
Q: What is wrong with your bad knee?
A: “My right knee had plica syndrome which was repaired arthroscopically in November 2010. So now it’s not my bad knee anymore. According to my orthopedist, I have good knees for a 47-year-old runner and former soccer player.”
Q: In these uncertain economic times, how will you address the delicate balance of maintaining high academic standards with the need to keep enrollment high enough to pay the bills?
A: “These are actually complementary goals. Our high academic standards are how we recruit the students whose tuition pays the bills.”
Q: What is our next step in our quest to have a strong athletic conference?
A: “We have been engaged in intense conversations with colleges throughout the Southeast to find out what is possible in the short run. In the long run, we need to improve our physical facilities and academic outcomes (retention / graduation rates) to be an attractive recruit for some conferences we might like to join.”
Q: Are there any plans (or discussions) for a satellite campus for professional degree programs (similar to LMU or Tusculum)?
Q: Do you have any plans or ways to prevent tuition from going up? Do you worry that the price of the college discourages some form applying to MC?
A: “We are using financial planning tools to identify what resources are available to deliver our mission with the goal of mitigating tuition increases. Next year’s tuition will go up by 1.5%, a little less than inflation. While our high sticker price can be a deterrent, we are working to educate people about the financial aid available that can make us affordable. This is one reason it is so important to grow the endowment to support scholarships.”
Q: Why should a 17-year-old consider coming to MC? Are there opportunities for synergy between MC and Presbyterian Church or other denominations?
A: “We provide a distinctive transformational experience. We continue to reach out to PCUSA as well as other denominations to help us identify great students and to partner in their development.
Q: As our country faces deep financial and social problems, what ideas do you have to move Maryville College in a direction that will help address these problems?
A: “The best way that Maryville College can help the country is to do a great job of delivering on our mission. Our students are incredible resources to the community during their time here and they are leaders when they leave.”
Q: Can you speak about current initiatives to create a more unique and special public “identity” for Maryville that would lead to more applications and better academically prepared students? It is truly a “gem” – How can we make this gem more well known?
A: “There is no one way to create an identity. We have an incredibly talented staff that is helping find stories and tell them to both internal and external audiences. I have been active in reaching out to people and organizations in this region and beyond – note that the dinner is in Knoxville, which is an important symbol of our commitment to being Knoxville’s liberal arts college. Perception of colleges changes slowly, so I expect that we will be working to spread the good news for a long time.”
Q: What do you think about the overall crisis in higher education in the United States?
A: “I think that higher education in the United States is incredibly diverse, which makes it difficult to pin down what we mean by ‘crisis.’ The combination of technological change and evolving business models has led to a variety of new ways of providing higher education. In turn, that has put pressure on existing institutions, some of whom have gone out of business and others of whom are adapting quite creatively.”
Q: What kind of car do you drive?
A: “The college car is an Impala from West Chevrolet. I think I know who asked this question…”
Q: What color toenail polish do you prefer?
A: “There’s a person who comes to the football games who has every possible MC accessory in orange and garnet, and she paints her toenails orange and garnet. That’s pretty neat.”
Q: What will you enjoy most as president?
A: “The chance to spend time with the many people whose lives have been touched by MC.”
Q: What kind of shampoo do you use?
A: “Very little.”
Q: There is a cat with a deadly poison in a sealed metal box. He is neither dead nor alive. What is it? It’s a physics question.
A: Schroedinger’s Cat. My daughter confessed to collaborating with my father on this question …
Q: Now that so many students commute to MC, what is the college doing to build community on campus? It must be tough.
A: “We have always had commuters at MC. We do some things targeted specifically at commuters, but mostly we aim to integrate all of our students regardless of where they happen to live.”
Q: What do you consider the “perfect” size for MC? Is there room for growth and, if so, how will MC grow?
A: “I know we need to have an enrollment of at least 1,200. Given our current residence hall capacity (including a renovated Pearsons Hall), I suspect that our maximum size is around 1,300, depending on the mix of residents and commuters. The best size is a moving target that has to be developed in conjunction with the faculty, staff, and others as we identify the appropriate size to deliver our academic and co-curricular activities.”