Observations from Ten Years on South Street

President Roger Taylor’s Speech: “Observations from Ten Years on South Street” June 16, 2011

Thank you for that generous introduction Karrie, and thanks to Rotary for letting me stand up before you this one last time while I still work at Knox College.

Joel asked me for a title for my remarks today and I chose “Observations from Ten Years on South Street.”

2 East South Street is Knox’s address, Knox is where I spent the last 10 years. And thinking about what to say today gave me a chance to reflect some on my time at Knox.

Let me start by publicly announcing — for the first time — what the title of my book is going to be. I’m going to call it Excellence in Leadership Through Inadvertence! Now I think you’ll agree that’s a catchy title, bound to sell, and there is truth in it.

Inadvertent President
For starters, I was an inadvertent president of Knox. The prior Knox president left without much notice in the summer of 2001 and the Board was scurrying around to find an interim president.

I was in the process of winding down my law practice in Chicago, Anne and I were moving to our farm in Fulton County, so some trustees said, “Roger — why don’t you be the interim president?”

There was another Knox graduate, trustee, who was also unemployed, John Podesta. Several trustees — including me — said, “Let’s get John to act as interim president.”

I called John from my Chicago office and told him I wanted to fly out to Washington and talk with him about being the interim president.

John said, “No. If we’re going to talk about that I’ll come to Chicago.”

I hung up and said, “Hot dog! Nobody flies from Washington, D.C. to Chicago, Illinois to say, ‘no’”.

Big Meeting in Chicago
John and I had a meeting in Chicago; a couple of folks came up from campus. We talked for four hours.

John finally said that he couldn’t leave Washington but if I would be the interim president he would agree to be special counsel — or some title — so we could take advantage of his name, get some headlines.

It worked. The headline in the Register-Mail was “White House Chief of Staff and alumnus to lead Knox.” John went back to Washington, I never heard from him again! That’s not true, John has been very helpful to the College, and to me, opening some doors in Washington and helping with some Commencement speakers.

Inadvertent Office
But the inadvertence continued. The second smartest thing I did during my 10 years at Knox — was inadvertent; moving my office to a little room right off the hall of Old Main.

My interim term officially started September 1, 2001, but I started working in July. My predecessor’s office was still set up in the grand, southeast corner of Old Main.

So I set up shop in an ante room on the hall, the room with the window where Abraham Lincoln went through college! That worked just fine, I kept my door open. Pretty soon students and others started to say that I had an open door policy, which they loved.

And I was able to step out into the hall and greet unsuspecting visitors, especially visiting prospective students and their parents and do a little retail sales.

Inadvertent Eating in Cafeteria
The office move was the second smartest inadvertence, the smartest was eating in the cafeteria with the students.

First day of classes, September 6, 2001, It was lunch time, I said to Anne, “Let’s go over to the cafeteria for lunch.”

We came off the line with our trays. You could see the students looking down. “Please God, don’t let them sit with me.”

But they got a charge out of our eating with them. No president had eaten with the students in memory, maybe never. It gave the students a boost of school spirit that translated over to faculty and staff I’m convinced.

Some Decisions Were Intentional
So the smartest things I did were inadvertent, but reflecting back, some things were intentional. Fixing the Old Main bell was the most important intentional thing I did. The Old Main bell had rung to call students to class and dismiss them since 1858.

For reasons never clear, and I couldn’t get a straight answer, they stopped ringing the bell in the mid 80s. Then in the fall of 2001 two students pointed out to me that a couple of supports on the Old Main bell tower looked like they were rotting, turned out all of the supports were rotting and we had to replace the bell tower.

I said, “By golly we are going to fix the bell while we’re at it!”

Easy Money for the Bell
The whole project cost $50,000. It was the easiest $50,000 I have ever raised. During a trustee executive committee meeting I said that we were going to replace the bell tower and fix the bell, we needed $50,000.

Trustee Bud Potter, Class of ’63 from Havana said, “I’ll do $10,000. Trustee Chuck Smith from Chicago said, “I’ll do 10.” Three other trustees piped up. We raised the $50,000 in less than a minute.

Bell Dedication
We dedicated the new bell tower and rang the Old Main bell in a ceremony on February 14, 2002. Ringing the bell again was a sign of renewed institutional self confidence in the future of Knox, and that was the beginning of the second of my three goals for Knox: Strengthening Institutional Self-Confidence.

Two days later, on February 16, 2002, the Board elected me the real president.

Three Goals
My three goals also were intentional: Nurture Academic Excellence, Strengthen Institutional Self-Confidence, And Chart a Course Toward Financial Impregnability.

And I intentionally repeated them every time I got a chance. Repeated them so often — that folks on campus, and many alumni, know them by heart whether they wanted to or not.

Institutional Self-Confidence
And Strengthening Institutional Self-Confidence has been the most import of the three goals.

Knox Has Accentuated the Positive.
Institutional Self-Confidence gave us the motivation and confidence to accentuate the positive.

We don’t have gleaming new buildings — like many other colleges, but we have a great faculty and a rigorous academic program, an academic program that appeals to bright and curious students from all over the country and world: 45% from Illinois, 57% from other states, 8% from other countries.

And the academic program is what we have accentuated, the faculty, the educational program, and that is why enrollment has grown from 1,050 students in 2001, to 1,400. Right now, against our target of 375 new students for this fall, we have 401 deposits.

Endowed Chairs
Institutional Self-Confidence gave us confidence to ask donors for money for new endowed chairs to address faculty salaries, and motivated donors to give. People love to give money to a winner.

Since 2007 we have added eight new endowed chairs with individual endowments of from $1 million to $2 million. Total $10.4 million; the earnings from the endowments support the salaries of the professors who are named to the chairs

The new chairs, other gifts for the endowment, have enabled us to increase the endowment from $43 million in 2001, to $84 million as of March 30…still too small but the highest in the College’s history.

New Facilities
Institutional Self-Confidence gave us confidence to ask for money for new facilities: the new athletic facilities, the new Turner track, new Andrew Fitness Center, new Prats Soccer Field, new Knosher Bowl, Borzello Hall — a new academic building on the corner of South and Cherry, and a $6 million renovation of Hamblin Hall — the dormitory on South Street.

Knox Is Good for Galesburg
And if I may observe what I have just described happening at Knox has been good for Galesburg, the construction and renovation — $25 million since 2000.

We got most of that in Galesburg, 80% we figure. The progress at Knox is good for Galesburg in other ways. Knox employs 342 faculty and staff, annual payroll of $18 million, student payroll of $1.3 million, an annual goods and services budget of $15 million.

Knox Accentuated the Positive About Galesburg.
At Knox we have also accentuated the positive about Galesburg.

No one will be surprised or annoyed I hope, if I say that parts of Galesburg don’t show well to prospective students and their families.

Knox Showed Seminary Street.
But rather than wringing our hands about what in Galesburg doesn’t show well, at Knox we have accentuated the positive about Galesburg.

One part of Galesburg that does show very well is Seminary Street, created by Knox alum Jay Matson ‘65, and we accentuate Seminary Street.

I tell prospective students and their parents that I lived in Chicago for 30 years, so I know from experience that at the Seminary Street restaurants you can get Chicago food at Peoria prices.

Galesburg Needs to Accentuate the Positive.
I say all this not just to brag about Knox. I say it because I believe those of us in Galesburg need to work even harder to accentuate the positives of Galesburg, and Strengthen Civic Self Confidence, just as Knox has Strengthened Institutional Self-Confidence.

And I am taking this message to you, because the members of the Rotary are critical, civic leaders in this community. And I know that if you agree with me, you can lead that effort to Strengthen Civic Self-Confidence and persuade more folks to join in.

Brag About District 205
There is plenty about Galesburg to accentuate. One thing we can all brag about is the public schools in Galesburg there are issues and challenges but the teachers and administrators do a great job.

I have been in classrooms; I have worked with Gene Denisar and others on the Gale Scholars Program. I think most folks in Galesburg recognize that District 205 does a great job, and how important our schools are. That’s why the voters approved the penny tax for the Master Facilities Plan last November.

District 205 Helps Knox.
Bragging about District 205 gives me a segue into acknowledging how important Galesburg is to Knox, starting with District 205, Gale Scholars — of course.

But District 205 also provides opportunities for Knox teacher education majors to do student teaching.

Teacher education is one of the largest majors at Knox, number 2 right now. Of the 289 Knox graduates at Commencement a couple weeks ago, 40 were teacher education majors.

And thanks to Joel, and the cooperating teachers at 205, about 30 to 40 Knox students do their practice teaching at 205 schools.

Galesburg Is KnoxKnox is Galesburg
I could go on and on with examples of Galesburg being good for Knox, and how Knox is Galesburg, and Galesburg is Knox.

The number of Knox employees and alumni who are members of Noon Rotary and Sunrise Rotary would be one example.

Knox Is Too Liberal
Now let me spend just one minute on an observation from South Street that may seem a little disagreeable.

I have heard reports about some folks in Galesburg grumbling that Knox is “too liberal,” an occasional letter to the editor to that effect, even a column in the Register-Mail awhile back referring to “left wing” Knox students.

When I hear about those grumblings I scratch my head and wonder if the grumblers have ever spent any time with any of our students.

No One Sends The Students Back
Because a couple of years ago when Knox student Sarah Kurian ‘10, from Elburn, organized a group of Knox students to spend time with the residents of the Mary Allen West Towers and organize activities for them. We didn’t get any complaints that Sarah or any of the students were “too liberal.”

And when Knox student Anita Ahuja ‘11 from Rock Island organized a Knox student chapter of “Best Buddies” to spend quality time with the residents of St. Mary’s Square we didn’t get any complaints that Anita or the other Knox students were “too liberal.”

In January, when Knox students donated 1,532 meals to the LunchSpot program for District 205 students during the extended winter break, we didn’t get any “too liberal” complaints.

Temper Our Gripes
No doubt plenty of the Knox students are more liberal than I am, and sometimes say things they shouldn’t. But it still addles me when I hear the “too liberal” gripes, and I wish that folks would temper their gripes with the recognition that when we put our hands over our hearts, and pledge allegiance to the flag, and say “liberty and justice for all,” that means liberty to hold views different from ours and not be disparaged as too anything.

The truth is we have all sorts of students as Knox, which is as it should be, to help students learn from each other.

Roger Will Miss the Students
Final observation from South Street. You can probably tell from what I just said that I am going to miss the students, I will miss pretty much everything about the job and the role it has given me in Galesburg.

There will be a few things I won’t miss, but rather than mention them now I’ll save them for the book.

But one thing that I will really miss a lot is the students, meeting many of them as high school students trying to pick a college, welcoming them to campus and then watching them grow and mature, and go off to be productive citizens, Teachers — business people — doctors.

That I will miss the students was brought home to me a couple of months ago when I was talking with Hannah.

I first met Hanah on March 8, 2009 when Anne and I attended an admissions reception at Sunset Ridge Country Club in Northfield.

“Hannah,” not her real name, was socially awkward, shy, didn’t talk. Hannah’s mother took me aside. “Maybe she could be a librarian.” Her mother’s face betrayed a plea, “Please take this child.”

I walked out of the Sunset Ridge Country Club that day feeling sad about Hannah’s plight but I consoled myself that was someone else’s problem, I’d never see Hannah again.

Admitted Students Day
Fast forward to April 16, 2009, Admitted Students Day, I walked into the Lincoln Room for lunch, and there — big as life, with a grin ear to ear, sat Hannah.

            “Where’s your mom.”

            “Oh — she’s at home,” Hannah said.

            “How’d you get here?”

            “I took the train.”

Hannah had gotten here from the North Shore by herself. If Knox College never did another thing it had started to change Hannah’s life by contributing to her confidence to visit campus by herself.

Move-In Day
Saturday, September 5, 2009 Hannah moved in as a new student. I have gone out of my way to stop to chat with her when I see her, she’s ordinarily by herself, still shy, has a little difficulty chatting but she always smiles.

It crossed my mind that Hannah’s social skills are consistent with what I have read about Asperger’s Syndrome, but I don’t know.

I have checked her transcript a time or two, she’s doing fine.

Tenure Decision
Last year when I refused to recommend a faculty member for tenure I got lots of letters from students objecting.

Hannah sent one, hers was the most well reasoned and thoughtful letter of protest I received.

I don’t know if Hannah will end up being a librarian, but I know that she will be something, and I know that she will be someone.

Because of the financial generosity to Knox of many people, including many of you, Hannah is going to be a good citizen and productive member of our society.

I’ll Miss You
I ran into Hannah about a month ago on the first floor of Old Main, asked her how it was going. With a bit of shyness, she said, “Fine.”

She started to go to class, then she stopped, looked me straight in the eye, and said firmly, “I’m going to miss you.”

I’d be surprised if I ever forget that moment.

Thanks for letting me share my observations from ten years on South Street.

2011 Teacher of the Month Banquet

President Roger Taylor’s Speech at the 2011 Teacher of the Month Banquet

Thanks for the Invitation
Thanks, Chris. Thanks for inviting my wife Anne and me to join you this evening for this celebration of the important work that our teachers do.

Congratulate KFM
It’s great that KFM, with support from Lackey Monuments, and Tompkins State Bank, and Casey’s Party Creations, recognizes the work our classroom teachers do — the classroom teachers — to whom we entrust our future.

KFM Goes About it Systematically
And I love the systematic way that KFM goes about selecting teachers of the month, with a protocol that asks nominators to respond to questions that cover three separate, important characteristics:

First — what sets the teacher being nominated apart?

Second — the protocol asks for an example of something the teacher being nominated does that isn’t strictly speaking a part of their job.

Third — the protocol asks for examples of how the teacher has impacted a child — usually the child of the nominator.

KFM Involves Parents
And I love the way that the KFM nomination protocol involves parents.

I know that some of the nominations were submitted by students, but I am betting that their parents encouraged and helped them.

With all the publicity and hullabaloo about education, there is too little attention paid to the importance of parents — too little attention paid to figuring out ways to get parents involved with their children’s education.

Teacher Education at Knox
My opinion comes, in part, from my work at Knox.

Where, as many of you know, preparing students to teach in our K through 12 classrooms is a very important part of the educational Knox program.

Teacher education, or Educational Studies as we call it, is one of the one of the biggest majors at Knox; right now it is the second largest major.

Area school districts are very helpful in giving Knox Ed Studies students opportunities for practice teaching, and area teachers are helpful as supervising teachers for Knox students.

RLT Other Teacher Ed Experience
Working with the Education Studies faculty at Knox, meeting with the state regulators who certify the Knox Ed Studies program, serving on boards that are involved with education, talking with classroom teachers — all of that has shown me the importance of parents to our children’s education.

Gale Scholar Example
But what really drove home the importance of parents in children’s education has been my experience with the George Washington Gale Scholars Program.

As many of you know Knox, Galesburg District 205, and Carl Sandburg Community College cooperate in a program that selects 15 eighth graders each year as George Washington Gale Scholars.

Gale Scholars who keep up their grades at Galesburg High get two years tuition free at Carl Sandburg, and then junior and senior years tuition free at Knox.

Gale Scholars Drop Out Because of Lack of Family Support
Some students drop out of the Gale Scholars Program. The number of drop-outs students is small enough that Superintendent Gene Denisar from District 205, Lori Sundberg, the Carl Sandburg president, and I can over names.

At least three-fourths of the time the students who drop out walk away from a free college education because of the home situation…or lack thereof.

It’s not that they aren’t smart enough to do the work. It’s not that their teachers aren’t helping them. It’s simply there is no encouragement in their homes. Sadly — in a few cases — direct discouragement.

We Need a Law About Parents
All this is a long-winded way to say that every time I hear someone say that we need a law to do this or that about teachers, every time I see a story that talks about how our schools are failing, because of teachers or teacher education, I just want to yell out, “What about the parents? What about a law for parents? And what about more ways to involve parents?”

Ways like KFM’s Teacher of the Month Program, which encourages parents to be involved with their children’s education, and encourages parents to recognize what our classroom teachers accomplish, and recognizes publicly, in a big way, what our teachers do.

SEALS News Piece
There was a news piece, an op ed piece last week about the Navy SEALS apprehension of Bin Laden. It praised the men who were on the ground in Afghanistan.

The piece noted how — when we criticize the Armed Forces, we criticize the admirals and generals.

But when the media and politicians, and the public criticize education, ironically they criticize the men and women on the ground — the teachers.

Congratulate KFM
So again — congratulations to KFM for this great vehicle that allows us to give credit — not unfounded criticism — to our teachers, and for this great vehicle to involve parents.

Thanks Chris, for spearheading this important program of recognition.

Congratulations to the KFM Teachers
And congratulations to the KFM Teachers of the Month.

In thinking about my remarks this evening, I had the chance to read through the nominations of each of the teachers who were selected for Teacher of the Month Awards.

I was struck by two things: how different each of the nominations was, and second, how it was apparent that each of the nominees really focused on her or his students.

Congratulations and thank you!

Miss Tapper
Let me close by proposing a toast to each of the Teachers of the Month gathered here, and to the late Ruth Tapper.

You may ask, “Who is the late Ruth Tapper?”

Miss Tapper taught for over 40 years at Cuba High School, down in Fulton County — Cuba High School, from which I was graduated.

Miss Tapper taught Latin and mathematics. She spent her entire career at Cuba High School; she never taught anywhere else.

In her Latin courses Miss Tapper introduced farm boys, like me, and the daughters of the Fulton County coal miners — she introduced us to the Classics, Caesar’s conquest of Gaul.

“Gallia in tres partes divisa est.” Cicero’s orations. “Haec Senatus intelligent.”

She taught us trigonometry, solid geometry. She was demanding in a gentle sort of way. She constantly impressed upon us that time was precious, and that what we could do with our brains was simply unlimited. She was a classic school teacher, like the teachers we honor this evening. She encouraged us to do the best we could possibly do.

After Miss Tapper retired she moved to back to Aurora where she was born, but she came back to Cuba every May for the high school alumni banquet. At the banquet she sat with the 50 year reunion class; she had taught most of them.

Over the years I noticed that whenever I met up with someone else who had gone to Cuba, our conversation would always end up talking about Miss Tapper, and what an influence she had been on us.

I tell you this as background for my toast. You see, after I left Cuba High School and came to Knox for college, and then went into the Navy, law school, and practiced law in Chicago — every so often I would think that I should drive out to Aurora, have lunch with Miss Tapper. I would tell her what an important influence she had been on me, how she had touched my life … but I never got around to it, and now it’s too late.

And I tell you this because I know that each of you, the teachers whom we honor this evening, each of you have already influenced many students who like me will think that they should make a point of telling you how you have touched their lives, but like me, will never get around to it.

So I hope you won’t think it too presumptuous, if I tell you for them. Thank you for all that you have done for your students, and I close with a toast to you, and the late Ruth Tapper.

Congratulations; thank you for what you do, and thank you for letting Anne and me join you in this celebration.

2011 Carl Sandburg Graduation

President Roger Taylor’s Speech at the 2011 Carl Sandburg Graduation

Next Step
Thank you, President Sundberg, for that flattering introduction.

And thank you, President Sundberg, and thank you, Carl Sandburg College, for giving me the honor of speaking during this important ceremony which recognizes this important next step of graduation.

Touched to be Asked to be Lori’s First Commencement Speaker
When President Sundberg asked me last winter to be her first commencement speaker, I was very touched, that was special.     Thank you, Lori.

Lori Was the Right Choice
I hope you won’t mind if I tell you that when I first heard, back in the summer of 2009, that Carl Sandburg would be looking for its next president.

I said to myself, “I hope that the Sandburg Board of Trustees realize that they already have the right person to be the next president, in the form of Lori Sundberg, and that the trustees don’t fiddle around and spend a lot of money on a drawn out search…that will end up selecting Lori.”

Congratulations to the Sandburg Board of Trustees for making the right choice, right away.

Lori Already is Enriching Sandburg Intellectually
I know from talking with students and faculty that President Sundberg already has made a positive impact on the college.

By, for example, enriching student programming co-curricular events, such as Campus Read, bringing distinguished outside speakers, often during the lunch hour, so that more students can attend.

Bringing an intellectual atmosphere to Sandburg outside the class, that most community colleges simply do not have, and that many four-year colleges would envy.

Thanks to the Families
Special thanks to the parents, wives, husbands, children, other family members, friends of tonight’s graduates — you have played a key role in getting these graduates to this important next step.

Thanks to the Faculty
And very special thanks to the faculty of this college — the former President of Mt. Union College Harold Kolenbrander wrote:

“A college can be better than the administrative team that leads it. A college can be better than its buildings and facilities. But a college can never be better than the faculty who teach there.”

The Carl Sandburg Faculty
I know from talking with graduates of this college, from talking with current students, and from talking with faculty — that this college is blessed with faculty who fiercely believe in its mission.

Sandburg’s Complex Mission
A mission that is so complex and broad that it makes my head hurt to think about it — an educational mission in this community and region that ranges from automotive technology to cosmetology to English literature to IT to philosophy to welding.

From opening doors to a bright future to each of its students, to being an engine of regional economic development, a mission that has made returning to school after an extended stay out of school, a reality for many in our community.

Back to Faculty
A broad and complex mission that is implemented by a faculty, who is dedicated to Sandburg students, dedicated to enabling students to succeed — ready to drag students to succeed, if that’s what it takes.

Faculty who do not want to teach anywhere else, even though they have the credentials to do so.

If you haven’t done it already, I urge all the graduates to take a moment to thank the faculty who got you to this important step.

Knox’s Long Association with Carl Sandburg
As President Sundberg said — I was graduated from Knox College in 1900 and 63.

The long association between Carl Sandburg and Knox is an additional reason that it is a privilege for me to speak to you.

Back in the mid 1960s when Carl Sandburg College was being organized, then Knox President Sharvy Umbeck told the Knox community that it was important for Knox to support the establishment of this new community college in Galesburg.

Knox Professor of Education Carl Eiseman was on the original Sandburg Board. Many of you know that Knox Physics Professor Wayne Green served on the Sandburg board for 29 years, and Knox Psychology Professor Gary Francois has been active on the College’s Foundation.

Knox-Sandburg Collaboration Has Continued
Sandburg and Knox have continued collaborations through the years. For example, an agreement to assure that Sandburg credits will count towards a Knox degree.

My personal favorite Sandburg-Knox collaboration is the George Washington Gale Scholars Program, a collaboration that includes Galesburg Public School District 205.

Six Gale Scholars, who were selected when they were in the eighth grade, are graduating this evening and will continue their education at Knox this fall.

Many, many Sandburg graduates have finished their four years at Knox.

The Next Step
You may have noticed me say a couple of times that this commencement, this graduation, is a next step, a very important next step, a next step in a journey of education, ed-u-ca-tion.

Sandburg Quote
Galesburg native son, Lincoln biographer, distinguished American poet, for whom this institution is named, Carl Sandburg, wrote in Always the Young Stranger his reminiscence of growing up in Galesburg.

Sandburg wrote about one of his teachers, Lottie Goldquist, whose favorite word, which she said a lot, was: “ed-u-ca-tion.”

That’s the way she said it, according to Sandburg. Miss Goldquist told Sandburg and her other students that you could never get enough of it.

“If you have knowledge and ambition you can go far,” she would say.

But she always added that “character and principles are just as important as knowledge and ambition.” Character and principles guide how you use knowledge and ambition in a life of caring and respect for others.

I know that you have knowledge; you wouldn’t be sitting here if you didn’t. I also know that you wouldn’t be sitting here if you didn’t have ambition.

If you didn’t have ambition, you would not have been able to juggle all the things that most of you juggled while you were a student.

For most of you, going to college was not the only thing that was on your plate. In addition to going to college most of you juggled jobs, family responsibilities, cars that broke down, $4 gas.

But because you had ambition, you have persisted and succeeded, and now you have reached this important step on a new and different journey.

This Step Leads to Opportunity and Privilege
And because of this step, because of the education that you have received here, you are starting on a journey of opportunity and privilege that you otherwise would not have enjoyed.

I know that the word “privilege” may not be a politically correct word in some circles, but it’s the truth.

RLT Story
Why do I say all this with such conviction? I say this because of the life of opportunity and privilege that I have led because of the education that I received.

I was born and raised on a farm in Fulton County, the county just south of Knox County.

Like some of you, no one in my family had ever gone to college, we didn’t have much. But like many of you, my family encouraged me to get an education, go to college.

And I did, to Knox — thanks to scholarships, student loans, and part time jobs.

RLT Privileged Life
And as a result of the education that I received, and the opportunities it opened, I was privileged to serve our country in the United States Navy.

Privileged to go to law school at Northwestern University, privileged to practice law in Chicago for 30 years with one of the largest, and most well know, law firms in America, and then privileged to serve as Knox’s president for 10 years.

Why Tell the RLT Story

I tell you my story, not because my story is so important. I tell you my story because it is the story that I know best, and I tell you my story because I am convinced, convinced that my story foretells the lives of opportunity and privilege that you can expect. As a result the education that you have received here, at Carl Sandburg College, where there are other stories — just like mine.

Cynthia Kitchen’s Story
Cynthia was raising a family here in Galesburg, had a dream of being a writer, but didn’t think she ever could.

Cynthia enrolled here at Sandburg where faculty encouraged her, gave her confidence, told her she could write if that’s what she wanted to do.

With a Sandburg-Lombard Scholarship Cynthia went to Knox for her bachelor’s, an English major.

Her Masters of Fine Arts from Spalding University, she studied at Spalding because it had a non-resident program for non-traditional students. Now Cynthia is on the Knox faculty.

And the Sandburg faculty, who told Cynthia that she could write, were right. She has just published a collection of short stories, and she is working on a novel.

Jim Purlee’s Story
In 1968 Jim was baling hay at the family farm. A friend stopped by on his way to enroll at the new junior college that was being built in Galesburg.

“Junior college” was what they said back then. Jim thought that sounded like a good idea, and went along, got his associate’s degree then transferred to the University of Illinois where he got his bachelor’s.

Jim taught school for five years, became a principal. Then he got his master’s at Western and went to work for Gunther Construction.

Jim always farmed some, then had a chance to rent 500 acres, and started farming full time. He now farms 8,000 acres in Knox and Warren counties.

Jim is a trustee of Knox College, and has just been named a Master Farmer.

Brad Price
Who received his Associates in Applied Science in 1992, after some time away from Galesburg. Brad returned in 2007 as founder of Champion Technology Group, which has grown to a technology consulting firm, focusing on small and medium businesses all over the country.

Lori’s Story
And — a young woman who enrolled here at Carl Sandburg to become a licensed cosmetologist, and after a few years in that profession she came back to Sandburg for her associate’s degree, and then her bachelor’s at Knox.

And a Doctor of Business Administration at St. Ambrose, and is now the president of your college, presiding over her first commencement.

We Did Not Imagine How It Would Turn Out
I’ll guarantee you that Lori Sundberg, Jim Purlee, Brad Price, Cynthia Kitchen, and I…none of us imagined how our lives would turn out when we were in your place.

But because of our education, we all have led lives of opportunity and privilege that we never imagined.

These Stories Will Be Your Stories
These stories — the stories of the Carl Sandburg graduates who came before you — will be your stories, of that I am certain.

Different Tracks
Some of you will enter, or continue in, the workplace right after tonight’s commencement, doing important work — in law enforcement, and health care, business, and other vocations.

Some of you will be continuing your formal education immediately by going to Knox and other four-year institutions.

Whatever Your Path After Tonight
You are going to continue on a journey of learning, learning by taking more classes, learning on the job, learning by reading, learning from experience.

This commencement is a step in that journey of learning.

Pride in Carl Sandburg
I am not telling you anything that you don’t already know, but sometimes it’s reassuring to have someone else from outside tell you what you already know.

You already know you have received an excellent education; you already know that you have reason to have pride in your Carl Sandburg education. That was made abundantly clear to me about three weeks ago when I met here on campus with a group of Carl Sandburg students.

To a person, they were proud of their college, and proud of the education that they had received.

Don’t Look Down at Your Shoes!
That was great to hear, because sometimes, those of us from this part of the country look down at our shoes when we are asked where we’re from, or where we went to college. I know that when you are asked you will not look down at your shoes, you will shout out, “Carl Sandburg!”

Let’s Practice
Let’s practice. Where did you go to college?! Where did you go to college?! Where did you go to college?!

Reprise — An Outsider Says You Are Right to be Proud
You are right to be proud. But I thought that you wouldn’t mind hearing from someone else that your pride is grounded in fact.

And I thought you wouldn’t mind my telling you with conviction that this is an important step, a step to opportunities and a life of privilege that you probably cannot imagine as you sit here this evening on your commencement.

Relish the Moment!
Relish the moment. Celebrate your accomplishments. Thank your faculty. Thank your family.

Thank God, if you’re so inclined, and continue with your life’s journey with confidence and optimism as a graduate of Carl Sandburg College! Good luck!

God bless you.

2011 Gale Scholars Induction

President Roger Taylor’s Speech at the Gale Scholars Induction, May 3, 2011

As Mr. Hunter said, my name is Roger Taylor, and I am proud to say that I was graduated from Knox College in 1900 and 63 — just as I hope that you new Gale Scholars will be graduated from Knox College in 2019.
Let me say “Congratulations!” to our newest George Washington Gale Scholars, and congratulations to the families of the newest Gale Scholars.

Separate Congratulations!
Congratulations to the Gale Scholars because you have set yourself apart, and have started on a new and exciting road.
Congratulations to the families of the newest Gale Scholars, for supporting these great young folks and for getting them to this starting line on a new and exciting road.

A Day of Excitement!
Today is a day of excitement, and anticipation, and joy, and pride, for our Gale Scholars and their families.
I hope that you take it all in, bask in the excitement of this day, and pause tonight before the evening meal to look back on this day of excitement and to look forward to the future.

We Cannot Imagine the Future
None of us can predict the future with precision. None of us can predict what it will be like in 2019 when you graduate from college.

Just as none of us could have predicted 8 years ago how the power of the computer would affect us today — how we would have computers in our cars, our telephones, even our refrigerators.

Your Gale Scholarship Will Give You A Bright Future
But I can predict, and tell you — with conviction — that because of your induction as a Gale Scholar today, and the education that you will receive as a Gale Scholar, you will look forward to a bright future when you graduate in 2019.


Because — as author Thomas Friedman has written — because of the changes in our world brought about by the computer, and the pace of those changes.

“Getting a college education today is like training for the Olympics without knowing what sport you will end up competing in.”

And that the education that you will receive as a Gale Scholar, at Carl Sandburg and Knox, will give you the flexibility to compete successfully in this world, no matter what you end up doing.

The education that you will receive as a result of being a Gale Scholar also will give you a life of privilege that you otherwise would not enjoy.

RLT Story
Why do I say all this with such conviction?
I say this because of the life of — privilege – that I have led because of the education that I was privileged to receive.
I was born and raised on a farm in Fulton County, the county just south of Knox County. Like you, no one in my family had ever gone to college; we didn’t have much.

But like you, my family encouraged me to get an education, go to college, and I did…to Knox.

RLT Privileged Life
And — as a result of the education that I received, I was privileged to serve our country in the United States Navy, including a year in Vietnam.

Privileged to go to law school at Northwestern University; privileged to practice law in Chicago for 30 years, and then privileged to return to Knox and serve as president for 10 years.

Life of the Mind

But more important than any of that, privileged to live to an extent that would not have otherwise — been possible — to live the life of the mind, to understand to an extent that would not otherwise have been possible the treasures of the intellect that the life of the mind can open.

Why Tell the RLT Story

I tell you my story, not because my story is so important. I tell you my story, because it is the story that I know best.
And I tell you my story because my story foretells what you can expect as a result of being selected a Gale Scholar.

When It Gets Tough

And I tell you my story in the hope that when you face challenges and difficulties as a Gale Scholar, and you will, some of you will be tempted to drop out.

But I hope that when you face those difficulties you might think back and remember that a short farm boy from Fulton County (even if you don’t remember my name, you will remember it was cold as blazes) a short farm boy told you when you were inducted as a Gale Scholar.

That you are taking a step that can lead you to a life of privilege, a life of the mind, that is impossible to image as you sit here today, and that remembering some of what that farm boy said to you, you will overcome any difficulties you may encounter, and graduate from Knox College in 2019 as a George Washington Gale Scholar.
Believe me when I say. “It will be worth it.”

Congratulations! Good luck!

God bless you, and good luck.

2011 Admitted Student Days

President Roger Taylor’s Speech at the 2011 Admitted Student Days

Some of you already have heard me talk about what Thomas Friedman says about getting a college education today. Friedman is the author of the book, The World is Flat, about globalization, and other changes in the world.

Friedman says — he’s right — I think, that because of the pace and extent of change in our world today, resulting from the power of the computer, getting a college education today is like training for the Olympics without knowing what sport you are going to end up competing in.

Keep an Open Mind
Which translates into-keep an open mind as you embark on your college study.

You will find the academic fields that excite you the most as you take some courses, as you explore the disciplines, but take courses that will give you breadth and flexibility, courses that give you the ability to grab opportunities after you graduate, opportunities you cannot not imagine as you enter college.

Select a college that will give you the freedom to do that. As we say here at Knox, “The Freedom to Flourish” and the ability to flourish after you leave Knox.

Tina Browder
A couple of weeks ago — I was reminded of how a Knox education gives the Freedom to Flourish and gives graduates the ability to take advantage of opportunities.

Reminded when my wife — Anne — also a Knox graduate, whom I met on my first day on campus over 50 years ago (but that’s another story) and I had lunch with Tina Browder, a recent Knox graduate.

Tina was a studio art major, and while she was a Knox student she worked part time at the Dick Blick outlet store here in Galesburg. Many of you know that Dick Blick is a national retailer of art and artists supplies.

Blick Promoted Tina
Tina worked on the counter — at Blick while she was a student here. The folks at Blick liked Tina’s interpersonal skills, her ability to learn quickly, and offered her a full time job after graduation at the store.

Because Tina was quick on the uptake within a few months they transferred her to the Blick company headquarters in Highland Part and asked her to become a buyer. They wanted to take advantage of her knowledge of art. Tina continues to make art — she continues to work at Dick Blick.

She is trying to decide whether to pursue a Masters of Fine Art or an MBA. She’ll succeed whichever way she goes and she’ll keep on making art.

Friedman Says Get Analytic Skills
Thomas Friedman also writes about the importance of getting analytical skills while you are in college; the ability to ask good questions.

This spring we asked some of our recent graduates how their Knox education was serving them.

Michael Stockov
Recent Knox grad — Michael Stockov — is a transportation price analyst with Kimberly Clark, he was an Economics major while he was at Knox.

Michael was recently promoted and the College asked Michael to describe — candidly — how his Knox education prepared him for business.

Here’s what Michael said:
“The business world is full of very talented people all looking for a competitive advantage. The great thing about a Knox education — is that – it is your competitive advantage. Learning how to think, asking the right questions and trying new things is what allows me to consistently set myself apart from my peers.” Asking the right questions.

Change the World — Ross Kelly
You have seen in some of our publications. The phrases: “make a difference” — “change the world.”

Recent Knox grad, Ross Kelly, a creative writing major, went to south Sudan to try to make a difference by making a documentary about an orphanage that was being built, an orphanage for children whose parents had been killed by the army of Northern Sudan or by the Lord’s Resistance Army from Uganda.

The documentary fell apart but Ross was asked to fill in as an administrator at the orphanage. When the director left Ross was asked to take over. He stayed four years.

Why Are the Children Happy?
One thing that Ross simply could not understand was that the children at the orphanage were happy — smiles on their faces every day.

They had lost their parents under brutal circumstances, they had virtually no belongings yet they were happy. There was something going on that Ross could not understand.

He decided it was spiritual, a higher power, some call it God he says. Ross has decided to go to divinity school.

Freedom to Flourish in a Variety of Ways
I could go on but I think you get the idea of the various and diverse ways that Knox has enabled students to Flourish after Knox. Knox could do the same for you.

Student Lounge
Meanwhile back on campus spring term has proven to be another time of excitement here at Knox. The excitement started with the opening of the new student lounge here in Seymour, in the lower level If you haven’t seen it. I encourage you to take a peek before you leave campus today.

Excitement Continues with Apps
The excitement continued as we built our new class for next fall. The College has received over 2,479 applications for admission, for 375 slots. And we have had to make some tough admission decisions to make, and we know that we will have a great entering class this fall.

As Paul Steenis signaled in his remarks a few minutes ago, congratulations to all the admitted students who made the cut!

Knox is Rigorous
Knox is rigorous academically, not for the faint of heart or for those who want to go to college to party. Though Knox is rigorous, if we have admitted you, that means that we are convinced that you can cut it academically.

If we have admitted you, that means that we want you. If we have admitted you, that means we believe you will flourish at Knox.

Teaching & Learning — Day in and Day out
I say that building our new class is exciting. For me — the most exciting thing, for me, has been once again to witness the examples of the teaching and learning that go on day in and day out at Knox College because of our gifted faculty, dedicated coaches, and hard working staff who enabled the graduates I mentioned: Tina Browder, Michel Stockov, Ross Kelly, to flourish, and graduate, and make a difference.

Reflect on why you applied
As I close let me ask the admitted students for two favors.

Edward Lanphier, a Knox graduate, Class of 1978, biochemistry major who heads a biotech firm on the west coast, said to me a couple years ago,

“College is not a prize to be won. It is a match to be made.”

Bearing Edward’s advice in mind my first favor on your way home, please think back — and reflect on the reasons — you applied to Knox College in the first place. Reflect on why you were curious to discover whether you are Knox, and reflect on whether what you have learned and your experiences here on campus have convinced you — that you are Knox.

Thank the parents
Second favor: as we say down in Fulton County — where I come from, “Let’s not forget those who brought us.”

Those of you who have been admitted to Knox College — in this record year of applications, have every right to be proud of your accomplishments, have every right to be proud that this College has decided that “You are Knox!” But there are others here — today who nurtured you, dropped you off at school, attended your performances and athletic events, maybe nudged you to do your homework, your mothers and fathers, and grandmothers and grandfathers.

On your way home today, or when you get home, do me a favor: just take a moment and say, “thank you.”

Hope We See You Back Here
Speaking for the Knox students, faculty, and staff, we all hope we see you back her next fall, in the meantime, safe travels.