Dear Alumni and Friends,
All my adult life I’ve heard about how important the “elevator speech” can be. You probably know what it is, but just in case, the elevator speech is what I’d want to say about something I highly value if the time I had to say it was only as long as a shared elevator ride with some listener I wanted to impress. More recently I’ve heard lots of people talk about the “bucket list.” Again, you probably know its meaning as well as or better than I do, but to be sure, my bucket list is the set of experiences I’d want to pack into the rest of my life before I kicked the bucket, i.e., died. Here’s my challenge to you. Prepare your Nebraska Wesleyan elevator speech and your bucket list as it applies to Nebraska Wesleyan.
The NWU Elevator Speech
I’m in a generous mood as I write, so I’m willing to let you give your elevator speech in the Empire State Building, all the way from ground level to the 86th-floor observation deck. You’ve got one whole minute. Ready? Go! A-thousand-one, a-thousand-two, . . ., a-thousand-fifty-nine, a-thousand-sixty. Time’s up!
Depending on how fast you talked in that minute, you got out between 80 and 200 words. Here’s what I typically say in my elevator speech: “Nebraska Wesleyan is an outstanding liberal arts university in Lincoln. Lincoln? It’s Nebraska’s capital and a vibrant mid-sized city. NWU enrolls about 1,500 full-time, traditional undergraduates plus about 500 adult and graduate students. Our signature programs? There’s quite a variety in them. They include pre-med, psychology, international studies, music, and theatre. NWU is a school that emphasizes active, engaged learning. It’s a place for students who want to be participants rather than spectators. We combine high standards with strong support networks. To really appreciate Nebraska Wesleyan you’ve got to visit the campus. Stop by my office when you do. Bye!”
The NWU Bucket List
When it comes to the bucket list, a strong sense of focus is essential, so I’m going to ask you to limit yourself here to three items. That means that each item needs to be really important, not just to you, but to the school for the long-term. Think strategically in considering what might go onto your list. Ask yourself this question. What’s going to have such an enduring importance that it will matter to students, professors, staff, alumni, and friends of Nebraska Wesleyan 50, 75, or even 100 years from now?
Just like a personal bucket list, the big-time to-dos for a college or university should involve going places, reaching out, and making a difference; certainly not backing up or just standing still. Here’s my bucket list for NWU.
1. Realize the vision to be an outstanding national liberal arts university, in NWU’s programs, in its people and its facilities, in its accomplishments, and in its renown.
2. Achieve an enrollment that balances students from large and small communities; from within Nebraska, neighboring states, and farther away; and create among all of NWU’s students the kind of community that makes every graduate ready to lead, serve, succeed, and keep on learning in a diverse world.
3. Raise revenues to a level that we can be confident about the fulfillment of 1 and 2.
The Revenue Question
Did you notice how much shorter my 3 was than my 1 or my 2? My take-away for you this spring is found in that difference. To sustain what’s good and to grow what’s excellent about Nebraska Wesleyan requires that we find more revenue than we have today. Where might that revenue be found?
It’s not going to come from governments, which currently are slashing appropriations for student aid. It’s not going to come from big raises in tuition and fees. It’s not going to come from borrowing because students can’t and shouldn’t borrow much more than they already do. Nor can we expect Nebraska Wesleyan’s modest endowment to multiply magically overnight like mushrooms on a damp meadow.
The best opportunity to put checkmarks on our Nebraska Wesleyan bucket list and make our elevator speech ring true into the future is you. Your help in the form of gifts, especially unrestricted gifts to the Archway Fund, is an essential part of making it all possible. Please give it your thoughtful consideration.
And as always, a heartfelt thank you conveyed through me from Nebraska Wesleyan’s students to everyone who has supported them in the past and to all of you who are supporting them today.