I like the Thanksgiving holiday because it inspires me to forego my penchant to look through the half-empty glass darkly and seek the sunny view through a glass half full. In that spirit, I think the St. Thomas community has a lot to be thankful for in this past year.
In the face of nine percent unemployment in the country, growing mortgage foreclosures and diminishing savings, having a job at UST seems a pretty good deal.
It begins with jobs and money. Thanks to a largest-ever freshman class and a sound investment policy, St. Thomas has suffered fewer cutbacks and setbacks than many institutions. In the next two years, full-time faculty salaries will move closer to market averages, and health care premiums for 2011 will stay the same for virtually everyone.
The new Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex exceeds expectations. The building is not only state-of-the-art, it’s hard to miss and inviting to use. One staff member has started using the treadmill three times a week, burning up calories and taking off pounds. In fact, in the past two months, he’s lost enough weight and gained enough muscle tone to control his diabetes without medication. His doctor thinks he’s a hero and he feels like a million bucks.
Good teaching prevails and good teachers abound here. Sadly, one died a month ago after a battle with cancer. Frank Coglitore taught accounting and auditing at St. Thomas for 27 years and was named Professor of the Year in 2006. I interviewed him for a video profile for the award, and he modeled the qualities of dozens of UST’s best teachers.
“I’m 10 feet off the ground,” he said of his classroom experience. “The adrenaline is pumping and there’s something inside of me that just comes out.” His students knew what it was: He cared about them and he showed them how the separate pieces and principles of accounting fit together.
Homecoming was a hit this year, with students and alums. More than 6,000 of them filled the stands and stood in the end zone to watch the undefeated Tommies (now 11-0 and in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs) eke out a win over Bethel’s unbeaten football team. Three weeks before, they beat the Johnnies for the first time in 13 years – on their home field in Collegeville.
Imagine what Homecoming could be like with a winning football team AND a brand new student center. That’s enough to give sweaty palms to those in Alumni and Constituent Relations.
“Designer” coffee is available in the library. Seriously, I’ve given up enough bad habits to desperately cling to the few left, and one of them is fresh-ground, fresh-brewed, dark-roast coffee, now available at Coffee Bene in the library. Now I don’t have to juggle a cup of Starbucks coffee over the four blocks from my car to OEC.