Webster Groves/Shrewsbury Chamber of Commerce | Webster University

Webster Groves/Shrewsbury Chamber of Commerce

Webster Groves
October 21, 2010

Thank you, Diane for that kind introduction and for asking me to speak to you all today. 

Good morning everyone.   I am so happy to be here and have this opportunity to meet with all of you in this beautiful facility.  

Thank you to Wade Hachman and the staff here at Bethesda Orchard for hosting us today.  On their website, Bethesda Orchard boasts an active, independent community of residents who frequently visit the nearby shops and restaurants. 

I know we have seen them at theatre and music productions on campus as well as lectures and the film series.  Bethesda is just one example of the strong sense of community Webster Groves enjoys. And we know that two of our alums, classmates from the class of 1947 are residents here – Peg Czufin and Mary Lou Connaghan.

I would also like to acknowledge my colleagues from Webster who are with us today.

On behalf of all my colleagues at the University, I offer congratulations to Mayor Welch and the city of Webster Groves on the 2010 America in Bloom Foundation Heritage Preservation Award.  Part of the warmth and character of this community is portrayed in the wonderful architecture and beauty of the buildings here.  Thank you for all your efforts to preserve them.

And I want to thank you, Mayor Welch, for participating in our student orientation program each year.  The students feel so special and so welcomed by your presence there.  And, on a personal note, thank you for your role in my Installation Ceremony last month at Powell Hall.  It was a memorable day and I am so happy you were a part of it.

I am grateful to be here this morning, not only for the opportunity to talk about Webster University, but also to learn more about your businesses and your commitment to Webster Groves.  Webster University has been committed to this community for almost a century and has established and nurtured many relationships and partnerships with many of you and other local businesses and organizations through the years. 

We are happy to be a thriving, contributing member of this community and look forward to another one hundred years of collaboration, growth and development.

Let me begin with an issue I would like to weigh in on, on behalf of the University.  It is an issue that may spark a heated debate.  It’s about our mascot.

In 1984, a gathering of Webster University faculty, students, staff, and administrators met to choose the name of the university’s mascot.  Gorlok was chosen as the combination of the two streets that intersected in the heart of Old Webster - Gore and Lockwood.

Following the naming, a contest was held to determine what a “Gorlok” would look like.  As you can see, what we have is a mythical creature with the paws of a speeding cheetah, the horns of a fierce buffalo and the face of a dependable Saint Bernard.  Our Gorlok embodies the highest standards of speed, agility, and stamina in an atmosphere of fairness and good conduct.

The Gorlok is a frequent visitor at campus activities and often comes out to the community events like the Community Days Parade, our recent Steppin’ with Stroble event, and much more. 

As you all may know, just three years after the founding of Loretto College by the Sisters of Loretto in 1915, the Gorelock Realty Company built this building on the corner of Gore and Lockwood and appropriately named it, the Gorelock Realty Company Building.  Now, according to the Heart of Webster Walking Tour brochure, this structure, which was built without a permit, hmmm… is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and holds a special place in the rich history of Webster Groves.  However …in the spirit of fairness and good conduct, I must say that according to our Director of Athletics, and former Webster Groves/Shrewsbury Area Chamber of Commerce President, Tom Hart, the “official” spelling has no “c”!!  Tom is a diligent protector of our beloved Gorlok and the care and spelling of its name!  While solid arguments exist for both spellings, I believe the debate will continue!

Thank you for indulging me in telling that story.  While it was all in fun, it does illustrate an early and enduring connection between Webster University and the Webster Groves community, a connection that reaches far and wide.  

But let’s ask the question…what if, almost a century ago, the Sisters of Loretto had chosen another location for Loretto College?  What if Webster University had another name in another city?  How would the quality of life in Webster Groves, Missouri be different?

Where would the Opera Theatre’s green and white tent pop up signaling the start of a new season and the arrival of spring? Who would host Kathleen Turner while she appeared in what is being called, “the role of a lifetime” in the Repertory Theatre’s production of High?

How far would the 165 staff members who are Webster Groves residents have to commute to work every day?  Would the 1,300 alumni living in Webster visit their alma mater as often?

Where would residents go to see and hear the extraordinary talents of student dancers, musicians, singers, and performers in the Conservatory of Theatre Arts and the student art and photography exhibits?

Who would provide Alcohol-Server Training to local businesses?

How many city employees would pursue advanced degrees without the Webster Groves City Employee Scholarship Fund?  Since 1999, the University has provided more than $330,000 in tuition to Webster city employees.

How far would the children of Webster Groves have to be shuttled for music lessons at the Community Music School?

What community would see the many Webster faculty, staff and students participating in Webster Works Worldwide Community Service Day the first Wednesday in October?

Who would procure the films for the Old Orchard Gazebo Series held on Friday nights in the summer?

Where would the 5,413 students enrolled on campus and the 1,298 employees go for food, coffee, records, coffee, clothing, coffee, books, and other shopping needs and services?

Who would fill the economic impact void of more than $118 million dollars contributed by Webster students and employees?

Whose professors would speak at Adventures in Learning classes at the Shepherd Center and whose students would help the residents with their social media needs?

On what beautiful, tree-lined streets would the 725 students living on campus enjoy walking and riding their bikes?

Who would be the largest employer in Webster Groves?

What community would enjoy the use of the Emerson Library with its volumes of books, periodicals, videos, and quiet spaces to read and reflect?

Would Missouri’s Poet Laureate, David Clewell, still live and work in our fair city?

In the absence of the Holden Public Policy Forum, the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology Success to Significance Speaker Series, and student activities, who would bring public policy and corporate leaders, important authors, and opinion makers to discuss issues in their fields?

How would the shoppers at the Farmer’s Market carry their goods without their green Webster bag?

Where would the film aficionados go to view the newest in independent features and documentaries, avant-garde, animation, the latest in world cinema and much more?

Who would be a sustaining member and active participant in the Chamber? Who would host the Chamber breakfast on campus every year and be a major sponsor of the Heart of the Community Awards and the Business Expo, as well as the many community events that take place throughout the year?

Whose name would shine on the main stage at the Old Webster Jazz and Blues Festival, at the Art and Air Festival, and other events?

Where would we find the home of this award-winning University
– For a  decade Webster University has been rated a First-Tier Institution in the U. S. News & World Report Best Regional Universities-Midwest category

- Named a “2010 Great College to Work For” for the third year in a row by The Chronicle of Higher Education

-  Ranked among America’s best colleges by Forbes magazine.

- Awarded the Greater St. Louis Top 50 Award from the Regional Chamber and Growth Association for the last five years.

And the final question - what would be the name of our beloved mascot?

Fortunately, we do not have to answer any of these questions.  Webster has had a wonderful history as a vital and contributing member of the Webster Groves community.  Over the course of a century, we have grown and prospered together. 

Our home campus here in Webster Groves remains relatively small, occupying less than 1.5% of the city’s total acreage.    But the Webster University of 2010 exerts its influence far beyond the boundaries of Webster Groves, in a way the good Sisters of Loretto probably couldn’t even have imagined in 1915 when they started it all. 

Today, we reach out through more than 100 campuses in North America, Europe and Asia.  All told, we enroll more than 21,000 students, most of whom will never see or visit our home campus here.    But those far-flung campuses and students all share one thing in common.  They all look to Webster Groves for leadership and direction.  

It is, to a great extent, because of the excellence of education provided here on the Webster Groves campus that degrees earned in Jacksonville, Florida; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Fort Bliss, Texas; in Vienna, Austria and London, England; in Shanghai, China; and Bangkok, Thailand have value.  Thus, it is critical to the growth of Webster University world-wide that Webster University here in Webster Groves continuously improve, just as we have done for almost 100 years.

In that regard, I want to touch briefly on an upcoming project that is of vital importance both to our University and our community.  It is a project for which the Chamber’s Board already has expressed its support, and we will ask for your continued support in the months ahead.

As you know, we have for many years worked as partners with our across-Lockwood-Avenue neighbor, Eden Theological Seminary.  Webster’s Religious Studies Department is housed, very appropriately, on the Eden campus.  For forty years we have shared library facilities, we share some classroom facilities and we share parking.  When you are the President of an institution like Webster University, you quickly learn that no academic issue is more important than parking!

Now, we are ready to take that partnership to the next level.  Eden and Webster have concluded an agreement for Webster to acquire 5.5 acres of the Eden campus, including the Luhr Library and two smaller buildings. 

We propose to build an addition on the Lockwood side of Luhr Library and to convert the library into a new Science Building, which Webster sorely needs.  Eden’s library collections have been moved to Webster’s Emerson Library, and our two schools now share that library.  

After the expansion, the Science Building still will be set back more than 100 feet from Lockwood.  As part of this agreement, Webster also has signed a 7-year lease on the playing fields at the corner of Lockwood and Bompart.  Those fields will be used by Webster students and also will remain available to the Eden community and the Webster Groves community at large, as they always have been. 

This is a “win-win-win” proposal for Eden, for Webster University and for Webster Groves.  We are sensitive to the concerns of our neighbors who are uneasy about expansion of the campus.  That is precisely why we are taking this approach.  By working with Eden to expand our facilities on land already in use as a campus, we are able to expand and improve our physical plant without acquiring even one square foot of property that is not already committed to academic use. 

In addition to the new Science Building, our plan for the Eden property includes providing an official residence for the University President in the area of Lockwood & Joy.  I am looking forward to being the first president in 40 years to be a Webster Groves resident. 

Once again, because of our partnership with Eden Seminary we will be able to make this improvement to our physical facilities without acquiring as much as a foot of off-campus revenue-producing property. 

This kind of growth is important if we are to continue to be a University in which Webster Groves and the larger St. Louis community can take pride.  And, it is the only way we can grow as we must while remaining completely respectful of our neighbors’ concerns over campus sprawl.  

Furthermore, it is the best way to assure that Eden Theological Seminary – an institution we all want to see endure far into the future – will have the resources it needs to continue its mission.  As I said a moment ago:  A “win-win-win.”  I hope you all agree. 

Webster University is proud of its place in the history of Webster Groves and we are excited about our shared future.  We look forward to working with all of you as we face the challenges and opportunities of building an even stronger “town and gown” partnership. 

A special mentor of mine once said, “Leaders invite others to the table.”  Thank you for inviting me to yours today. 

And, on behalf of all the Webster Gorloks, I invite you to our table in the form of art exhibits, concerts, athletic competitions, theatre, films, speakers, and much more.  In the shopping bags we are handing out, you will find a schedule of activities on our campus that are free or at very low cost, our Economic and Community Impact statement, as well as a chocolate Gorlok treat for you to enjoy.  Thank you again.  I look forward to seeing you all around town and on campus.