I write this letter a day after closing the books on our One Grand Reunion. What a terrific weekend! I am not sure who had more fun: me or our alumnae and alumni! It was wonderful to be with so many of you, especially our three 50th Reunion classes. It was a grand celebration indeed. This edition of our magazine celebrates our Reunion as well as our newest graduates, the Class of 2022.
Over the weekend, we heard the stories of students who lived through our near closure in 1979 and the years immediately following. It is clear that the students who experienced these events, whether they remained at the College or chose to transfer, and those brave individuals who came to Wilson in the early 80s, sacrificed so much. Their experiences were not the typical student experience. The atmosphere on campus was unusual — tension, uncertainty, and insecurity cast long shadows. Resources were constrained. And, yet, leadership showed through. Perseverance, belief, and determination are the qualities we associate with Wilson women, and these women lived up to and exceeded these expectations as hard as that may have been.
On behalf of the College, I offer a heartfelt thank you to the women who served and persevered as students during those trying times. What you gave and sacrificed saved the College and ensured her future. Without you and all you did, there would be no Wilson today. On behalf of a very grateful community, I acknowledge the Wilson women impacted so directly by the events of 1979. Thank you for being beacons for the future.
Reunion also allowed me to deliver my first in-person State of the College address. During my remarks, I shared the challenges that Wilson faces and the broader state of higher education today. The pandemic has dramatically impacted all of higher education and Wilson. 1.3 million fewer students are going to college today than there were in the Spring of 2020 — about 40,000 fewer in Pennsylvania alone. Unfortunately, enrollment is unlikely to increase dramatically any time soon.
Wilson has experienced this drop in enrollment. We had about 200 fewer students this past year than the year in which the pandemic began, and we predict another year of smaller entering classes. We cannot let the pandemic rob us of our success and future. It has already taken too much from us. Our solution must be to grow enrollment, and during my remarks, I detailed the phenomenal efforts of our faculty and staff to implement our five-year strategic plan, Future Wilson: The Phoenix Rises.
As we grow enrollment, we need crucial support to get us through those years as we build back. In the days and weeks ahead, we need your help. The Board of Trustees has authorized the College to move forward with an atypical fundraising campaign: one focused on our current needs. We will be seeking your support to fund current year scholarships, faculty and staff support, the Wilson Fund, and our growth initiatives to help ensure that Wilson thrives into the future.
Multiple times in our history, when things have become extraordinarily difficult, Wilson alumnae, alumni, and friends have stepped forward to help ensure the institution’s legacy. And we can do it again, with each of your help. Small but mighty, we rise … united for Wilson’s future.
Wilson’s story began as Chambersburg emerged from the ashes of the Civil War. It is fitting that the phoenix is our mascot because Wilson always finds ways to not only rise but soar after adversity. We will do it again, but only with your help. And while we shake off the ashes of the pandemic, we continue day in and day out to do what we do best: make a difference in the lives of students. Because our world needs Wilson graduates today, perhaps more than ever before.
– Wesley R. Fugate