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For Rockford College, it’s been a year of distinction

Monday, July 06, 2009  
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As posted in the Rockford Register Star Opinion section, Sunday, July 05, 2009

For Rockford College, it’s been a year of distinction
By Robert L. Head, Ph.D.
President, Rockford College

It was one year ago this month that I assumed the presidency of Rockford College and relocated to this community. During that time, two things have become obvious: Rockford is an extraordinary city and Rockford College is an amazing institution exuding quality in its learning environment and through its students, faculty, staff, and alumni. As we move forward, we will continue to build on this foundation of excellence.

Rockford College touches many segments of the community and you need not look far to find examples of this positive influence and interaction. Our alumni are a perfect example. The Golden Apple Foundation annually recognizes a select group of educators for teaching excellence. Penny Spears, a Belvidere Middle School math teacher, received the award this year bringing the total to 16 Rockford College alumni to receive this award in the last 10 years. Two of the past Illinois Teachers of the Year are our graduates. Two years ago, Ruth Meissen from the Harlem district was honored and in 2005, Jacqueline Bolger from Hononegah was so named. There is no better way to boast the excellence and focus of Rockford College’s nurturing environment.

I have been privileged to meet a number of our outstanding alumni from around the country. Many have been nationally and internationally recognized for accomplishments in their chosen fields. Recently, two local business leaders and alumni were recognized. Sunil Puri of First Rockford Group and Fred Young of Forest City Gear, were inducted into the Northern Illinois Business Hall of Fame. Not only are our alumni successful professionally, but they are also civically engaged in helping shape a better society.

It is the faculty at an institution of higher learning that defines the quality of its learning environment. Having served as an administrator or board member of three other institutions, I acknowledge that Rockford College’s faculty is the best that I have had the pleasure of working with. Our faculty has demonstrated excellence in their respective disciplines, helping to advance knowledge in their fields. This prolific group of scholars engaged in 52 instances of publishing, presentations or research projects during the past year. For instance:
  • Dr. Deborah Breiter, chemistry professor, collaborated with three Chinese researchers to publish a paper in the Journal of Immunology;

  • Dr. David Pippitt, professor of biology, collaborated with former student Rachel Wihlborg and Ray Marsili of Marsili Consulting to publish a paper in the Journal of Microbiological Methods;

  • Dr. Susan Porterfield, professor of English, published the book, Beirut Redux, a compilation of original poetry by the author;

  • Political science professor Dr. Jules Gleicher attended and spoke at a Socratic seminar, "Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty;"

  • Philip Soosloff, associate professor of art, exhibited at the 15th Annual International Exposition of Sculpture Objects and Functional Art (SOFA) in Chicago; and 

  • Patricia Walters, adjunct professor of religious studies, published a book The Assumed Authorial Unity of Luke and Acts: A Reassessment of the Evidence.

Our students deserve special recognition for their excellence in the classroom and in the community. Academically, 46 percent of our full-time undergraduate students earned honors for academic achievement. Rockford College is one of only 276 out of 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. to have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, the most prestigious honor society in the country. This spring, 15 students were inducted to this society. Several of the inductees graduated in May and are clearly headed for even bigger things: Mohit Singh is now at MIT pursuing his doctorate in nuclear engineering; Matt Brynteson will seek his doctorate in chemistry at the University of Chicago; and twins Ammar and Ali Al-Sharaf will both be attending the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago.

A focus of Rockford College is its commitment to our local, national and global communities. This past year, our students invested 6,700 hours in civic engagement projects with area nonprofit groups like the Rockford Rescue Mission. For 14 consecutive years, students and alumni participated in the Alan Hutchcroft Alternative Spring Break, helping to construct houses for Habitat for Humanity in Starkville, Miss. Additionally, 500 students engaged in community-based learning. One such activity involved a rhetoric class that tutored fifth graders in a Rockford school located in an economically-depressed area of the city. It was this kind of work that earned the college a spot on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, one of only 83 colleges nationwide to receive the honor. 

It has been an exciting year filled with remarkable achievements. During that time, we have indeed set a foundation for continued excellence at Rockford College. 
Robert L. Head, Ph.D., is president of Rockford College.

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