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Centre officials speak to Rotary members

By DAVID FAIRCHILD

Danville Rotary

In an address to Danville Rotary on Jan. 4, Centre College President John Roush and Dr. Patrick Noltemeyer, special assistant for strategic planning, institutional research and special events, spoke about the extraordinary challenges Centre will face in the next two decades.

Dr. Roush began by referring to his comments regarding unprecedented change that is being driven by the transformative power of technologies such as: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, autonomous vehicles; robotics and drones, and virtually augmented reality. 

To illustrate the degree of impact these technologies can have on business and society, Roush referred to the examples he mentioned in his 2018 Rotary presentation:

• Uber, the largest taxi company, owns no vehicles;

• Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate;

• Facebook, the world’s most popular media provider, creates no content;

• Instagram, the most valuable photo company, sells no cameras;

• Netflix, the fastest growing television network, has no cable channels; and

• Ali Baba, the world’s most valuable retailer, has no inventory. 

Roush believes that society must understand these shifts and plan for their impact over the next 20 years. He thinks that Centre’s role is to better prepare its graduates to successfully contribute to these changes. His action plan is to create an academic culture that embraces change, promotes imagination and encourages intellectual risk-taking.

“Centre College had a thousand students in the fall of 1998 when I started. Now, 20 years later, we are 45 percent larger. I think it will continue to grow in a modestly measured way, but growth over the next two decades will be more dependent on new programs and student’s opportunities. Future students will expect extraordinary things to occur during their college years.” 

To fulfill those expectations, Roush thinks Centre must attempt to increase the quality of the student population. To do that he believes traditional student recruitment measures of academic potential must be augmented with measures that are observable, but not easily measured, i.e., curiosity and leadership.

“Success — or victory — without some failures and disappointment is not a good preparation for their life.”

Centre is a national leader in study abroad and is considering new programs like internships and undergraduate research.

Centre has recently engaged in several partnerships that hold promise for raising its educational horizons. One new tool to raise student quality is Marlene and David Grissom’s $10 million endowment for academic excellence. It will strengthen the performance of the college’s faculty by adding members and increasing faculty support. Centre is also exploring a “green engineering” program and looking into data science alternatives.

Another path being considered is having a positive veterans program to bring to the college a type of student that adds value to the student population. Also being considered is a program focused on elevating the quality of education offered in preparing young people in the fields of business and commerce. A new comprehensive athletic recreation space to include a first class swimming and diving that would serve the college and the region is in the “exploratory stage.”

Near the end of the presentation, Dr. Roush turned the podium over to his colleague Dr. Patrick Noltemeyer, who spoke about the remarkable activities being planned to celebrate Centre’s 200 year anniversary. Dr. Noltemeyer began by pointing out that Centre College is about the 63-oldest college or university still in operation in the United States. On Jan. 21, 2019, Centre will reach its 200th anniversary.

A committee of faculty, staff and students has been hard at work preparing an array of events to educate, commemorate and celebrate the college’s history. Kick-off festivities begin on Founders Day, Jan. 16, with a traditional convocation at 11 a.m. The day will also feature educational symposia in the afternoon and a celebratory event and reception in the Norton Center that evening, including a screening of the student-produced Bicentennial documentary, a musical performance, and the unveiling of an archival photography exhibit. A detailed schedule of events can be found online at: centre.edu/bicentennial/events.

Bourbon lovers may want to check out a presentation by Dr. Leonard Demoranville from Centre’s Chemistry Department and Dr. Pat Heist, co-founder of Wilderness Trail Distillery.  The pair will discuss “The Science of Making Bourbon.” Their presentation will focus on the different sciences that come into play and how Centre students have been involved at Wilderness Trail Distillery.