As the chapter of my life as Weber State University president comes to a close, I cannot help but reflect fondly on my history with the institution, as well as the legacy that was established long before I arrived.
In 1891, members of the Weber Stake Board of Education mortgaged their homes to secure the funding needed to complete the first academy building. As time passed and the institution began to grow, a trio of themes began to emerge that would inspire our future. Access, learning and community were referenced in a Standard-Examiner editorial as early as 1923. Today, I am proud to mention those same themes once more in the newspaper, as they continue to guide Weber State.
I look back on other defining moments in our history, such as 1954, when community members rallied to maintain Weber’s existence as a state institution. I think of the visionary leaders who moved the campus from a single city block on 25th Street and Jefferson to the hillside above Harrison Boulevard to provide for future growth. And of course, there were the times when many individuals united to bring four-year programs and then university status to our institution.
Just recently, I was proud to learn that 35,373 students have completed their degrees during my 10-plus years as president. That is an amazing testament to the hundreds of dynamic and dedicated faculty and staff members who continue to fulfill our access, learning and community themes. Working with them has been one of the highlights of my career.
Another important recognition came in 2008 when the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classified WSU as a community-engaged institution. This prestigious designation came about because of the extraordinary commitment of faculty and staff members to work beyond the classroom and champion community-based learning.
I have also had the pleasure of working side by side with numerous board members, alumni, and business and community leaders who have acted as strong advocates for Weber State. Together, they have supported programs that benefit our community and region. State legislators from Weber and Davis counties have invested in a new Davis campus, new facilities on the Ogden campus and vital programs to serve a student body that has grown from 18,000 in 2002 to more than 26,000 today.
During my presidency and in my 31 years at Weber State, it has been humbling to see many generous donors support scholarships for students who, without financial assistance, could not afford an education. Others have provided for beautiful and inspiring facilities, as well as supported programs that provide the margin of excellence for our faculty and students. Seeing others care so much and give in both small and large amounts assures me that the alumni and community truly embrace the importance of higher education.
I believe our demonstrated ability to serve both the community college and regional university roles for the area will result in greater acclaim for Weber State being the national model for dual-mission universities.
In the coming years, a number of initiatives at the university will continue to have a vital impact on the community.
Our outreach efforts to schools, students and parents will better prepare future generations for college. The technology commercialization efforts of our Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) outreach center and focus on entrepreneurship will continue to grow and aid in keeping our regional economy vibrant. Increasing opportunities and support for undergraduate research better prepares our students for graduate school and the workforce. Our commitment to arts and athletic programs makes the university a cultural and social hub for the community.
I am also excited about Weber State’s “College Town” initiative with Ogden City. Connecting the campus and community more intentionally serves to benefit all of us who live, work, learn and play here. The prospects for a physical transit line between downtown Ogden and the campus on Harrison can provide the greatest potential for truly linking the university and the community. The possibility of connecting WSU Davis with the nearby FrontRunner station exists as well. Not only do these transit options alleviate the challenges of parking on campus, but they also welcome everyone to participate in campus life.
I extend my full support and best wishes to the future success of the great institution and community I have called home for the past 31 years.
Thanks to all of you who have contributed to our success.
Millner, Weber State University’s 11th president, is leaving the office on Dec. 31, after 10 years leading the institution. She plans to return to teaching next year.