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“Embracing the Future: CC, the Springs, and Economic Development”

Remarks by keynote speaker CC President Richard F. Celeste at the December 11 luncheon held at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. The luncheon was co-hosted by the Colorado College Business and Community Alliance and the Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

In the words of Groucho Marx: Before I begin, I have something to say. I am excited to be here -- here at Colorado College, and here in Colorado Springs. So is my wife, Jacqueline, and so is my son, Sam.

Now my title today is Embracing the Future: CC, the Springs and Economic Development. The theme of my remarks -- borrowed from my Dad when he was Mayor of my hometown almost 50 years ago -- is DYNAMIC SYMBIOSIS. Symbiosis is defined by Webster as "Living together in close association of two dissimilar organisms, especially when mutually beneficial."

The College and the City certainly share common roots. We were each founded by General William Jackson Palmer and we each benefited mightily from the generosity of Spencer Penrose and the Tutt family. And our bloodlines are thoroughly intermingled. About 2200 of our alumni (nearly 10 percent) live in El Paso and Teller Counties. These include distinguished educators such as:
  • "Principal of the Year" Nancy Saltzman '74 -- also a B&CA Board member
  • "Principal of the Year" Jay Engeln '74
  • legendary teachers Molly Worner MAT '91, Judy Sondermann '81

  • Business owners/employers like:
    Penny Whitney '69
    Buck Blessing '85
    Will Perkins '50

  • Elected officials and activists including:
    Ann Oatman-Gardner '80
    Richard Skorman '75
  • Philanthropists:
    Bill Hybl '64
    Barbara Yalich '53
    Michael Hannigan '75

  • Artists:
    Eve Tilley-Chavez '68
    Steve Wood '84
    Kat Tudor '77
  • Athletes:
    Olympic gold medallist Tara Nott '94
    World mountain biking champion Alison Dunlap '91
Colorado College contributes to the lifeblood of the community in other ways, of course. We import young talent -- 94 percent of our students come from outside the county, and they bring revenue in excess of $50 million. In the three most recent years we have spent nearly $60 million on capital projects, including the completed Western Ridge apartments and Tutt Science Center slated to open next September. We bring more than 6,000 people to the Springs during our summer conference program. In sum, we estimate that the annual impact of Colorado College on the economy of Colorado Springs is $140 million.

The symbiotic relationship between Colorado College and Colorado Springs is expressed in important ways that do not have dollar signs attached. Let me mention two vital examples: community service and internships.

Three quarters of our students do community service while at CC. Our students (and faculty and staff) reach out through projects like:
  • CC Community Kitchen -- for over a decade, feeding the homeless at Shove Chapel every Sunday, when local soup kitchens do not operate

  • Sheltered Lives -- CC students mentoring children at the Red Cross Shelter

  • Mentoring, tutoring and helping at Adams, Gorman, Ivywild, Queen Palmer, HeadStart and elsewhere
In turn, many of our students benefit from internships with local businesses, civic organizations and other non-profits. The students do useful work for -- EDC, the Chamber, Adelphia, Wisdom Works, the Mayor's Office of International Affairs and many others. And they gain valuable workplace experience. (Incidentally our internship coordinator, Judy Offerdahl, is here today and would love to know of more opportunities.)

Having described "the close association" of CC and the Springs, I want to take a moment to reflect on the "two dissimilar organisms" part of the definition of symbiosis. There are important ways in which the college and the community are quite different.

We strive to be one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation.

In the words of one of our religion professors, Sam Williams: "We believe that if our graduates have developed the powers of rigorous, innovative thinking, thoughtful reflection, esthetic appreciation, and creative expression and have committed themselves to making a difference in our society and our world, we have succeeded in educating for our time. Accordingly, we are motivated by the following aims: to unsettle and disorient students in order to open to them new possibilities of thought and action; to acquaint them with the methods of analyzing, describing, evaluating, and deciding by which we humans interpret our world and make our way in it; to encourage them to read thoughtfully, think clearly, and express their ideas with precision and grace; to sensitize them to the beauty of sound and form, the power of words, the wonder of ideas, and the horror of cruelty and prejudice and injustice; to inspire them with some worthy vision and new reasons for hope; and to release their powers of imagination and creativity."

And we do so with a unique and powerful approach to teaching and learning: small classes which take up one course at a time. We call it the Block Plan and it invites intense, often field-based, learning.

As a relative newcomer, I believe that CC sets the national standard for engaged undergraduate learning across a broad range of disciplines. It was no accident that the very week that Discover magazine named 3 CC graduates as among the Nation's top 50 women in science, two CC drama graduates won national prizes.

I am confident that over the next five years the reputation of Colorado College will grow dramatically.

But for our College to thrive this community must thrive as well. And as I reflect on the civic qualities that will spark economic growth for any urban center, whether here on the Front Range or elsewhere in the United States, I believe that Dynamic Symbiosis between CC and the Springs will be more important than ever.

Here are five qualities that I feel will be essential to attract and sustain investment in the future: Smart. Diverse. Global. Collaborative. Joyful. Whether one looks at high value added employment in R & D and services, or at traditional manufacturing, old notions which determined location decisions are being challenged. In fact location advantages themselves are being dramatically modified by the information and communication revolutions and the ability to manage sophisticated global logistics for just in time deliveries to stores in a mall, or factory assembly lines from 8,000 miles away.

So -- the successful communities of the future must be, above all else, smart. This means deeply committed to what I call K-16 education, and lifelong learning. David Packard (whose grandparents were CC graduates, by the way) brought an H-P research center to the Springs partly because of Pueblo and family ties, but also because of the commitment to develop an engineering program at UCCS.

Colorado College -- our faculty and students -- must be part of a SMART Springs. And I look forward to working with my colleagues in higher education here -- Pam Shockley, General J.D. Dallagher and Joe Garcia -- to build a coalition of higher education leadership which will help reinforce our respective efforts to improve higher education for all of our citizens.

The successful communities of the future will be DIVERSE, and will make that diversity a strength. If you look at the metropolitan areas of our nation which grew in the last decade, virtually everyone experienced substantial in migration from other regions of our country and from other nations. Most of these folks came eager to work and to contribute to the American dream.

That diversity of ethnicity, language and culture is essential to Colorado College and the education we offer. We strive to increase the diversity of our faculty, our staff and our student body. We need to find ways to engage with the diversity of the community. This can happen through enhanced community service activities. It can happen through more of what we call community-based learning, when -- for example -- a class on the sociology of immigration examines patterns of newcomers from Central America who have settled in the Springs.

Our diversity as an asset is directly tied to the next essential quality: we must think and act globally. This is important for our college. This year we have had young people from 75 countries apply for admission. The best will join a student body who call 30 different nations home. Beyond our foreign students, however, is the engagement of all our students with the history, culture, religions, art, politics of another part of the world. All do it in the classroom. Two-thirds do it by studying abroad during their time at CC. My hope: every student arrives with a passport and gets a chance to use it.

But CC and the community have global engagement in common.

From the military commands to the Olympic Training Center, and on to Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs may have more, and more diverse, relationships which reach around the world. Sixty or more national sports organizations here are part of larger international bodies. Many of our evangelical organizations support global ministries. Focus on the Family, for example, reaches into 137 countries.

My hunch is that if we could map the international experience and contacts of this community, we would find a higher per capita engagement than any place in the United States. So when the Global Advisory Council holds its Awards Luncheon on January 29th, Carmen, they will be recognizing businesses who lead in exporting from our country's most globally engaged (though perhaps unacknowledged) leader.

The fourth characteristic on my list is COLLABORATIVE. Those communities that flourish in the 21st century economy will be marked by a collaborative spirit. Whether it is collaboration between the public and the private sector, or between management and workers, or R and D endeavors and investment capital -- every dimension in which it is practiced strengthens that community.

Our college, for instance, is embarked on an effort to become a model of sustainability. That will take time and effort on our part. It will also require close cooperation with the community, whether with respect to utilities, or transportation, or open space.

We are embarked on an effort to address and contain health costs for our faculty and other employees. We can only succeed in this endeavor if we find ways to collaborate with other employers and with health care providers in the Springs.

As I look at the communities which have made great strides in the face of severe tests in recent years, all have shown a remarkable capacity to nurture collaborative efforts.

The final characteristic, which will attract economic activity to our community, is that it is JOYFUL. I use this term, which does not usually appear in the developer's lexicon, to embrace several quality of life factors. I have in mind particularly a healthy environment and an arts-rich environment.

Both are certainly goals of Colorado College. From the fact that more than 70 percent of our students participate in inter-collegiate or intramural sports, to the equally important fact that 80 percent of our students play an instrument, act in a play, sing, paint, or write poetry, we are a joyful place.

And we need to contribute to the joy of Colorado Springs -- not only when we defeat DU twice in one weekend or hold the 12th ranked Princeton women to a tie in soccer -- but also, for example, by what we offer in our new Cornerstone Arts facility. Frankly, the more we can work with the Fine Arts Center to ensure that our respective plans to expand complement each other, the more we can anchor "an arts neighborhood" that will bring increased joy to this wonderful city.

I hope you get the picture as I see it. Colorado Springs already is positioned to attract the investments of the future -- SMART, DIVERSE, GLOBAL, COLLABORATIVE, and JOYFUL. In each case, I believe Colorado College -- and our sister institutions of higher education -- have much to offer in building on these strengths. That is Dynamic Symbiosis.

The CC motto is: Acquiring Knowledge and Living It. We look forward to exercising our motto in a way that is mutually beneficial for the community which has nurtured us for 127 years.

Celeste, who took office in July, is a former governor of Ohio and U.S. ambassador to India. He was director of the Peace Corps, as well as a magna cum laude graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar. His political career includes serving as an Ohio state representative from 1970 to 1974, as Ohio lieutenant governor from 1974 to 1978, and as Ohio governor from 1982 to 1990. He was appointed U.S. ambassador to India in 1997 and served until 2001.

Celeste has been a visiting fellow in public policy at Case Western Reserve University, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and chair of the National Governors Association Committee on Science and Technology. He also chaired the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable and has been a board member of Habitat for Humanity International, the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California, and numerous other not-for-profit organizations. He has served on corporate boards including Navistar International, HealthSouth Rehabilitation Corp., and BP Oil (North American Advisory Board).

The CC Business and Community Alliance provides a forum to discuss issues of community interest and to enhance the college’s presence in the community. Click here to find out more.