Summit on the Future

September 23, 2023
President Robert W. Iuliano
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Good evening, everyone, and welcome!

Let’s give another big round of applause for Rich and Lauren for their inspiring comments—and to Jess and Will for their music this evening. Thank you!

I want to begin by thanking each of you for your commitment to Gettysburg College. Given the competing priorities in your lives and careers, I know what it means for you to be here. I am deeply grateful.

This is a weekend we each set aside to be with one another. A weekend to remember, to reflect, to look back and to celebrate just how far we’ve come. Even more so, it’s been an opportunity for us to look forward to the bright future we are building together as a College.

Consider this: How many institutions in America have endured for 200 years?

There are very few.

And yet, in a little over 8 years, Gettysburg College will earn this distinction.

The year 2032 may seem distant to us now, but the choices we make today will have a profound impact on the strength and vibrancy of our College for years to come.

It’s what makes opportunities like the one in front us so rare and so essential.

It is the opportunity we have to build off the inspired work of our predecessors in the 19th century, the 20th century, and now the 21st century—and, together, to take that next step forward.

From a college endeared by 32,000-alumni strong to a college revered across the nation and around the world.

We will achieve this by what we do, now, for our students—and, yes, for society—during this pivotal chapter in our history.

I’d invite you to imagine our world in 2032. What do you see?

In a time of so much upheaval, so much uncertainty, I have never been more certain in who we are as a College and our capacity to make a difference.

When I envision the world in 8 years…

I see our graduates rising to the challenges and opportunities of their time, and changing our world for the better.

I see our campus engaging across difference to strengthen democracy, and helping to unite our nation.

I see our alumni pioneering new approaches in science and medicine to advance global health, and developing new innovations in technology to heal our fragile planet.

I see Gettysburgians creating art and music that lift our spirits and offer us new perspectives on the world, and Gettysburgians launching startups and NGOs that do well by doing good.

I see our students learning to lead with courage and conscience, and our devoted faculty forever by their side, teaching them how.

And I see us coming together as one Gettysburg community in support of a new generation of doers—like Emily and Drew, Ratul and Laken—and so many of the incredible students you had the chance to meet this weekend.

I see the “salutary influence” we, as stewards of this great institution, can have on our world and it is compelling.

I know you’re committed to this too. It’s why you’re here. You love this College. And you care about our students and want to see them thrive.

So, the question before us tonight is this: How do we create this bright future?

How do we prepare our students to graduate with the skills and the resolve to break through, to meet this defining moment, and to advance Lincoln’s “unfinished work”?

And above all, how do we instill in our students the belief that they can?

During my presidency, the College has dedicated itself to examining these most fundamental questions. Our answer is clear. It is one grounded in the mission and guided by core values of Gettysburg College:

We are going to rally around our students like never before.

We are going to rally around our students because they need us now.

Look around.

Our students need Lynn Holuba’s guidance and Amanda Dolan’s encouragement.

They need Brendan Ripp’s network and Quenby Jackson Mott’s mentorship.

They need Michelle Lynette Hughes’s energy and Peter Holloran’s creativity.

Our students need all of us working together to help them launch their careers in this extraordinary time of change and transition.

As you’ve heard over the course of the weekend, our world is changing at a dizzying pace. In every sector, across every industry—including higher education—we are experiencing the effects of a society and an economy that is more globally and technologically interconnected than ever.

As a result, today’s students are graduating into a world that is vastly different than the one many of us graduated into. A world in which the pace of change is certain to accelerate as artificial intelligence profoundly disrupts how we live and work.

Given all this, it is predicted that this generation of students will change jobs 17 times, and change industries 5 times over the course of their careers. Just think about that.

We need to prepare them for this world—and it begins by Living Our Promise.

Today’s students deserve an education that is truly lifelong. They need A Consequential Education.

This is what we promise every student at Gettysburg College—and now, it is at the center of our new Strategic Direction.

A Consequential Education enriches the mind, deepens the heart, and strengthens the capacity to act.

In my view, there is no greater gift we can give to our students than a life-altering education during their formative years.

As students, you lived it.

For Jamie Fleet, it was developing his passion for politics through his involvement with Student Senate, College Democrats, and the local town council that led him to a career on Capitol Hill. Today, he serves as Staff Director for the U.S. Committee on House Administration and Senior Advisor to Hakeem Jefferies.

For Crystal Ebert Parker, it was her involvement with the Center for Public Service, The Black Student Union, and Habitat for Humanity that influenced her path to becoming program director of the Jumpstart Program at Duke University.

And for Arielle Distacio, it was refining her communication skills through her involvement with The Gettysburgian and The Mercury that pointed her towards her role as Communications Strategist for the FBI.

We could go around the room. A Gettysburg education changes you.

That’s because A Consequential Education is uniquely us. Formed by our people, our place—and with your help—a distinctive approach to teaching and learning, all working in unison to develop the whole student, the whole person.

As someone who has dedicated more than 30 years of his life to higher education, I can say with certainty that the experience we offer here at Gettysburg is special.

Here’s what this looks like in practice for our students.

A Consequential Education in practice

Young college student wearing science goggles smiles at camera

Isn’t she amazing? That was Bryn Werley.

Bryn graduated from Gettysburg this past May and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemistry at UNC Chapel Hill. We’re really proud of her.

In the video, you heard Bryn speak to the knowledge and enduring skills she gained at Gettysburg alongside our dedicated faculty, and how she applied this learning across disciplines. This is the power of our Gettysburg Approach.

It is what allows our graduates to see connections that others can’t see, and to solve problems that others can’t solve.

This isn’t anecdotal, by the way. When you look at national alumni data, a remarkable pattern emerges.

There’s a Georgetown study that measured the 40-year return on investment of 4,500 colleges and universities. Gettysburg College ranks in the top 1% in the nation for lifetime ROI.

Here’s the takeaway: a Gettysburg education changes lives, and the degree you earn here grows in value over time.

Why? Because we don’t just prepare students for their first job. We prepare them for the entirety of their career—10, 20, 40 years into the future—for jobs that haven’t even been dreamt of yet. And likewise, we ready our students for a world that needs their leadership and their engagement in issues that matter, so they become the effective leaders and socially responsible citizens our world needs.

I’m sure you’ve experienced this firsthand as well.

Moving forward, everything our students learn at Gettysburg—inside and outside of the classroom—will reinforce one another. It will help students lead lives of consequence, personally and professionally. And it will connect back to what employers and graduate programs need the most: those transcendent qualities that are the hardest to teach.

Skill such as adaptability, communication, creativity, intercultural fluency, leadership, problem solving, and teamwork.

As we illustrated at last night’s roving dinner, knowledge and enduring skills will be reinforced through our intentional and curated co-curricular experiences, through what we’re calling our Guided Pathways.

Beyond that, every student will have the opportunity to be supported by their own Personal Advising Team, consisting of a Faculty Advisor, Co-Curricular Advisor, Career Advisor, and with your help, an Alumni Mentor, following a student’s sophomore year.

Imagine turning to Suzanne Hickey for guidance as a first-year.

Or, receiving words of encouragement from Sarah Wendt to keep pressing forward.

Four advisors. One student.

Four advisors partnering with every student to help them to get the very most out of their Gettysburg education.

That’s the kind of personal and timeless education we are determined to deliver.

That’s the sort of education that will prepare Gettysburg students not just to navigate a world marked by change, but to lead people and organizations through that change.

At the end of the day, we want our students to know themselves and believe in themselves. That’s what endures.

On the one hand, I know of few other schools focusing so purposefully on amplifying the learning outcomes of co-curricular activities and the curation of these enduring skills. And yet, what we’re doing is so distinctively us, making full use of our remarkably supportive community, the impulse of our students to get involved, and the extraordinary opportunities we offer in and out of the classroom.

The Gettysburg Approach is Gettysburg at its finest. And in my view, the Gettysburg Approach is higher education at its finest—offering students the tools to shape their lives and readying them for all that comes next.

I know that many of you attended the talk by Ashley Finley, Vice President for the American Association of College and Universities.

You heard her belief in the impact, boldness, and distinctiveness of the Gettysburg Approach. With your support, we will build this into a cornerstone of a Gettysburg education—a set of commitments unmatched by any college, anywhere in the country—at a time when the competition for talented students and the need to show tangible career outcomes has never been greater.

But most importantly, I believe our Gettysburg Approach will help our students to find themselves and discover what they are personally called to contribute to the world.

In short, the Gettysburg Approach will ensure that we live our promise to prepare every student to lead their own consequential life.

As Lauren shared at the outset, our Summit on the Future has been an historic event for Gettysburg College. So, I find it altogether fitting that tonight we have an historic announcement.

It is an announcement that relates to a truly extraordinary Gettysburgian. A person who has led a global financial services firm; who has helped shape charitable and cultural organizations, such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Read Works; who has enhanced countless lives through her personal engagement, leadership, and philanthropy; who, with her husband, Eric, has become a personal friend; and, perhaps most importantly, who has led the kind of consequential life that defines a Gettysburg education.

I am speaking of Daria Lo Presti Wallach, Class of 1976.

Daria, if it’s not pressing my luck too far, may I ask you to please stand?

Inspired by our College’s bold and ambitious vision for the future, Daria has taken an equally bold and ambitious step to support our College and rally around today’s Gettysburg students.

Tonight, I have the true honor to announce that Daria has made a commitment in support of the priorities of our new comprehensive campaign. This is the largest commitment by any living donor in Gettysburg College’s 191-year history.

It’s an endorsement of what her Gettysburg education has meant to her. Based on my conversations with Daria, I can also say with confidence that it is an endorsement of the work we are undertaking together.

Tonight, I am proud to announce that Daria has made a commitment of $10 million to Gettysburg College.

Please join me in extending a hearty Gettysburg thank you to Daria!

Daria, thank you! To say your commitment is extraordinary is itself an extraordinary understatement.

Thank you for your belief in us and in our vision for the future. I know you have stretched to make this commitment a reality and we cannot thank you enough for your generosity and your faith in this community.

I am also pleased to share this evening that Daria and Trustee Bill Heyman, Class of 1974 and the parent of a Class of 2013 graduate of the College, have graciously stepped forward to serve as the co-chairs of our comprehensive campaign.

The campaign’s leadership phase is off to an excellent start with Daria’s and Bill’s strong leadership! Thank you, once again!

Let me conclude.

Gettysburg College has endured precisely because the education we provide here is enduring.

Together, we have an eternal promise to keep, and that is to deliver A Consequential Education to every student.

The shape of that promise—delivered to students since our founding in 1832—has appropriately changed over time in response to changing circumstances for each generation of our graduates.

We too must evolve. We can evolve. As I hope you experienced over the weekend, we are evolving.

Gettysburg matters to every one of us. Together, we can shape its brightest future.

Dr. Charles Glatfelter once observed, and I quote:

“Without a doubt, the most valuable assets which Gettysburg College had in 1900, and 1904, were not its buildings, but a host of devoted trustees, faculty, students, alumni, and friends. Working together, they had it within their power to determine whether this already venerable institution would exercise even more salutary influence in advancing the cause of liberal education in the 20th century then it had in the 19th.”

And that is the eternal reality of this campus. It is us—this generation of Gettysburgians—who will breathe life into the education we provide our students today, tomorrow, and well into our third century.

It’s Daria and Bill.

It’s Lauren Meehan Keefe and Ray Truex.

It’s Albert Driver and Jennifer Lehman and Dave Radin.

It’s all of us working together to create the future we envision, for our College and for our students.

On Wednesday, you will receive a note from me. In that note, I will encourage you to consider how you will follow Daria’s lead and find your own way to choose Gettysburg. What you do matters and we need your support.

My ask of you is this:

First, support a Guided Pathways experience.

We are only as strong as the education we provide. Our goal is to ensure that every student—regardless of their financial circumstances—will have an opportunity to participate in at least one high-impact learning experience through the Guided Pathways program during their four years at Gettysburg. Your philanthropic support can make this possible.

Second, express interest in our Alumni Mentor program.

We are just now in the earliest stages of building this innovative program for our students. We need your help. We need your engagement. When we launch the program in the Fall of 2025, we want it to change lives. You’re at the heart of it. By expressing your interest now, you can be at the ground level of helping us to shape this ambitious endeavor.

Third, offer a career experience.

You can be the bridge between Gettysburg College and the careers our students pursue. You heard Rich emphasize just how much this makes a difference. We can do more. We can make career connections and opportunities “a defining part of Gettysburg’s identity.”

Host students for experiential learning programs at your workplace.

Provide access to real-world experiences through internships, externships, and job shadowing

Organize in-person or virtual networking events.

Give our students a firsthand glimpse of a potential career path.

Be remembered forever as person who opened doors to a Gettysburg student. Offering a career experience can truly be life-changing—and not just for our students, but for you as well.

And finally, go out and galvanize the Gettysburg Network.

This one is crucial.

Go back to your own alumni circles and share what you heard this weekend. Encourage your friends and classmates to get involved. To get engaged. To be part of our brightest future.

To underscore how important this is, for the first time ever, in addition to a dollar goal, we will also have an engagement goal for our comprehensive campaign.

We have set an ambitious goal of 75% of all alumni engaging with the College. We can do it. So, don’t wait. Raise your hand. Step forward. And inspire your friends to join you.

I am here today as the 15th president of Gettysburg College.

We all stand upon the shoulders of those who came before us and charted the course for this remarkable institution. As we take our next step forward, I am reminded of the words of our 3rd president, my predecessor, Milton Valentine, Class of 1850.

He observed, and I quote, “Our work lies invitingly before us.”

Together, we can usher this great College into an inspiring third century. Let us commit tonight to Living Our Promise and making our vision a reality. 

Thank you, everyone!