Remarks by President John J. DeGioia
President's Scholarship Dinner: Introducint the 1789 Scholarship Imperative
September 25, 2009
Thank you Jim Langley for that introduction.
I’m truly pleased that so many leaders from the Georgetown family have joined us. They include:
M. William (Bill) Benedetto (C’62), Chair of the Board of Regents and
All of the members of the Board of Regents;
Paul Besozzi (F'69, L'72), President of the Alumni Association, as well as
All the members of the Board of Governors;
Finally, I’d like to thank George Williams (B’99), chair of the African American Advisory Board (AAAB), and
All of the members of the AAAB here tonight.
Two Georgetown traditions bring us together tonight: Fall Leadership Weekend and Homecoming.
Fall Leadership Weekend brings members of our Boards of Regents and Governors to campus to engage with us in the ongoing work of developing our University.
Homecoming brings us together with the leadership of our African American alumni community, to pay tribute to an exemplar of service and leadership by presenting the Samuel A. Halsey Award; and to celebrate the strides made by the African American Advisory Board to make the Georgetown experience available to the broadest range of young people.
As a Catholic and Jesuit University, Georgetown draws crucial strength from the diversity of our community.
In that spirit, I would like to invite George Williams to join me at the podium to honor this year’s awardee.
I am pleased to introduce this year’s winner of the Samuel A. Halsey Award, Colonel Doris Browne. A native of Biloxi Mississippi, Dr. Browne earned her M.D. from the Georgetown Medical Center.
After graduating in 1979, Dr. Browne served a variety of posts, including: Director of Prevention and Standards in the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs; Chair of the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Prevention, Education and Diagnosis Initiative; and Director of Medical Research and Development for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command.
She also started Browne and Associates Inc., a preventive health and health services management firm, which among other efforts managed an HIV/AIDS education and prevention program for the defense forces of Swaziland.
Dr. Browne recently retired from her post as senior scientific officer in the Breast and Gynecological Cancer Research Group, Division of Cancer Prevention, at the National Cancer Institute. She continues to do work for her company, and devotes herself to volunteer work for her church (Trinity Episcopal), as well as health projects in Africa
Dr. Browne, thank you for your excellence in scholarship and dedication in service. We are honored by your presence, and are truly pleased to present to you with the Samuel Halsey Award.
Now, I’d like to welcome you to the podium to say a few words.
Thank you again, Dr. Browne. Your accomplishments are a living example for all of us and for all who will follow you through Healy Gates.
I want to begin by reporting briefly on the state of the University and then to share with you plans for a very ambitious new effort to increase substantially our support for financial aid at Georgetown. Despite the challenges of the economic environment, it’s been an extraordinary last year.
We received more than 18,600 undergraduate applicants for this year’s Freshman Class of 1,580. This holds steady with last year’s record number of applicants.
We also had an acceptance rate of 18.7%, making Georgetown, once again, among the most selective universities in the nation. Our yield held steady—with 43% of those accepted positively responding. We also continue to experience record numbers of applicants to the Georgetown University Law Center, and strong application numbers for our medical school and other graduate programs.
Turning to the economy, the good news is that during what has become known as the Great Recession we had our best fundraising year, ever, for both cash received and gift commitments.
We raised $186 million in campaign commitments—surpassing our 12 month record by 27%...and we received $182 million in cash—surpassing our 12 month record by 68%.
As you know earlier this year we received the largest gift in the University’s history - from Robert McDevitt (C’40) -- and even without the McDevitt gift—the largest in our University’s history—we still surpassed the prior record for cash  by $10 million.
Our endowment has fluctuated as the markets have over the past year. The value at the end of December 2008 was $833 million.
By the end of June 2009, the endowment had risen to $895 million. Overall, it was down 22 percent for fiscal year 2009 – a bit better than many of our peer institutions.
All in all, we were able to finish an extremely challenging FY2009 in good fiscal standing.
In addition to the success of our fundraising, we also took early and strong action to deal with this challenging economic climate; and emerged in a strong position compared to some of our peers. We took a prudent approach to spending and reallocated investments to increase liquidity. In addition, we restructured our debt portfolio to minimize interest costs, and risk, and stabilize payment plans.
Perhaps nothing more highlights the dynamism that has continued on campus, even during this crisis, than the recent opening of our new building for the McDonough School of Business. It was a truly exciting development, the opening of that extraordinary building. And that we were able to complete the building in such a challenging economic environment is thanks to all of you, our supporters and friends.
That’s the recent past. Let me talk now about our future.
A year ago, we identified three strategic imperatives that now guide Georgetown’s current focus and future ambitions. The three imperatives are:
First, that we work unrelentingly to advance the excellence and competitiveness of our academic and research programs;
Second, that we seek, through the work of the University, opportunities to engage and contribute to addressing the great issues of our age;
And third, that we work tirelessly to strengthen the financial resources that support the University in all its work.
These imperatives help me and other University leaders focus our work and prioritize our efforts both to secure Georgetown in our present role and to advance our future ambitions as a leader in education and society, here at home in the United States, and increasingly around the globe.
One issue that comes into clear focus through this framework is access and affordability; it’s the task of keeping Georgetown within reach for the very best students, without limitation due to cost or a family’s ability to pay.
In the name of this evening’s dinner we honor Fr. Patrick Healy, a man justly known as the second founder of our University, President of Georgetown from 1873-1882.
One of his great accomplishments, in 1880 he established the first formal scholarships to Georgetown when he created a fund to cover all tuition costs for one student each from all of Washington, D.C.’s Catholic parishes.
Yet when we speak of scholarships at Georgetown, we must talk about the other Fr. Healy. I’m speaking, of course, of Fr. Timothy Healy—president of Georgetown from 1976 to 1989. He was a dear friend to me and many others in this room.
When Father Healy arrived here in 1976, admission to Georgetown had for many years been “need-blind” because admissions officers made their decisions without regard to an applicant’s ability to pay for the costs of education.
But the resulting offer could be an empty promise to the applicant who could not afford the tuition and other expenses.
So in 1978, Father Healy decided that Georgetown would complement need-blind admissions with a “full-need” financial aid policy. Doing so made enrollment possible for any admitted student.
It transformed, for many, a Georgetown offer of admission from a bittersweet disappointment to the reality of four years on the Hilltop. Since then, Georgetown has used a combination of scholarships, work-study and loans to close the gap between what students and families can afford and the full cost of attendance.
It was a bold and open-ended commitment of unknown cost and uncertain impact on the University. But the rightness of the commitment could not be much questioned because it promised to serve both Georgetown’s mission and its standing among American universities.
First the mission. When the Jesuits were establishing their first schools in the mid-16th century, they emphasized the humanities, rhetoric and communication, religious instruction and moral development.
More important for our purposes, these earliest schools were open to students of all social classes and admitted students even if they could not pay. One of these first Jesuit schools promoted its mission succinctly on a sign, hanging on its door, which proclaimed it a “school of grammar, humanities and Christian doctrine—free.”
Georgetown made its own original contribution to this tradition. From its founding our University was committed to pluralism and inclusiveness.
We all know the story well, but it bears repeating for the sheer audaciousness of its vision and its resonance with the highest ideals of the day. In founding Georgetown, Archbishop Carroll insisted that his new academy be open to “students of any religious profession.”
So I submit that it is very simply in our institutional DNA to provide access to all who merit admittance, to welcome the very best to our ranks without regard to their background or station.
And in our day, when a world-class college education is a more than $200,000 proposition, those aspirations—which is to say the service of our mission—cannot be fulfilled without a significant ongoing commitment to financial aid like the commitment that Father Healy initiated thirty-one years ago.
But it is not a purely selfless proposition. The standing of the University and the experience on the Hilltop of all benefit immeasurably when our student body comprises the very best.
Having arrived on the Hilltop in 1975 as a freshman, I’ve had the advantage of watching as the effects of our commitment to access have been made manifest across the University.
By opening our gates to the most accomplished young people, and not just those who could afford tuition, Georgetown began a sharp rise in its institutional standing.
Today Georgetown is among the nation’s top 25 universities and the world’s most esteemed institutions of higher learning. We have been for more than a generation solidly among the most selective undergraduate institutions in the country and draw ever-more-competitive applicant pools. For example, twenty-four percent of freshmen in the University’s class of 2012 were ranked first in their high school classes.
When enrollment is open to the best, then, we not only fulfill our mission, we not only fulfill the ambition of our founder, we not only serve those who gain otherwise inconceivable access to a first-rate education, but we enhance the experience of all who come to Georgetown.
The level of the classroom dialogue rises. The challenge to our teaching faculty grows. The prospect of insight and breakthrough in labs and seminars increases. And our opportunity to serve society at large through the contributions of our graduates expands immeasurably.
But all of this comes with a significant cost. When Georgetown began to meet full need in 1978, the cost to the university amounted to $2 million dollars. Last year, we invested about thirty-six times that amount – roughly $72 million in undergraduate scholarships.
Thirty-six percent of current undergraduate students – about 2,400 students – receive need-based scholarships from the University. These scholarships range from $1,000 to $50,000 and are determined solely by the commitment to meet individual students’ full need.
And fully 50% of undergraduates receive some kind of assistance to fund their education expenses.
Recognizing the financial strain that many families are encountering today, we have increased the financial aid budget by almost $8 million this academic year alone. And we’ve responded on the other side of the equation by enacting the most modest tuition increase in a generation – a 2.9 percent increase this year. Together with Princeton, that’s the lowest tuition increase within our peer group.
But despite these efforts, the continued rising costs of higher education across the nation, combined with the troubled economy, mean that families are facing higher hurdles to afford college for their kids. This includes increasing numbers of middle-class, two-income families.
We expect their need to increase at an accelerating rate in the years to come.
In anticipating the future costs of providing access, we face a significant additional challenge when compared to many of the other, top-tier universities with whom we vie for the nation’s best high school seniors.
At Georgetown, we are behind most of our peers in developing a sustained funding base for financial aid in the form of endowed and current use scholarships.
In order to sustain, and expand, our defining commitment to providing access for all who merit admission, we must seek substantial philanthropic support.
So tonight, I am pleased to announce, for the first time in public, an ambitious new effort to support access and affordability at Georgetown through an initiative we’re calling the 1789 Scholarship Imperative.
It is the cornerstone of a larger capital campaign which we will launch next September after what will then have been four years in a quiet or pre-public phase. The first three years of the quiet phase have been very successful. The new campaign will emphasize financial aid, faculty excellence, a handful of high priority capital improvement projects and a number of other major new strategic initiatives. We’ll be working hard on all of these over the next five years of the campaign, but we’re starting by emphasizing financial aid.
Most of what I am speaking about pertains specifically to undergraduate financial aid. But we are also cognizant of the financial burdens on our graduate students, and I can assure you that there will also be a major push, still in the planning, for graduate student financial aid, including med and law.
The 1789 Imperative will build on the outstanding work done by Charlie Deacon, Pat McWade and a dedicated team of alumni leaders under the auspices of the Georgetown Scholarship Program (GSP).
The GSP has pioneered novel and effective practices in raising more than $10 million in the last three years from a small cadre of very generous donors. And we intend to replicate many of those practices in this greatly expanded effort.
Specifically, the imperative calls for raising funds sufficient to fund seventeen hundred and eighty-nine $25,000 scholarships in each of the next five years. Our goal is to raise a minimum of $500 million over the next five years.
The goal is ambitious, but the need is significant, and the promise is vast. The 1789 Scholarship Imperative will permit Georgetown to meet as much as 50 percent of the cost of our financial aid program through philanthropy. That will put us in much better standing relative to our peer institutions, and it will sustain the University’s commitment to access and affordability for undergraduates.
To fulfill this ambition we will be calling on our community, our friends, and our family for the most generous support they can provide.
Such significantly increased resources will ensure that the gains of the last 31 years continue to flow to Georgetown in the years ahead and that the best and brightest of each generation have the opportunity to join the Georgetown family.
It really is a virtuous circle. The more we’re willing to invest in access to Georgetown, the more we elevate the University in its service to mission, in its service to the current and future generations of the country’s and world’s most gifted young people, and the more we make real the promise of personal well-being, and of authentic flourishing through the unique opportunity of a Georgetown education.
With that, I thank you again for being here tonight. By your presence, you honor us. By your support, you lift us. And by your lives and ongoing promise, you inspire us.