Temple Times Online Edition
    APRIL 27, 2006
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On the eve of David Adamany’s retirement, a reflection on the achievements of his eventful six-year tenure — and on Temple’s future challenges

Energy to burn

baptist temple
Photo by Joseph V. Labolito/University Photography
The Baptist Temple was given new life under President David Adamany’s watch; since his arrival in 2001, more than $400 million in capital projects has either been completed or is about to begin. Above, Mike Natale, project supervisor for contractor J.S. Cornell & Sons, Richard Brodhead, Boyer College of Music associate dean, and President Adamany toured the now-115-year-old Baptist Temple in fall 2003, after its first phase of preservation was complete.

Soon after David Adamany took office as Temple’s eighth president in May 2000, he began to work on a project that would herald a new era of progress at the University. The task took eight months to complete and drew on his decades of experience as a leader and a teacher as well as on consultations with dozens of students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumni and community leaders.

Finally, in June 2001, he unveiled his creation.

It wasn’t a blueprint for a redesign of the Main Campus. It wasn’t a new organizational chart of the University’s administrative hierarchy. Nor was it an announcement of a new logo, stadium or lab.

It was a list.

Not just any list, mind you — it was a 24-page to-do list called “The President’s Self Study and Agenda.” In it, President Adamany outlined his goals for Temple in the coming years, covering all aspects of the University’s enterprise from academic programs and student life to facilities and fund raising. The “Self Study” was an imposing document, but those who chose to download it from the President’s Web site were treated to a glimpse of the University’s future. Today, less than five years after the document’s creation, the goals laid out in the “Self Study” have either been reached or are on target to be reached by 2009:

Increase enrollment. Since 2000, Temple’s total student enrollment has increased by 17 percent to an all-time high of more than 34,000, fueled by an unprecedented surge in undergraduate applications — up 40 percent over the past five years. “Now Temple is a first choice for thousands of students in Pennsylvania and neighboring states,” Trustee Patrick V. Larkin said.

move in
Photo by Joseph V. Labolito/University Photography
Move-in days in late August involve increasing numbers of students who are choosing to live on or near Main Campus. New extracurricular and entertainment options, as well as non-Temple housing options adjacent to campus, have brought more than 9,000 students to what was until recently considered a commuter campus.

Hire new faculty. The University has hired more than 140 tenured or tenure-track faculty recruits from the world’s leading universities since 2003 — a stunning development at a time of faculty cutbacks nationwide. “David Adamany’s recruitment of a large number of wonderful, accomplished faculty has helped raise the national recognition of Temple as a great
University,” said Dean John M. Daly of the School of Medicine.

Invest hundreds of millions of dollars into capital projects. More than $400 million in new construction and renovations has either been completed (including the TECH Center, the Student Center and the Ambler Learning Center) or is about to begin (including new homes for The Fox School of Business and Management, the School of Medicine and the Tyler School of Art) — the most comprehensive program of new construction and building renewal in Temple’s history. “All of those projects will help take Temple to the next level,” Trustee Mitchell L. Morgan said.

Improve the academic credentials of the student body. The average SAT score of Temple freshmen has increased by 62 points since 2000 to an all-time high of 1098, 70 points above the national average. Freshman enrollment in Temple’s Honors Program has increased by nearly 40 percent since 2003. “Last fall, the average high school G.P.A. of freshmen rose to 3.3,” said Timm Rinehart, associate vice president for enrollment management.

Maintain a commitment to accessibility and diversity. Financial aid has increased by about $80 million since 2001, and tuition has been controlled (about the same as Penn State’s and the University of Pittsburgh’s in 2000, Temple’s tuition is now $1,600 to $1,800 less than those institutions’). The percentage of African-American, Latino and Asian students has surged in the most recent two freshmen classes. Temple’s student body is now ranked the second most diverse in the nation by The Princeton Review. “I just feel comfortable everywhere here,” said freshman Brandi Dyer, an African-American Honors student. “My dorm is extremely diverse — it’s like the United Nations.”

Beginning in fall 2004, Temple bucked a nationwide trend and began welcoming new high-profile faculty to campus. Since then, the University has hired more than 140 tenured or tenure-track recruits, including philosophy’s Lewis Gordon, shown here at Temple’s Aug. 25, 2004, new faculty orientation in Shusterman Hall.

Increase the quality and quantity of research. Research awards have increased more than 28 percent, and research expenditures have increased by 40 percent since the 2001 fiscal year. “There’s a genuine momentum building,” said chemistry professor Robert Levis, one of more than 90 Temple faculty members with at least $1 million in external funding. “President Adamany had the vision to provide directed investment in the scientific enterprise here at Temple. Funding in my department has more than quadrupled since I arrived four years ago.”

Improve extracurricular and entertainment opportunities for students. The Student Center — with its game room, theater, lounges and spaces for student organizations — and the shops and restaurants along Liacouras Walk have boosted quality of life for resident and commuter students alike. Students “want an enhanced campus experience,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Theresa Powell. “This gives our students many more places to gather.”

Expand Temple’s role as a community anchor. Temple’s recent growth has sparked more than $180 million in private residential development and the arrival of new shops and restaurants, bringing new jobs and improving safety in the neighborhoods surrounding Temple’s campuses — all accomplished while establishing what state Sen. Shirley Kitchen calls “a partnership with the community that had not previously existed,” and without any residents losing their homes.

Set the stage for growing Temple’s endowment. Budget and staffing improvements have revitalized alumni affairs and development, plans have been made to reinstate regional alumni clubs, more than 30,000 names have been added to the alumni database, and alumni giving — not a Temple strength in the past — is on the rise. “David Adamany has acknowledged our voices and our concerns as alumni,” said Trustee Loretta Duckworth, president of the General Alumni Association. “He has made us so much more interested in the University.”

Overhaul the core curriculum. In December 2004, the Board of Trustees approved a bold new program for general education that will provide a shared intellectual backbone for all Temple undergraduates. Implementation is scheduled for fall 2007. The new gen-ed curriculum will make Temple students “better-prepared and more well-rounded academically,” outgoing Board of Trustees Chair Howard Gittis said.

Revitalize Temple’s libraries. Once highly ranked but now aging, Temple’s libraries have received budgetary boosts. Larry Alford, a nationally known library leader, was hired from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; he has already filled many gaps in the collections. “Larry Alford has the national stature and technical expertise to take us where we want to go,” Deputy Provost Richard Englert said.

The percentage increase in
student enrollment since 2000
The percentage increase in
undergraduate applications since 2000
Point increase in the average SAT score of incoming freshmen since 2000
The number of tenured and
tenure-track faculty hired by Temple since 2003

If the “Self Study” was an institutional wish list for the first decade of the 21st century, then it’s hard to imagine what to give Temple for the holidays in 2010. “David Adamany has done a terrific job … by every standard of measurement,” Gittis said.

Trustee Dan Polett agreed, marveling at Adamany’s ability to “make progress on so many different fronts at the same time.”

“You expect presidents to have a couple of major initiatives, but that’s not enough for David,” Polett said. “David knew where he wanted to go, and he was steadfast. He didn’t take his eye off those many goals.”

Indeed, the inventory of Temple’s accomplishments in the Adamany era is long and broad enough to make a reasoned argument that his presidency may be among the most productive in Temple history.

So what’s his secret?

It wasn’t the creation of the “Self Study,” Adamany said. That document was important as a statement of purpose — a shot across the bow — but identifying Temple’s challenges was only the first and easiest step.

Chemistry chair and professor Robert Levis (left) is one of more than 90 faculty members with at least $1 million in external research funding. Research awards have increased more than 28 percent since the 2001 fiscal year.

“In the early to mid-1990s, Temple had been through a tough period of enrollment decline,” he said. “It was important to be straight up about areas that we had to address. I didn’t know any other way to make sure that the message would get to everybody except to write it down and put it in front of them.

“But it doesn’t do any good to announce decisions unless you implement them,” Adamany continued. “You have to put mechanisms in place to carry out the decisions you’ve made, either through incentives or enforcement. That’s how I get things done: by making a decision after doing a lot of listening, and then not temporizing about carrying things out.”

Adamany’s straight-ahead approach won over many University leaders.

“David has been absolutely fearless in the way he implemented his pursuit of excellence,” Loretta Duckworth said. “I love the way he has been tenacious. He had goals, and he went after them.”

But there have been times, Adamany admits, when that tenacity has caused what he calls “rubbing and conflict.”

“That’s going to happen to anyone who creates dramatic change,” Trustee Leonard Barrack said, “and changing the course of a university isn’t easy — it’s like moving a battleship. But in five years, he has moved that battleship 180 degrees, and now we’re going in the right direction.”

Like many leaders, Adamany seems immune to criticism’s sting. It’s a useful trait, given that his single-minded devotion to effecting change can provoke those who are reluctant to stay on course to bite back. There are, however, some criticisms of his agenda that make him bristle.

The one that rankles most is the charge that his push for higher academic standards isn’t appropriate at an institution like Temple.

“Whenever someone asks me why it’s important to have high academic standards, I turn the question around,” Adamany said. “Can someone please explain to me why a kid from a working-class or middle-class background shouldn’t get the same kind of education as a kid who goes to an Ivy League school?

“You can’t have an institution where 84 percent of the grades are A’s and B’s, and 56 percent of the kids say they’re spending three hours or less a week on each course,” argued Adamany, who grew up in an immigrant family in Green Bay, Wis., before attending Harvard. “There’s something amiss. You have to drive for higher standards because it’s good for students and it’s good for society. Educate students better, and you have a better society when you’re done. You can compromise on a lot of issues, but there can be no bargaining about the quality of education that students receive.”

That push for higher academic standards has had “positive ripple effects,” said Paul G. Vallas, CEO of the School District of Philadelphia.

“David Adamany’s greatest contribution has been his push to raise standards for admission,” Vallas said. “When Temple began demanding higher standards, that put the pressure on feeder schools to toughen our standards. By not accepting mediocrity, he raised the bar for all of us.”

David Adamany wants the extended Temple community to know that the bar must be raised even higher. During an address to the Board of Trustees in January, Adamany argued that Temple needs to stay on track in several “critical areas” in order to “prepare the way for a new president … and secure Temple’s future.”

Of all the initiatives undertaken since Adamany took office, two will require the greatest commitment in order for Temple’s ascent to continue: growing the University’s endowment and its research enterprise.

Temple’s endowment was nearly the same size as the University of Pittsburgh’s decades ago; now Pitt’s endowment is about eight times greater than Temple’s. Although the number of alumni who contribute to Temple is on the rise, the alumni participation rate is still only about 13.5 percent.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do here to channel the positive feelings of Temple alumni, build a sense of community and mobilize them to lead the University into the future,” Adamany said.
Expanding research at Temple has proven to be an even bigger challenge. In the 1970s, Temple was one of the top 60 research universities in the country — Temple’s rank is now 133rd.

$400 million
The value of Temple’s current capital improvement program

$180 million
The amount of private residential development sparked in the neighborhoods surrounding Temple since 2002

The approximate number of students living on or near Main Campus

“Temple’s research facilities are inadequate, and too few of Temple’s faculty have research grants,” Provost Ira Schwartz said. “That has to change. Research offers unique opportunities for student learning, keeps faculty members in touch with the latest developments and brings money into the institution. The rebuilding of Temple’s research enterprise must continue.”

When David Adamany leaves office at the end of June — he’ll be 70 in the fall — he probably won’t dwell on his legacy. He isn’t the type. Besides, he’ll be too busy assuming his duties as Laura H. Carnell Professor of Law and Political Science at Temple and catching up on his reading in order to teach election law in the Law School, introductory political science, and an undergraduate course on the Supreme Court that he has taught several times while serving as president.

The legacies of university presidents are often measured in bricks, stone and mortar. It’s understandable: Long after presidents retire, the structures they helped create remain as tangible reminders. Although David Adamany helped raise many buildings on Temple’s campuses, his legacy is more vital, and much harder to quantify.

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Andrew Cassell was onto it when he visited Temple’s campus in 2004, pondered all the new faculty hires and asked: “Is it me, or does Temple have some extra electricity running through it these days?” Fox School alumnus Bret Perkins, a member of the President’s Advisory Board, is onto it too: “When you stand at the corner of Broad and Cecil B. Moore, you can feel the pace of life. It was nothing like that five years ago. Now there are 9,000 students living in and around campus. It’s kinetic.”

You can sense it at Berks Mall and Liacouras Walk between classes. You can feel it in a crowded faculty seminar at Temple’s new Center for the Humanities. You can even see it at midnight in the game room in the Student Center. David Adamany’s legacy is energy, and there’s enough of it to power Temple for a long time to come.

This story was originally published in the spring 2006 issue of the Temple Review.

- By Hillel J. Hoffmann