CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. (Mar. 2, 2023) — Thomas More University welcomed local media to campus on Thursday, March 2, 2023, for a celebration of the success seen in the first 24 months of the Second Century Campaign: It’s time for More, the funding mechanism for the University’s Strategic Plan: Lighting the Way. Representatives from media outlets across Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky joined Thomas More students, faculty, and staff for lunch as University President Joseph L. Chillo, LP.D. updated the community on landmarks of the capital campaign and what lies in the future.
“There is no doubt that higher education has experienced a changing landscape over the past several years,” said Chillo. “Steady stories of deficits, increase in costs, inflation, a broken business model have been regular news stories both nationally and regionally. The challenges faced by other universities have not presented the same constraints at Thomas More University because of our focus on mission, a value-based, and personalized educational experience, and making certain that our institution is student-ready and financially responsible.”
Three months into a global pandemic, Thomas More boldly launched the largest capital campaign in University history. Chillo enthusiastically reported that the campaign surpassed its $30 million goal three years ahead of schedule. The campaign’s success is evident on Thomas More’s vibrant campus as construction is underway on the new academic center, student spaces have been renovated, Thomas More Stadium was introduced in partnership with the Florence Y’alls, new academic programs were announced, the Five Seasons Sports Club location adjacent to the main campus was acquired, and various naming opportunities were established to ensure students have the best facilities and equipment to succeed in the classroom and in their future careers.
Chillo alluded to coming initiatives stemming from the strategic plan. An innovative education model will soon be unveiled to address the need for more highly qualified teachers in PreK-12 classrooms throughout the Commonwealth. The University launches the Center for Faith, Mission, and Catholic Education in summer 2023, leaning into the Catholic values that have been a cornerstone of the institution. Chillo also shared that on Friday, March 24, 2023, a ceremony is planned celebrating the official name the College of Business, one of the first gifts to the Second Century Campaign and a vision to shape the ethical business leaders of tomorrow.
“Founded in 1921 as northern Kentucky’s first college, we continue to be the regional leader of a quality Catholic liberal arts education, providing students an experience that develops character, a sense of purpose, and an understanding of responsibility to others,” said Chillo.
Click here to watch the video of President Chillo’s remarks from media day.
Transcript of President Chillo’s address on Media Day:
“On behalf of our alumni, faculty, staff and students, and certainly our Board of Trustees, welcome to Thomas More University. Good afternoon and thank you all for taking the time to join us in this celebration today. We extend our gratitude and thanks for the positivity that you’ve all shown this year in the various publications throughout Northern Kentucky and the greater Cincinnati region. Without this important work, we would not be able to tell our story which is based on why a private education matters, why a values-based education matters, and why a personal education matters as well. We know that it makes a difference in the lives of students and certainly the alumni that we have served for over 101 years in the commonwealth and throughout the region, and the companies that rely on our alumni for their growth and expansion, and the communities that they live and serve in.
“I want to take a moment – we have a lot of students here representing various clubs and organizations. I am going to make a presidential decision for our students to stand up; not to embarrass them but because these students have represented Thomas More well over the years. Some of them are getting ready to graduate, go on to physical therapy programs, go on to internships in Washington, D.C., continue to do work in calculus. They are all rockstars: these are students who are representing other areas – they are residential advisors, involved in the Student Advisory Council, they are student-athletes. These are students who make Thomas More what we are today and certainly they’re going to be the rock stars of the future. They also remind us of the importance of the work that we do and the reason why we do our work. Certainly, we try to shape who they will be; their ability to navigate the world beyond Thomas More, and the communities they will live and work in.
“There is no doubt that higher education has experienced a changing landscape over the past several years. We see stories about deficits, declining demographics, increasing costs, inflation, a broken business model – these have been regular news stories both within our region and across the nation. The challenges faced by other universities have not presented the same constraints at Thomas More because of our focus on mission, a values-based education, a personalized education experience, and making certain that our institution is student-ready and financially responsible. Our faculty and staff are deeply dedicated to the success of every student. While COVID-19 created disruption in higher education, we’ve met the pandemic with innovation and agility, achieving the highest traditional enrollment and the strongest financial position in the University’s history. Not only does this demonstrate our ability to successfully navigate obstacles, but it also provides a glimpse of what we are capable of doing into the future.
“As I reminded our nursing students yesterday, at their graduates’ day, this University has lived through wars, depression and recessions, a pandemic, locusts, and even despite a flood in the President’s Office. My point is, every time a challenge has been presented, this institution has risen to meet the challenge and to get out of that challenge more successful. Our DNA has been shaped by our past, and our willingness today to challenge ourselves for a better future. We are investing in all areas of the University to ensure the future for our students. We are ensuring that the Thomas More experience sets them up for meaningful lives and careers. We are supporting our students to help them to find their purpose and understand their responsibility to others, knowing that they will pay that forward in the communities that they will go on to serve.
“In my inaugural address back in 2019, I stated, ‘a great university not only achieves its goals but dares to dream, inspire, and hope.’ Just over 24 months ago, we set up the task of creating an ambitious Strategic Plan – Lighting the Way and it is supported by the Second Century Campaign – It’s time for More. Since then, we have had no shortage of exciting announcements to send your way. Since the Campaign’s launch, we put into action initiatives to support student success, academic innovation, and responsible stewardship.
“Student success has been prioritized as we rang in the New Year in 2023 by announcing the acquisition of the Northern Kentucky Five Seasons Family Sports Club facility. Many naming opportunities were established on campus, allowing us to have the best equipment and spaces for our students to excel. Truly a student-ready university, we recently launched Saints Essentials, taking an innovative approach to college costs by providing every student with what they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond. We are removing endless fees that create barriers for many students and their families in affording a higher education. We are removing food insecurity and we are expanding health and wellness initiatives.
“In a recent study we surveyed the Thomas More community about what they believe makes their college experience unique. While we expected to receive answers about small class size, mission-driven experiences, dedicated and caring faculty, the number one answer was the overwhelming sense of community that is fostered here at Thomas More. Other institutions can look at higher education as a transactional endeavor – they seek to be leaders in online education and some are certainly mission-adrift. That is not how we serve our students at Thomas More University. The value of an in-person, liberal arts education shines bright. Our graduates have a sense of purpose that sets them up for their lives. Through Saints Essentials, we are better able to foster a sense of community for our students and create the personalized education environment that we know is so critical for student success.
“As we grow this commitment to student learning, we also have Thomas More student-athletes successful on the field of competition and in the classroom. We ensure that we have the very best facilities and equipment, setting them up for success. In March 2022, we introduced Thomas More Stadium, the new home of the baseball team through a partnership with the Florence Y’alls. Our softball team will see facility improvements as we announced plans last December for extensive renovations to their current field and new construction creating a state-of-the-art complex. The project will begin at the conclusion of their current season.
“Our work to set up our student-athletes for success in the classroom is evident by the 400 student-athletes who achieved a grade point average of 3.0 or higher at the conclusion of this past fall semester. As many of you heard last summer, we were thrilled to share the news that Thomas More has been granted provisional membership to the NCAA Division II, making us (Thomas More) the only NCAA Division II institution in Northern Kentucky and the Greater Cincinnati region.
“Our faculty and staff have been intentional about planning for the future so that Thomas More University stays at the forefront of academic excellence and innovation. You undoubtedly noticed that construction is well underway on the new academic center, which will house advanced technology, state-of-the-art classroom environments, and the College of Business. Our campus growth has been exponential in the past 24 months as we relocated education and psychology to Cabrini Hall, and have acquired 207 and 209 Thomas More Parkway, allowing space for transformation of the Saints Center back to its original purpose, a true student center. This was a promise that I made to our students when I arrived at Thomas More in June 2019.
“As we restore University property, we are intentionally creating spaces that faculty and students can engage in effectively. We are becoming an innovation destination for young entrepreneurs with the launch of the Dr. Anthony ’65 and Geraldine ’66 Zembrodt Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Through Thomas More’s many collaborative partnerships we are uniquely able to understand regional needs, which has informed our new academic programs and has led to the development and expansion of our co-op and internship opportunities. We know that these experiences are critically important for students to engage with corporate leaders throughout the area. Our partnerships allow students to get out into the field before they graduate, gaining valuable experience and making connections, and often earning money to relieve the financial burden associated with higher education. This is just one way we prepare our students for successful careers, not just jobs.
“As we look ahead to the 2023-2024 academic year, Thomas More University will officially launch a new Master of Public Health degree and four new undergraduate programs. Two offerings are in the College of Business: a Bachelor of Science in finance and a Bachelor of Arts in tourism and recreation management. We are also introducing two offerings under the St. Elizabeth College of Natural and Health Sciences: a Bachelor of Arts in life science and a Bachelor of Arts in physical science.
“Our reach is growing. Georgetown University’s return on investment study shows our alumni have a higher ROI than any public university in Kentucky and we hold a strong second ROI among private universities in the commonwealth. Further, we ranked #1 in ROI among private liberal arts institutions in the Cincinnati region. Our alumni are leading the way, there is no doubt an investment in education at Thomas More is well worth it. We have acted on responsible stewardship for securing funds to ensure students have access to an affordable, mission-driven Catholic education that is values-based and personalized, that will serve them well for their lifetime.
“During the Campaign, 32 endowed scholarships have been funded or increased and we have some of those folks here today. I want to thank Melissa Lueke for the work that she has done in making sure that Catholic education is affordable and certainly the work that she has done in the leadership of the Capital Campaign. I also want to thank Dr. Don Saelinger, who is a member of our Board of Trustees and also an alum of Thomas More and family member of Sr. Irmina Saelinger. To some of you that name should be familiar as we have dedicated the registrar’s office in her memory, as one of our leading founders here at the institution. Don and his family have also endowed a generous scholarship to make sure that our Catholic education is affordable. And, of course, I want to thank our Board Chair Dr. Judith Marlowe, who is also an alum. I’m starting to see a theme here in how great our alumni do! Judith and her husband have made a significant investment in Thomas More as well and I want to thank Judith, not only for her leadership, but certainly for the work that she has done with the Capital Campaign and her investment in Thomas More.
“Three months into a global pandemic, we boldly launched the largest capital campaign in University history. Fully engaging our alumni in the process, our campaign has not been a success through one large gift, but rather through the outpouring of support through our community. More than 7,000 gifts, including 127 major gift donors – 7,000 gifts, that’s critically important because it demonstrates the commitment that our donors and friends have to the advancement of Thomas More University. These individuals took a bold step to help us achieve our goal that we set for the Second Century Campaign. I’m happy to report that the University has surpassed the goal of $30 million. Three years early and in just 24 months, we have reached $33 million. That does not mean the work stops. Anybody who knows Kevin (Reynolds, vice president, Institutional Advancement) and I, will tell you we never sleep and never stop, we are going to move forward. We are not sitting here today telling you that there is a new goal, because we are going to raise as much money as we possibly can. It is for the students and we know how much it means to our University.
“As we celebrate the success that we have seen in the past 24 months, we have also seen many ways that we can continue to improve the student experience and the value of their education. As we continue to evolve and look into the future of Catholic education, we hold true to the values of our founding Orders and the principles of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. We have seen the difference that students’ experiences at Thomas More makes through the University staying committed to values and mission.
“We have many exciting announcements and new initiatives on the horizon as we continue our work to transform higher education in the commonwealth and within the region. I stand by my statement that I made during my inauguration: ‘A college education isn’t supposed to be a hoop that you jump through or a box to check in order to get a good job; education is a transformative endeavor, not a transactional one; it is a community, not a commodity.’
“Thomas More was founded as a teaching college, and we will soon announce an innovative educational model that will remove barriers for the region’s future teachers. Thomas More will address the need for more highly qualified teachers to be in the K-12 environment. The vibrancy of our communities in Northern Kentucky and throughout the commonwealth require stronger schools and the most important investment that we can make is to ensure that every student has access to high-quality education and excellent teachers who care deeply about the education of children. We are going to be taking a leadership role in shaping K-12 education in the commonwealth. Through innovative programming, we are going to remove financial barriers for our students and for the next generation of teachers, and provide expert faculty who will create a workforce that answers the region’s needs.
“We will be taking a different path than many other higher education institutions who are moving away from their founding values as we launch the Center for Faith, Mission, and Catholic Education this summer. We know the significance of this action as we seek to lean into the Catholic values that have been the cornerstone of our institution, and coming up on Friday, March 24, we invite you all back to campus as we officially name the College of Business, celebrating one of our first gifts to the Second Century Campaign, and a vision to shape business leaders who understand the complexities of a free market enterprise, understanding the importance of sustainability, and the need for more business leaders to be ethical leaders of the future. I certainly look forward to having you here to join us on this joyous occasion.
“As we conclude Thomas More’s first century, we continue to stand on the shoulders of giants. We look forward to the next century leading in service to our students and to the region. Founded in 1921 as Northern Kentucky’s first college, we continue to be the regional leader for a quality Catholic liberal arts education, providing students an experience that develops character, a sense of purpose, and an understanding of their responsibility to others. This is an exciting time at Thomas More, and we look forward to the next decade with great excitement and enthusiasm. I want to thank all of you today for helping us tell our story. To our faculty and staff, please accept my deepest appreciation for your work and dedication to our University, our students, and our time in the history of this great University. To our students, you are the foundation that is being built; I know you will be successful, just like the alumni before you. May God bless all of you during this season of Lent and may He bless Thomas More University.”
For more information about Thomas More University, visit www.thomasmore.edu.
About Thomas More University
For 100 years, Thomas More has created a university for the student who wants to Be More, Do More, Seek More, Win More, Achieve More, and Create More. Since its founding in 1921, Thomas More has provided a mission-driven, liberal arts education that is based in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. Students learn to harness the power of human reason to solve problems and discover truth, which allows them to begin the journey to become the person they were created to be. Entering into the second century, it’s time for More. Serving more than 2,000 students, Thomas More aspires to be the premier Catholic university in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region, build upon its excellent return on investment (ranked #1 among private universities/colleges in Kentucky by MSN Money in 2021 and ranked #2 for long term gain in Kentucky by a 2022 Georgetown University study) and share with this generation the transformative power of the Thomas More experience. To find out more, visit thomasmore.edu.
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