FEATURE — Winter 2004

One of the University's main goals of the Project 21 strategic planning process was "to attract and engage outstanding students and give them an educational experience of the highest quality in and out of the classroom."

A Bright Future

The successful Campaign for Washington University has allowed the University to "accelerate its ascent" among the world's institutions of higher education and has propelled its mission of teaching, research, and service to higher levels.

by Mary Ellen Benson

Walk the campuses of Washington University in 2004–05, the University's 151st year, and you'll sense a lot of energy, a place where a great deal is happening. Once considered a "hidden gem" or "best-kept secret," the University's considerable strengths are increasingly being recognized nationally and internationally.

For instance, the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2005 says: "One of higher education's rising stars, Washington University is arguably the best private school between Chicago and San Francisco. Though it's always been well-recognized regionally, [Washington University] has now firmly established itself as a truly national institution—with a relaxed Midwestern feel that differentiates it from the high-strung eastern Ivies."

Washington University sports teams compete in the University Athletic Association, a conference of eight leading universities committed to academic and athletic excellence. Of the University's 12 NCAA Division III Championships, eight have been won by the volleyball team.

The 3rd edition of Barron's Guide to the Most Competitive Colleges claims: "From modest beginnings as a regional university, Washington University in St. Louis has emerged as a national leader in undergraduate and graduate education. The university now draws approximately ninety percent of students from outside of Missouri, with students from all fifty states and more than one hundred and ten countries."

While Washington University has honored its prestigious past during the Sesquicentennial celebrations of 2003–04, the sense of a bright future has, in many ways, been propelled by the Campaign for Washington University, which concluded on June 30, 2004. The successes of the Campaign can be measured not so much in assets raised—though impressive, as detailed in the special report in this magazine—but by what the Campaign has allowed the University to do.

New buildings, for example, have provided state-of-the-art laboratory space for students and researchers in medicine, the chemical sciences, biomedical engineering, and earth and planetary sciences. The Center for Advanced Medicine—including the Siteman Cancer Center—has consolidated outpatient services at the north end of the Medical Campus. New residence houses have enhanced living/learning opportunities for undergraduate students. Olin Library has been reconfigured into a place that better supports how faculty and students use its resources in the 21st century.

The medical school's Genome Sequencing Center (GSC) is one of the three largest such centers in the world. Richard K. Wilson, professor of genetics and center director, and Elaine Mardis, assistant professor of genetics and center co-director, are leading the GSC into a new era of genomic medicine.

New scholarships have made it possible for talented students to attend Washington University through such programs as the Webster Society Scholars in the School of Law or the Danforth Scholars in all of the schools.

New professorships have supported the scholarly and creative work of faculty in American culture studies, mana-gerial leadership, law, systems science and mathematics, the arts, genetics, social work—and many, many other disciplines.

The goal of the Campaign, "to accelerate Washington University's ascent among the world's premier universities," has surely been accomplished.

But as Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton has said: "We can neither be content with past accomplishment nor complacent about the future. If we are to preserve and enhance the character and the excellence that have distinguished Washington University for 150 years, we must always be about the business of doing even better what we already do well, and we must do it faster."

The thousands of donors and volunteers who participated in the Campaign for Washington University have helped the University implement Project 21 strategic plans and move confidently into the 21st century. New initiatives—from developing programs in entrepreneurship to BioMed 21—will assure that the momentum continues.

Mary Ellen Benson is assistant vice chancellor and executive director of the University's Publications Office.