October 3, 2004: Headlines: Peace Corps Directors - Celeste: University Administration: Colorado Springs Gazette: Richard Celeste keeps in constant motion to promote Colorado College

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Richard Celeste: October 3, 2004: Headlines: Peace Corps Directors - Celeste: University Administration: Colorado Springs Gazette: Richard Celeste keeps in constant motion to promote Colorado College

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Richard Celeste keeps in constant motion to promote Colorado College

Richard Celeste keeps in constant motion to promote Colorado College

Richard Celeste keeps in constant motion to promote Colorado College

Celeste keeps in constant motion to promote Colorado College


Pictures of Richard Celeste with presidents hang like family photographs from his office walls.

Jimmy Carter shakes his hand in the Oval Office. Bill Clinton walks beside him during a trip to India. A personal letter from President Bush hangs among the images.

That was then.

These days the man who has been a governor, an ambassador and head of the Peace Corps is more concerned with shaping tomorrow’s leaders than hanging out with today’s.

Celeste, 66, took the helm of Colorado College two years ago, his first job in academia.

Since his arrival, alumni donations are up, Colorado College is more involved in the community and the student body is smarter and more diverse, Celeste and others say.

More work needs to be done. The college dropped this year in U.S. News and World Report ratings from 27th to 33rd, and more money is needed for financial aid and building projects.

Professors and staff say Celeste doused critics’ fears that he came to CC to retire or would not measure up to the academic norm.

Colorado College before Celeste was not in ruins. Former President Kathryn Mohrman left in good standing after winning a Fulbright scholarship to study in China. She had led the college since 1993. The school has been ranked among the nation’s top liberal arts colleges for years.

But trustees had their wish list for the new president: More money, more exposure, more brains and more campus diversity.

“I think we were looking for someone who could take Colorado College to the next level,” said Van Skilling, Board of Trustees chairman.

Classics professor Marcia D-S. Dobson, who has taught at CC since 1976, was leery of Celeste at first.

Like several colleagues, she questioned whether someone who’d been in such big-league jobs would take a small college presidency seriously.

“I have to say I was just totally wrong,” she said. “Before he came on campus, committees seemed to go on forever and nothing seemed to come of them.”

Celeste is quick to take action, she said.

“The problem was our success had become a kind of narcotic,” Celeste said. “People were too comfortable.”

Comfort for Celeste is constant motion.

He travels the country to talk with people, corporations and foundations who may be potential donors. He attends events where he can promote the school’s name and recruit students.

Locally, Celeste meets regularly with students and teachers. He serves on several boards and committees, including the Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership, The Air Force Academy Foundation, and the Denver-based Colorado Forum.

His experience raising money for his campaign chests — he was a two-term governor of Ohio (1983-90) — has proved helpful, said Suzanne Woolsey, vice chairwoman of the Board of Trustees.

Fund raising is required of any college president, but most are uncomfortable with it, she said.

“His response was, ‘This will be terrific. Finally, I’ll get to raise money for somebody besides myself,’” she said.

The average alumni gift since the 2001-02 academic year is up by 14 percent, from $226 to $258. He’s secured several sizable endowments and grants, including:

c $4 million from the Inasmuch Foundation for the Cornerstone Arts center

c $1.4 million from a local donor, who wants to remain anonymous

c $2.5 million from an out-oftown donor, who wants to remain anonymousc $500,000 from the El Pomar Foundation

c $400,000 from the Adolph Coors Foundation

c $400,000 from the Boettcher Foundation

Celeste also formed the President’s Circle, a club for donors who give $10,000 annually. More than 50 have signed up in five months, said Steve Elder, vice president of advancement.

By the end of the year, Celeste is hoping for 100. He created an 1874 Society, the year the college was founded, in which the college seeks $1,874 donations. The college previously asked for $1,000 pledges.

Many large donations are going to building projects such as the renovation of Palmer Hall and the school’s athletic field, and construction of an arts center.

Celeste says raising more money is his biggest challenge. The college’s 2010 plan includes a fitness and health center, a library and more financial aid.

He’s far from raising the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to make that happen, Elder said.

As the U.S. ambassador for India from 1997 to 2001 and a politician, Celeste thinks the key to raising more money and bolstering the school’s image is strong public relations.

“If you don’t tell your story, nobody else will,” he said.

The man in the photos with presidents wants Colorado College to be a “household name.”

Some professors expressed concern, however, when the college’s ranking dropped in what is perhaps the most important publication to the school, the annual college issue of U.S. News and World Report.

Celeste said he was frustrated by the ranking and hopes next year’s will improve.

When he travels, Celeste sets up meetings with national media. He has met with journalists from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek.

One of Celeste’s first items of business two years ago was to change the college communications office. Before, communication employees answered to the advancement department, which handles alumni affairs and fund raising.

Celeste brought public relations, now known as the office of external affairs, directly under him.

“I think that external relations is important enough that it needs to be under the direct leadership of the president, and they need to speak with the authority of the president when they communicate with people,” he said.

Board Chairman Skilling said before Celeste the college was a “well-kept secret.”

“We were looking for somebody who could project the super qualities of Colorado College to the outside world,” said Woolsey, who lives in Annapolis, Md. “People (on the East Coast) are divided by those who know or admire Colorado College and people who think it’s the University of Colorado.”

Celeste has pushed the college radio station, KRCC 91.5 FM, to promote college events to the community. He created a community service program, where selected students spend time working with local nonprofits to learn civic leadership.

Lisa Ellis, co-director of the office of external relations, said the college plans to add local news to its radio station in the spring.

Celeste brought local high school football games back to the college’s stadium because he thinks those students are prospective CC students, and those parents and fans are reminded that the college is a part of Colorado Springs.

Erik Nesse, a Colorado College senior, has seen a change in college/community relations.

When he attended a Monday night lecture by Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now, Nesse said about half of those people in attendance were from the community.

Celeste thrust the college into the national spotlight almost immediately after he started, when he allowed a Palestinian woman, Hannan Ashrawi, to speak on campus a day after the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ashrawi was part of a twoday symposium planned months before Celeste was hired.

When Jewish communities in Denver and Colorado Springs criticized her appearance, Celeste welcomed them onto campus — by the busload.

CC provided a tent, portable toilets, and even a podium and microphone for the protesters.

“It was easy for me to say ‘No, we’re not going to disinvite her,’ ” Celeste said. Free speech is a fundamental academic principle, he said.

Some staff members feared the demonstrations, but Celeste, who watched demonstrations on the capital steps in Ohio as governor, welcomed the debate.

For Celeste, the greatest measure of success or failure is the student body. “Each year, I’d like it to be a little smarter and more diverse,” he said.

This year’s freshman class was the college’s largest at 585. About 4,200 applied.

From 2003 to 2004, the number of incoming first-year students ranked in the top 1 percent of their high school classes grew from 11 percent to 14 percent of overall class. This year’s freshman class grew by 11 minorities, from 107 to 118.

But the student body is short of what Celeste wants. He hopes to change the stereotype that CC is an institution for rich kids.

Substantially increasing financial aid is part of his 2010 plan, which would include more first-generation students, international students and minorities. He wants to see 10 more international students next year, but there is no financial aid specifically for international students, and Homeland Security measures have made it tougher for those students to obtain visas.

He’s going to corporations like Honda to ask for financial help for those students.

On campus, Celeste sees himself as a mayor, and the college as his village.

When he arrived, he visited every department. Skilling said Celeste was the first president in years to do something like that.

Celeste holds regular “open office hours” for students in the lobby of the Worner Center just to chat.

Nesse visited with Celeste during one recent session.

He was curious about Celeste’s life and career experiences and what Celeste wanted for the college’s future. “He actually has contact with the students,” he said, “I mean, wow, what a concept.”

Celeste remembered Nesse’s name, though Nesse had only talked with him a couple of previous occasions.

Woolsey said some members of the search committee were concerned that a highprofile president would not be accessible to students or staff.

Dobson shared those concerns, but said Celeste has proven her wrong. “I am pleased and encouraged and have more energy to do what I need to do as a member of the faculty than I’ve ever had before.”



When this story was posted in October 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Colorado Springs Gazette

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Peace Corps Directors - Celeste; University Administration



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