There Is a Plan at Wheeling U | News, Sports, Jobs
I read William Becker’s letter dated June 27, 2021 “What’s the Plan at Wheeling U,” and I strongly disagree with his assessment of the current president and administration for Wheeling University. William does recognize that “the troubles” were not created by the current administration, but believes that no meaningful plan has been developed for the school. He leads one to believe that the only hope for survival for Wheeling University is through the alumni and restoring the Jesuit affiliation and ownership.
As William suggested in his letter, let’s compare the success of Sweet Briar College and Wheeling University. Sweet Briar College nearly closed in 2015 after spending down $12 million of a $96 million endowment. The alumni did make a generous donation of $12 million. However, the college also replaced its board and president. My belief is that the new administration had more to do with the long-term success of Sweet Briar College than this one-time donation from the alumni.
By comparison, in 2017, under the sponsorship and ownership of the Jesuits, Wheeling University was drowning in long-term debt, maxed out on its short-term line of credit, significant loans against a modest endowment, shrinking enrollment and a rundown campus. Thanks to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Diocesan Real Estate Inc. purchased substantially all of the assets of Wheeling University in order for the Jesuits to retire all $32.4 million of its long-term debt. The Jesuits then leased the campus for less than $30,000 per year (per Inside Higher Ed, April 5, 2019).
Just two years later, in 2019, the university continued its decline. Again, the Diocese made a significant contribution to the school. The Jesuits were either unable or unwilling to make the difficult, significant changes necessary to ensure the long-term financial viability of Wheeling University. Clearly, financial donations were not enough to ensure success.
President Ginny Favede was appointed in October 2019, a mere few months before the start of a global pandemic. However, in spite of this, in less than two years Wheeling University has been able to improve its finances, the aesthetics of its campus, and maintained an on campus/in person education throughout the entire 2020-21 school year. But most importantly, increased enrollment. Yes, I too receive President Favede’s weekly emails, and she is a cheerleader for the school. But give her credit for the accomplishments of her administration.
If William had read the letter from Favede to the alumni on March 8, 2021 or attended the Zoom alumni forum on March 9, he would have learned there is a plan in place. President Favede acknowledged the need for more alumni involvement and donations; however, her number one priority was “Setting our financial house in order and reassuring our students, our alumni, and the people of our region that Wheeling University will continue to be for them.”
Yes, Wheeling University is no longer owned nor sponsored by the Jesuits; however, there is a Jesuit presence on campus. Wheeling University is now a Catholic Diocesan-sponsored university. In my hometown of Edgewood, Kentucky, we have a similar small, liberal arts, highly successful Catholic Diocesan-owned and sponsored school, Thomas More University. It is highly ranked academically, athletically and with a beautiful campus. I believe Wheeling University can have a bright future as a Catholic Diocesan-sponsored university.
While I know there is much work ahead, thank you President Favede, Bishop Brennan, Wheeling University board, administration, faculty and staff for saving my beloved institution.
Paul Scheper, CPA
Class of 1975
Fort Wright, Kentucky
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