Dr. David Rowe took office as the 30th president of Centenary College on the heels of the Great Recession in August 2009. It was a difficult time in Centenary’s history and a time when most small liberal arts colleges found themselves at existential crossroads. He challenged Centenary to define church-related liberal arts education for the 21st Century. The College responded to that call by globalizing the educational experience of students, shoring up the institution’s finances and integrating the curricular and co-curricular offerings of the College to encircle the world with wise caring moral leaders developed to engage the challenges of the global challenges of the 21st Century.
Under Rowe’s leadership, the College developed the one-of-a kind Centenary in Paris program, during which all new students participate in a four credit-hour August immersion term academic course which includes a 10-day trip to Paris. Centenary in Paris capitalizes on the College’s historic strengths in French and Francophone culture to provide a high impact learning experience for freshmen.
The College leveled the playing field economically so that all students could participate in a second College-funded international travel experience. Passport Points enables students to earn points for attending campus cultural events. Accumulated points can be redeemed for up to $2,000 of reimbursement for expenses related to international educational travel.
Dr. Rowe expanded the exchange opportunities for students signing multi-lateral agreements with Methodist-related institutions around the world and bi-lateral agreements with institutions in Brazil and the French Antilles. As a result, more than 70% of Centenary students have had some from of international educational experience. That percentage is expected to grow to near 100% by 2017.
Total Net Assets grew $34 million from $122 million in FY2009 to $156 million in FY2015. This growth was in part due to decreased reliance on spending from the endowment from more than $9 million in FY2009 to less than $6 million in FY2015, holding the endowment spend rate to an industry standard of 5% or lower.
Signature Financial Achievements
During Rowe’s tenure, the College moved from being unranked by US News and World Report into that publication’s top tier of national liberal arts colleges. Centenary currently holds the distinction of being Louisiana’s only Tier One National Liberal Arts College.
Centenary became the second college in the last two decades to make the very difficult transition from Division I to Division III NCAA athletics. The Ladies and Gents joined one of the most widely respected Division III conferences and recovered from the transition to garner Southern Collegiate Athletic Association season titles in both Men’s Basketball and Baseball.
In order to integrate the total educational experience of all students, Rowe administratively combined Student Development and Academic Affairs under the leadership of the Provost.
During this period, the College implemented Centenary Leadership, a nationally-acclaimed program that takes seriously the developmental stages of College students in order to rapidly strengthen their abilities to lead and grow themselves, others, and the world around them. This process begins as soon as a student commits to attend Centenary with Professional Discernment coaching before the student even steps foot on campus as a student.
During Rowe’s tenure the faculty identified three 21st Century Global Challenges with which every Centenary graduate should be able to engage: Living a Meaningful Life, Living a Sustainable Life, and Living a Life of Expanding Circles of Relationship.
In response to the 21st Century Global Challenges, the student development staff and faculty instituted residential living learning communities as platforms for action to address the unusually complex challenges locally and globally through service-learning. During the professional discernment process each freshman is matched with one of these communities, known as a World House, which most closely aligns with his or her values and passions and which focus action and reflection in the areas of Peace, Justice or Environmental Sustainability.
Rowe worked diligently to strengthen ties to Barksdale Air Force Base. Centenary is now a Yellow Ribbon Institution allowing post-911 veterans and their dependents to attend Centenary tuition free. The College also instituted an annual Veterans Day celebration, developing that celebration into an ongoing partnership with Barksdale, and implemented an hourly tuition rate for active military equivalent to the Tuition Assistance Program rate.
A restructuring of the academic program enabled the College to capitalize on the institution’s historic strength in undergraduate arts and sciences fields. The restructuring included converting the curriculum to a four-hour course model and innovative hybrid semesters, each containing a traditional term and an immersive block term. The structural changes have made it possible for students to Do More in 4 years at Centenary than at most other schools, including earning a Bachelor’s degree in a traditional arts and sciences field and professional Master’s within four years at no extra cost. An early indicator of the effectiveness of More in Four academic programs is the fact that 90% of Centenary’s May 2015 graduates completed their Centenary education in 4 years or fewer.
In July, Rowe will depart Centenary and assume the presidency of Lake Highland Preparatory School in Orlando, Florida, the eighth largest member of the National Association of Independent Schools in the continental United States.