COLUMBIA — Terry Smith's "State of the College" address on Thursday began with the promise that he wouldn't outline each letter of the alphabet as a past speaker had.
"He started with, 'A is for achievement,' and then he said, 'B is for boldness,'" said Smith, interim president for Columbia College. "I wish I could remember what X stood for, but I was in a coma by then."
Instead, Smith built his address on the college's seven values: student centrism, lifelong learning, ethics and citizenship, flexibility and innovation, quality and improvement, civility and respect, and environmental and fiscal stewardship.
There was more light-hearted joking: "I asked Dr. Brouder if he had anything to pass along: He said do everything Smith says," Smith said, laughing.
Gerald Brouder announced his retirement as president in January. Smith said a successor is expected to be named by July 1, 2014. Applications are due Oct. 1, and interviews of candidates on a short list are expected to start in November.
Smith recognized the Rev. John Yonker, chairman of the presidential search committee, before moving into the heart of his address. That included plans to counter declining enrollment. After the address, Smith elaborated, saying the college will increase efforts to recruit traditional-age college students and retain adult students.
"It doesn't take much for an adult learner to say, 'You know what? I'm not going to go back to school,'" Smith said in an interview after the speech.
Sometimes adult learners are going to have to leave college and there's nothing the college can do about it, Smith said; but sometimes there are ways in which the college can step in, such as helping the student find access to day care or financial aid.
During his address, Smith highlighted some recent changes such as bringing back music for the first time in 30 years.
Smith sought to include his audience in Launer Auditorium by asking different groups to stand up and be recognized. He asked retiring David "Mike" Randerson, vice president for adult higher education, to stand and be acknowledged for his 18 years with the college.
Smith concluded with a reminder to carry out the mission at the bottom of every Columbia College business card: "Vision: A Model Institution."
"Keep the main thing the main thing — student academic achievement," he said.
The "State of the College" address is held in September of odd-numbered years.
Ted Krause, an employee in shipping and receiving at Columbia College, said afterward that he liked Smith's humor and interactivity. "It was funnier, and it kept me entertained," he said.
Krause said he has been at the college for 18 years. "It's nice to know you work at a place where people don't go into debt for the heck of it," he said.
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