President Sterritt sends Fall-term Letter to the Salem Community

November 3, 2014
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Dear Members of the Salem Family,

Time has moved quickly since the extraordinary welcome that my husband, Bert Lain, and I received from the Salem community this summer. Since July 1, each day has unfolded with delight, offering unforgettable experiences and deepening our admiration for the faculty, staff, students, alumnae, and friends of Salem Academy and College.

The Salem community instantly made us feel like family by including us in Salem’s cherished traditions. We have participated—with documentation in living color on social media—in Move-in Day; Opening Convocation at the College, and Opening Chapel at the Academy; the signing of the Honor Code; Smoosh Cake; laying daisies on Sister Oesterlein’s grave; Ring Banquet; the Pat Rather Leadership Retreat; dancing the Wobble; and the Academy’s Athletic Picnic. We awakened very early on Fall Fest morning to the strains of the Alma Mater. We have enjoyed coffee with students in the new student center, cheered on the Salem Spirits and the Salem Sabers, had our cars cleaned at the Academy junior class car wash, and responded to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Bert and I treasure each experience and eagerly anticipate the special moments that winter and spring will bring.

I have made it a priority to engage with members of the Salem community. Thanks to the assistance of the Presidential Transition Committee, under the very skillful leadership of Trustee Margaret Pike C’94, and thanks to the efforts of other Salem friends, I have met many members of the Salem family and the broader Winston-Salem community. I have been moved and inspired by the strong and abiding devotion to Salem that has permeated all of these meetings.

One of my highest priorities is to listen to everyone who loves the jewel that is Salem Academy and College. This fall, the Presidential Transition Committee launched the Salem Ever Tour, a series of gatherings that are taking place in order to unite alumnae and friends in the joy of comradeship and the spirit of Salem. To date we have held seven Salem Ever events: in Atlanta, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem (two), and Charlotte (two). If you are not able to attend an event near you, I invite you to participate in a Salem-wide conversation by responding online to several questions that I have posed. I also invite you to contact me directly to let me know your thoughts about Salem.

It is hard to imagine a more moving experience than a walk to the grave of Sister Elisabeth Oesterlein, Salem’s first teacher. My first walk to God’s Acre was poignant: the dedication of the founders of this wonderful institution, and their commitment to the education of girls and young women, moved me to contemplate our own responsibility to carry out Salem’s mission today. I am convinced that we have a unique opportunity to position Salem Academy and Salem College in their rightful places among the nation’s independent boarding and day schools and top-tier private women’s colleges.

I have committed myself to expanding Salem’s presence nationally and internationally and to elevating our reputation among external partners who will engage with us in our exceptional education of girls and women. We have, for example, made scientific study for women one of our top priorities. Many of our young women are the next generation of scientific explorers, inventors, and doctors. This is the moment for Salem to step up as a leader in the nation’s quest for superb professionals in these areas and to champion the cause of Salem students who seek the finest education in the sciences and in mathematics by providing them with state-of-the-art facilities.

We must make it possible for more girls and women with the highest potential for success to enroll and benefit from a Salem Academy or a Salem College education. The beginning of our 243rd  academic year demonstrated that the momentum has already begun: the Academy began the academic year with a twelve percent increase in enrollment and welcomed 171 students to the fall semester, while the College welcomed 201 first-year students—the largest incoming class in its history. I extend my appreciation to Academy Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Lucia Higgins C’99 and her team, and to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Katherine Knapp Watts C’80 and her staff at the College for their remarkable accomplishments.

The Salem community has demonstrated a commitment to a bold investment in Salem’s future. A campaign steering committee, under the wise leadership of Trustees Rebecca Hewit Rauenhorst C’74 and Jennifer Reinhardt Lynch A’77, is building upon the foundation of the generous contributions that have already been made. We will launch the public phase of our capital campaign in November.

On April 24, 2015, we will showcase the Academy and College as we welcome guests from across the nation and the world to our campus for the 20th presidential inauguration. Our inaugural committee, expertly led by former Board of Trustees Chair Gwynne Stephens Taylor C’72, has begun planning a campus-wide series of events that will honor our distinguished Moravian heritage, reflect on more than two centuries of rigorous education in the arts and sciences, celebrate the achievements of our Academy and College students, and look with optimism, excitement, and ambition to the future that awaits us. That future is indeed bright as we contemplate the new heights that we strive to reach in our academic and extracurricular programs and in the enhancement of our campus facilities.

I am honored to serve Salem, and I invite you to join me in the spirit of the love of learning and the devotion to service that have always distinguished and always animated Salem Academy and College.

Sincerely yours, 

D. E. Lorraine Sterritt, PhD

President