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PLU’s Lasting Legacy Reception & Dinner

April 25, 2018

President’s Remarks: Allan Belton
Student Speaker: Austin Beiermann
Donor Spotlight: Allen Morris

Allan Belton, Acting President

Allan Belton, Acting President

Allan Belton was appointed by the PLU Board of Regents to serve as the University’s Acting President in June 2017. Prior to the appointment, he served as Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, responsible for the University’s administrative functions including Business Operations & Finance, Human Resources, Facilities & Construction Management, Information Technology, and Risk Management.

Prior to joining PLU in 2015, Allan enjoyed a 25-year career with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where he served most recently as Managing Director and Chief Operations Officer for global treasury management. Allan is married to Melinda Krotz Belton, PLU Class of 1991 and lives in Gig Harbor with their three children.

President's Remarks

“Thank you so much for the warm welcome, and please let me offer my welcome and thanks to each of you.

At a time when institutions of higher education across the country are facing increasing challenges: challenges of enrollment decline, high tuition costs, increasing competition from traditional and non-traditional sources and changing attitudes about the value of not only a liberal arts education, but any four-year education – I am proud to share that PLU has and continues to respond to these challenges in a way that only PLU could.  As a result we are about to finish what could arguably be one of our most challenging years, with much to be grateful for and even more for which we should all be proud.

As we approach the end of the academic year, I am happy to share a recent development that highlights why we can all be PLU proud.   Earlier this month we had our accreditation visit from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The commission’s three-day visit, during which our progress on the final review of a seven-year accreditation cycle was reviewed, would determine whether we had made sufficient progress on fulfilling our mission and meeting the strict requirements of the accreditation process.

At the end of the visit, the accreditation team met with the campus in open forum to read aloud the results of their findings.  PLU received the following commendation:

The evaluation committee commends the Faculty Joint Committee and campus leadership for following procedures outlined in the faculty handbook for reduction of faculty positions; the University staff for their flexibility in assuming additional job responsibilities; and the entire institution for a collaborative budget planning effort that realigns the budget for future sustainability.

Separately the accreditation lead shared with me that PLU should be a case study for other universities on how to manage through challenging times effectively and with unity.

We all recognize that we could not have accomplished this important work without your continued belief and investment in PLU, and our students.

This past year you helped PLU compile some impressive statistics reflecting our shared goal of investing in the future of this great institution.

  • The endowment is strong, standing at its highest level ever of over $101 million
  • 478 – the number of Heritage Society Members (20 new members in FY17)
  • 537 –  the number of Endowed Funds (increase of 20 in FY17)
  • 426 – the number of Endowed Scholarships (increase of 12 in FY17)
  • PLU received $4.4 million in gifts to endowment in FY17, a number we expect to surpass this year.
  • I’m proud to share that this spring alone we’ve received two new scholarships (one for $1.0 million and another for $2.2 million)… and there is still time if anyone wants to make it three!

You have chosen to invest in PLU’s students, and for that we are grateful. I know that when people invest in something, they want to know that their investment will be properly cared for.  I have shared before and would like to reiterate to each of you that,

“My commitment to you, as long as I serve, is that I will always work hard to ensure the university we love continues to educate future generations to make a difference in the world through service to, and caring for, others, their communities and the Earth. To that end, our primary focus is on investing in student success, and your giving plays a critical role.”

In keeping that promise I want you to know that we are all working hard to turn your investments and trust in us into positive outcomes for our students.  This past year, together, we have focused on making PLU “student ready” as our provost is fond of saying.

We have invested time and resources toward…

  • Innovating in providing today’s students the comprehensive support they need with phase I and, this summer, phase II of our Student Success Center
  • Connecting our current students and alumni in new and innovative ways through the revisioning of Alumni and Career Connections
  • Working to expand our high demand and signature academic programs while simultaneously planning for and adding new and innovative programs
  • Taking care of our beloved Parkland campus by making much needed investments in our teaching, learning, living and gathering spaces
  • Building on a sound fiscal model; ensuring that PLU will be here for another 128 years
  • And daring to envision a PLU that stands firmly on its traditions of excellence and the ideals of Lutheran higher education, and is fully equipped to welcome and prepare new and future generations for purposeful lives

When you chose to include PLU in your estate planning, or created or helped us grow an endowment, you elevated PLU to a very special place; you made us a part of your family.   At the end of the day we are all here because of PLU students.  As you enjoy the student experience video, and then hear directly from one of my favorite PLU students, know that you are investing, strike that… you are making a very real difference in the lives of current and future generations of the PLU family.   Thank you.”

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Austin Beiermann, Student Speaker

Austin Beiermann, Class of 2018

Austin Beiermann is a double major in Economics and Political Science, with a minor in Sociology. He was born and raised in Tacoma, Washington. Last summer he was a Peace Scholar who had the opportunity to study in Norway and present at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Currently the ASPLU Finance Director, Austin works with the Student Engagement Network to advocate to legislators for increased funding for the Washington State Need Grant. He is a recipient of the Rieke Leadership Award and the Fay M. Anderson-Van Beek Endowed Scholarship for Community and Volunteer Service.

Student Speaker

“My name is Austin Beiermann and I am from Tacoma. I am the first in my family to go to college, which was never really on my radar growing up. Fortunately, I was in the right place at the right time. In high school, a friend of mine invited me to PLU to play in a volleyball game. He was part of the College Bound Scholarship program and I learned, while on campus, that a spot had recently opened due to a participant moving away. I was accepted into the program and, with them, went to a college fair. I met the PLU representative, Melannie Cunningham, and she cared the most. A college search is scary when you don’t have anyone to ask questions to. I knew I would qualify for scholarships, but I asked Ms. Cunningham where the rest of the money would come from? She said we will make sure you can go to college. And she did.

I got to PLU and I didn’t know what to study because, as I said, I am the first in the family and with that hadn’t really met folks who had college degrees besides teachers and non-profit folks. So I started with business and nonprofit leadership. I took economics 101 and knew that is what I liked and after my first semester it was clear how awesome college was. The fact I could sit down with someone who had a PhD in economics and talk about any idea I had and be listened to was life-changing. Then I took sociology of education and was able to put academic words to my experiences and learn to do research.

Since then my college experience has been something I could not even imagine. I started working at a local elementary school with Big Buddies and got to mentor a first grade student. I was able to work for the program that helped me go to college. I was able to be the resident assistant for the first in the family wing and then when my mom got sick move off campus to help take care of her. Then, using the extra time I had, started a research organization with a friend of mine and looked at sense of belonging for PLU students. That led to my first time ever being on a plane and culminated in me presenting at two conferences and leading one in Indiana.

Around that same time one of my mentors suggested I go to a meeting on campus about mental health care and chemical dependency that was being put on by the county council. There I fell in love with local politics and my majors were cemented and led to me working with the Student Engagement Network advocating for more financial aid for students in Olympia. The political work and my work in research built up for me the ability to understand the importance of dialogue and stories and crafted the path for me to apply to be a Peace Scholar and go to Norway to study peace and dialogue. In my time at PLU, I went from being a kid who didn’t know much about college and who didn’t know folks who had graduated from college, to someone who was sitting across the table from a former Prime Minister of Norway talking about expanding democracy globally.

Why am I telling you this? Any of the students at your table could tell a similar story of how PLU has helped them find who they are and the amazing experiences they have had. I am telling you this because all of you and your giving has been instrumental in making this happen. What I didn’t tell you was, in my first year, I was planning on working off-campus because I knew there would be more hours available. But, because of my generous financial aid package, I was able to work less hours and start with Big Buddies. What I didn’t tell you was, during my sophomore year, I was able to move off-campus to help take care of my mom because of the extra funding I got as the recipient of the Faye M. Anderson Van Beek award. What I didn’t tell you was, that scholarships were the reason I was able to take a summer off of work to go to Norway because of the Rieke Leadership Award.

I came to college because I was in the right place at the right time. I came and played a volleyball game that changed my life for the better because of the care that PLU showed me. I stayed in college not because I was in the right place at the right time, but because PLU has the right people who were involved at the right time. I was lucky and got in, but all of you with the work and support you are giving remove some of the luck from that process. The care you all show both with your time and your financial support is what helps students like me do what they love and not what they need to do to stay financially above water. You all help students like me not need to be in the right place at the right time, but just be the right person for the right time.

The theme of tonight is Lasting Legacy. I am the first in my family to go to college and in 31 days will be the first to graduate. I mentioned my younger sister earlier who in two years will be making the decision of what college she wants to go to and she is very partial to PLU. I’m gonna be lucky enough to be able to help her apply to college. It will be the folks at this school who will show her the care to get her to commit; but it will be all of you who are being honored tonight who can help her and many other future Lutes have an experience at PLU that will help them bring out the best in themselves they didn’t even know existed. Thank you for listening to what I had to say and I hope you have a chance to hear the stories of other Lutes whose lives you have impacted.”

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Allen Morris, Donor Spotlight

Allen Morris, Lillian C. Morris Endowed Scholarship

Allen Morris is a retired local businessman and community volunteer. He started Associated Western Company in 1970, providing engineered solutions for large load shipping protection and packaging. A Tacoma area native, Allen is a 1957 graduate of Bellarmine Preparatory School. He served on the Bellarmine Board of Directors from 1986 to 1989, worked with the Bellarmine Boosters for many years and has volunteered on every school capital campaign in recent history. In 2017, Al was awarded The Saint Robert Bellarmine Award, the school’s highest honor.

Allen and his wife Inge are the proud parents of a PLU graduate, Petra Morris West, a 1986 graduate of the School of Business. In addition, Allen is a donor to and the living benefactor of the Lillian C. Morris Endowment Fund for scholarships at PLU. This is a fund that awards over $14,000 each year to a number of deserving students.

Donor Spotlight

“I am honored to share with you my family story of Pacific Lutheran University.

It all begins in 1920 when Worthy and Lillian Morris moved from a small house in Purdy to near Pacific Lutheran College. Their hardships were normal in those days, with Worthy packing up the car or truck with four children and heading to Gig Harbor. The oldest boy, my father Charles, was assigned to pull their cow Betsy six miles to the ferry dock at Gig Harbor. They boarded the ferry to the Point Defiance ferry dock where Charles marched an additional eight miles to a boarding house on South Tacoma Way. The next morning they traveled another 12 miles to near PLC.

Jumping forward, no family member received more than a high school education. However my Uncle Stanley became the family historian which dates back to 1776. Stanley approached me in 1987 suggesting we establish a charitable fund for PLU.

Why PLU?

Because PLC opened its gymnasium doors to the neighborhood kids, including Stanley and his brothers Charles and Donald, who wanted to play basketball indoors due to our Pacific Northwest inclement weather. Stanley never forgot that and wanted to acknowledge PLU’s generosity. So the Lillian  C. Morris Fund was inaugurated. Today we are able to help a number of students because years ago PLU opened its doors and welcomed in its neighbors. Let’s keep those doors open and the tradition going.

So why was the name Lillian C. Morris selected? Lillian C. Anderson was born in 1884 in Sweden, her family arrived in Tacoma in 1898, married Worthy J. Morris in 1906. She was known as an “Angel From Heaven” by our family and many others. Her three sons and one daughter and their spouses and I never recalled when Lillian was ever angry, complained, spoke an evil word or talked negatively against anyone or anything. Her children were never spanked and all grew into successful business people. She could uniquely communicate with young and old alike, and after conversing with her you had a friend forever. For these reasons this fund is named in honor of Lillian C. Morris.

With me in particular, as a Roman Catholic, it all begins with Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, which means for the greater honor and glory of God. The continuation of that phrase is for the salvation of humanity.

That is why Lillian’s Fund supports student preparing for degrees in environmental studies, mathematics and the sciences. Stanley was a visionary, not a tree hugger. For the words “salvation of humanity” has a double meaning, namely the salvation of the earth as well as in the hereafter.

Think of it? Lillian’s love for her children was so consuming that Stanley likewise was stimulated to reach out to others by creating Lillian’s endowment.

PLU’s mission is to provide for the intellectual, social, physical, emotional and spiritual development of the student.

I put it in a little different context. It is the giving of yourself for the success of others. It is the feeding of the hungry, the clothing of the naked and the housing of the homeless. I define PLU’s mission as feeding of our students who seek knowledge, by the clothing of our students in preparation of the cold outside world, and it is the housing within them the confidence to succeed. My daughter Petra graduated from PLU in 1986 without financial assistance and espouses these values, as do my other children and grandchildren who have graduated from other small universities.

That takes courage, strength and financial sacrifice.

And where do you find this. Like the song of Peter, Paul and Mary says, “it is blowing in the wind.” We are breathing it in right now. Just look around this room and witness the giving that is generated by the heroes sitting here now.

What you have given to your child, your grandchild or the PLU student you have not yet met, is exposure to experience a destiny of giving back to humanity in so many ways. Each year I write a personal letter to each recipient of Lillian’s fund encouraging them to keep this letter and read it annually in hopes that they will become supporters of PLU.

You see, it is you who are the ones who recognize the need to support this institution, giving credence to the PLU mission.

Your presence here today gives testimony to PLU’s values and value.

So I ask you to look to the right and then to the left and say thank you to the hero sitting next to you, someone who has been willing to sacrifice to better our community, our country, and our world.

And when you get home tonight, look in the mirror, and be sure to thank that person also.

All of you here tonight, and many who are not here, are also my heroes and PLU’s heroes. God bless you all.”

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