Looking back at the Campbell presidency
A quarter-century after the College opened its doors in Kenosha, Carthage needed a fresh spark in 1987. The College flourished during its first decade in Kenosha, enjoying an era of unprecedented growth as enrollment reached a high of 1,342 students in 1971.
By the late 1980s, though, enrollment had dipped below 1,000 students. The appointment of a new president would prove a turning point in Carthage’s 164-year history.
F. Gregory Campbell, a Yale-educated veteran of 16 years at the University of Chicago, came to Carthage with ambitious goals to boost the College’s stature.
“When I arrived at Carthage, I thought, ‘This is a school with great potential,’” said Mr. Campbell. “There is even greater potential today.”
In June 2011, Mr. Campbell announced his plans to retire in August 2012, completing 25 years as the 21st president of the College.
During the Campbell era, full-time student enrollment grew to 2,500, and total enrollment at the time of his retirement exceeded 3,400 students. Nearly 7,000 high school seniors applied for the 720 positions in the freshman class entering in September 2011.
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“In all of his roles, he has insisted on one thing: excellence. In an era when
so many settle for ‘good enough,’ he demanded the best and led everyone—students, faculty, staff, and community—to aspire to the best as well.”
— Dr. Rolf Wegenke, WAICU
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Intensive national searches built a teaching-oriented faculty holding Ph.D.s from major graduate programs in the United States. The number of faculty nearly doubled over 25 years. Two major curriculum reforms restored structure and emphasized classical approaches to arts and sciences education.
Dr. Rolf Wegenke, president of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU), the official organization of Wisconsin’s 20 private, nonprofit institutions of higher learning, said, “While president of Carthage College, Greg Campbell was elected by his presidential colleagues to serve as chair of the WAICU board and as a member of the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
“In all of his roles, he has insisted on one thing: excellence. In an era when so many settle for ‘good enough,’ he demanded the best and led everyone—students, faculty, staff, and community—to aspire to the best as well.”
The College has posted budget surpluses every year since 1988. Rising gift income reflected the growing confidence of Carthage’s friends and supporters.
“I admire President Campbell because of his characteristics,” said Judith Schaumberg, long-time Carthage education professor who served as the College’s first provost. “Most importantly, his vision. He has a very well developed, focused, vision for the College to which he is committed and from which he never wavers. Evidence of his vision can be seen in the way that the campus has grown and developed over his presidency.
“Most obvious are the number of buildings that have been added in the recent past,” she added. “Less obvious but even more important is the growth and development of the faculty. These faculty members are the result of national searches and are representative of the best in their fields. The leadership that President Campbell has provided worked to enhance the College’s reputation. Students are anxious to come to Carthage because of the faculty and the physical plant.”
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“When the little things look right, pride and self-respect grow great.”
— President Campbell
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Increasing demand for a Carthage education spurred the most significant construction activity on campus since the College’s arrival in Kenosha, 50 years ago. The Campbell era saw more than a dozen major new projects, and numerous smaller construction and renovation/remodeling projects, with more than $130 million invested in construction and technological acquisition in the past decade alone.
At the same time, Carthage avoided the pitfall of deferred maintenance, with a consistent effort to maintain buildings and grounds at a high level. In recent years, the College invested more than $1 million annually in maintenance and upgrades of existing facilities. (Read about campus development during the Campbell presidency.)
“When the little things look right, pride and self-respect grow great,” Mr. Campbell observed several years ago.
Even as full-time enrollment at Carthage tripled in the Campbell era, the College became increasingly selective.
Enrollment grew from 806 students, at the end of a 15-year decline, to unprecedented levels, breaking the barriers of 1,500 (in 1998), 2,000 (in 2004), and 2,500 (in 2010). More than 900 students pursue their Carthage education through evening and weekend study.
Applications to Carthage soared from 1,186 to 6,900 over two decades. Carthage receives more applications than any Wisconsin private institution except Marquette University.
Mean test scores and high school grade-point averages for incoming freshmen rose steadily over those two decades. The mean ACT score rose from 21.48 to 24.4, and by 2010 was three points higher than the national average. Likewise the mean high school grade-point average increased from 2.84 to 3.31.
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“Greg Campbell has been one of the most perceptive, creative and innovative individuals I have had the privilege to work with during my career.
His energy and enthusiasm are contagious and he brings out the
eternal optimist in each of us every day.”
— Richard O. “Ric” Schmidt, Jr., United Hospital System
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From the start, the Campbell era was marked by astute financial leadership. The College has balanced each annual budget for more than 20 consecutive years.
Despite market contractions at the beginning and end of the previous decade, Carthage’s endowment grew five-fold, reaching nearly $52 million in 2011.
First and foremost, Carthage maintained its primary commitment to quality teaching.
The faculty grew substantially in both size and stature. The number of full-time faculty increased from 82 to 150. As many professors hired in the 1960s reached retirement age, a new generation of faculty members were selected with care from the world’s leading graduate programs. Students can major in 45 academic disciplines.
Comprehensive curriculum reforms early in the Campbell era raised standards, and emphasized fundamentals, holding to the principle that there is a core of knowledge of which all educated persons should be aware. Course requirements in foreign language, mathematics, natural science, fine arts, social science and the humanities were restored.
The distinctive Western Heritage program became a hallmark of Carthage. This commitment to a classical education produced dramatic results.
Collegiate Learning Assessment reports showed Carthage students’ gains in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving, and written communication were in the top 8 percent of colleges and universities nationwide using the assessment, which is designed to measure the institution’s contribution to students’ skill development. (Read more.)
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“One of Greg’s great contributions to Kenosha was his leadership
in increasing the College’s learning opportunities for adults. By expanding the
evening and weekend studies program, he has helped us become smarter,
and has given us a better future.”
— Ralph Tenuta
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In 1994 the College established the School of Professional Studies, now the Adult Education office, signaling an increased commitment to adult education with a format and schedule designed for adult learners. Carthage’s program is known for high quality instruction and helpful service.
“One of Greg’s great contributions to Kenosha was his leadership in increasing the College’s learning opportunities for adults,” said Ralph Tenuta, Carthage Trustee Emeritus and longtime Kenosha businessman. “By expanding the evening and weekend studies program, he has helped us become smarter, and has given us a better future.”
Throughout the Campbell years, the College sought partnerships with other institutions that helped to broaden opportunities for its students, and increase the value of a Carthage education.
From developing programs that pair Carthage students with at-risk elementary students, to expanding opportunities for Carthage students to study in Europe and Asia, the College has developed a model of collaboration uncommon among small liberal arts institutions. In 2011, Mr. Campbell led a delegation of Carthage executives to China for meetings with the Huairou education ministry about avenues for cooperation.
“President Campbell is an opportunist who bides his time,” said Fr. John Piderit, S.J., president of the Catholic Education Institute, located in New York. “Since he combines perspicacity, resourcefulness, and learning, time is favorable to him and opportunity arrived every year of his presidency. I was privileged to be president of Loyola University Chicago when President Campbell took the initiative and Loyola joined forces to offer an outstanding Loyola Executive MBA on the Carthage campus.
“Carthage combines compelling academics, impressive faculty, and a strong religious commitment; the result is well-educated and well-formed students. Every time I visit, it is more beautiful and more populated with people and buildings. For almost 25 years, Carthage has had a gem of a president.”
Mr. Campbell and his wife, Barbara Kuhn Campbell, are active members of St. Mary’s Lutheran Church in Kenosha. He also serves the community as vice chairman of the United Hospital System and the Kenosha Hospital and Medical Center, and as a director of the Prairie School in Racine, Wis.
“Greg Campbell has been one of the most perceptive, creative and innovative individuals I have had the privilege to work with during my career,” said Richard O. “Ric” Schmidt, Jr., president, CEO and general counsel of United Hospital System. “He is a mentor to our young management team members and our medical staff members and he is a visionary and friend to all of us. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious and he brings out the eternal optimist in each of us every day.”
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“This was more than a job to him—he had found his calling. What sparkles today is the reward for many years of hard work, courageous decisions, and an enduring love for the College and its students.”
— Debra Waller, ‘78, chairman of the Carthage Board of Trustees
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Over the years, Mr. Campbell has chaired civic commissions for both the city and county of Kenosha, and for the Kenosha and Racine school districts. Most recently, he co-chaired the Racine Independent Commission on Education, a group charged with analyzing the challenges facing the Racine Unified School District and providing recommendations. In 2004-05, he led the United Way of Kenosha County campaign. In 1997, he co-chaired the Kenosha Progress Committee, which was charged with building a community consensus for the HarborPark project in downtown Kenosha.
Rita Petretti, president of Petretti Realty Corp. in Kenosha, called Mr. Campbell “a visionary and inspiring leader. His legacy will be as a builder, of brick and mortar, of community, of ideas. The beauty and growth of the lakeshore campus is a prime example.”
One of the less-visible roles the leader of a private college plays is building the institution’s board. Here again, Mr. Campbell helped lead a renaissance. Today, the Board comprises a team of community, professional, business and church leaders that is the envy of other top organizations.
“When Greg Campbell arrived, Carthage was a diamond in the rough,” said Debra Waller, ‘78, chairman of the Carthage Board of Trustees. “He imagined a great college, rolled up his sleeves, and provided the leadership necessary to realize that vision. This was more than a job to him—he had found his calling. What sparkles today is the reward for many years of hard work, courageous decisions, and an enduring love for the College and its students.”
Mr. Campbell’s tenure is the longest of any college leader in Wisconsin, and was the longest of any Carthage president.
“Every day has been a learning experience,” he said. “No other endeavor could have been more rewarding. Yet, it is time for younger leadership at the College, and time for Barbara and me to seek fresh adventures and face new challenges.”
— Bill Kurtz, Carthage College