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What's My Motivation?

A longtime theater professor shares his reasons for becoming actively involved in fund-raising for the College.

After 47 years of working in the theater and 37 years of teaching, I am within a few years of retiring. I would like to complete my career believing that my work as an Ithaca College faculty member mattered to my colleagues, students, and the institution.

Ithaca College is poised to take the next step in its evolution. I am convinced that whether or not it progresses depends upon the success of this comprehensive campaign. I became engaged in the campaign during its planning stage because I knew from teaching at other colleges and universities how crucial philanthropy is to their continual improvement. I particularly want Ithaca College to thrive because I have so much affection for my students and colleagues and am appreciative of the opportunities the College has afforded my family and me.

Before arriving here in1983, I was a faculty member at four other institutions of higher education, where I was fortunate to be granted funding to develop several of my ideas. At IC I quickly noticed that little financial support was available for professional development. I suggested to the steering committee of the School of Humanities and Sciences that such funding should be increased. English faculty member Michael Twomey, a member of that committee, and I wrote a proposal that resulted in a slight increase for faculty travel to conferences and workshops.

Over the years I sought support for ideas to improve teaching, enrich curriculum, enhance programming, and increase faculty benefits. Most of the ideas were met with the same response: “Great idea! Can we do it without new resources?” Although I understood the reason for this response—the College is a tuition-driven institution, without a large endowment—I was frustrated.

In 1999 our new president, Peggy R. Williams, invited faculty to participate in planning for the future of the College. I volunteered to serve on the Task Group on Resources and Development, focused on how to increase non–tuition dollars—primarily contributions from people and organizations. This work revealed to me how important faculty members could be in attracting such resources.

From 2000 to 2002 I chaired the Faculty Institutional Advancement Committee; its charge was to propose ways for faculty could help raise funds for program and facilities development. We determined that the most appropriate source for faculty members to cultivate was alumni because close, collaborative relationships between faculty and students are a distinguishing characteristic of Ithaca College and we are committed to those relationships. It seemed natural for faculty to speak with alumni about the importance of their assistance in keeping the College competitive and financially healthy.

That year I also chaired the search committee for an executive director of development, and in fall 2003 I spent my sabbatical leave serving as faculty liaison to the Office of Institutional Advancement, working closely with alumni relations and development staff to, among other things, meet with alumni to talk about their Ithaca College education and how they might like to be involved with the College in the future. I continue to do this, and am cochairing, with Deb Mohlenhoff ’92, the Faculty/Staff Campaign Committee.

As a faculty member I have nurtured close relationships with Ithaca College students. I hope to build upon these relationships to help create a culture of philanthropy at IC, which absolutely needs alumni, faculty, and staff gifts to continue its evolution as a premier educational institution. Because only with increased resources will the College be able to create new programs, enhance its curricula, add new and improved facilities, give scholarships, and offer opportunities for professional development and benefits to retain present and attract new top-notch faculty and staff members.

These are the key elements in keeping the Ithaca College degree valuable. I consider my contributions to the success of this endeavor to be my own personal challenge as I prepare to enter a new stage of my life after more than two decades of teaching and mentoring Ithaca College students. I hope you will join me in contributing to the success of the College, which has meant so much to me and my family and that so many alumni and colleagues have told me has meant a great deal to them.

Theater arts professor Arno Selco is beginning his 24th year of teaching acting, directing, and musical theater performance as well as directing theatrical productions at Ithaca College. He is also the parent of an alumna—Amy Selco ’97.

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