There is probably no one who is happier these days than Dr. Cheryl Schrader and for good reason. For the uninitiated, Dr. Schrader is the newly minted president of Wright State University, taking the position last July. From all accounts, Dr. Schrader has been a positive influence on the university and the community.
As you may know, I am a graduate of the university. I spent six years of my life learning about life and public administration right off of Colonel Glenn Highway. It was an absolutely wonderful place to learn and grow. It was one of the truly few places I have been where people wanted to see others succeed. So many people were generous of their time and resources to invest in a new generation of learners. The opportunities to learn, experience and be a force for good in this world were too numerous to count.
Even now as a graduate, I always enjoy going back to the campus to speak to classes, work with students and reconnect with former professors and other friends I have made through the university. I am constantly amazed by how much the physical buildings have changed, yet the place still feels comfortable.
But to say that the university has seen better days would be an understatement. Of course, Dr. Schrader knew what she was getting into. Under past leadership, the university has been on the less than desirable end of certain activities. These activities have been somewhere on the continuum from poorly managed to possibly criminal.
The bottom line is that these series of unfortunate events has had an impact on the bottom line. Right before Dr. Schrader came to Wright State, the board of trustees and their interim president took the steps to slash more than $30 million in spending. And the bad news just gets worse. Back in February, health care costs were going to take an unanticipated $6 million bite out of the budget.
Fortunately, things are brighter, thanks to a couple of basketball teams. Last Tuesday, the Wright State men’s basketball team took the floor for the Horizon League Championship. That in itself has become fairly routine; the team has made it to the championship game five times in the last nine years.
However, this night was different, they actually won the game. For only the third time in school history, they get to go the national championship tournament. As of the time of this writing, it’s not clear what team the Raiders will play, or where they will play.
Perhaps the team can make a surprise run deep into the tournament. The team has collected 25 wins this season, which is a school record; the teams knows how to win.
Even the women’s team had a great deal of success as well. They came within one game of going to their national championship tournament, but they were beaten in the Horizon League Championship game by Green Bay, which is a nationally ranked team. The ladies themselves picked up 21 wins this year, a good effort.
And while the on-court success of two basketball teams won’t erase a large deficit or make some errors disappear, I can’t help but think it does help with morale, at least for a short period of time. We all know as folks talk about Wright State for the next couple of weeks, they will be talking about a successful basketball team or two, and not the negative things that have been dogging the institution for the last couple of years.
Last year, the university celebrated its golden anniversary; for over 50 years Wright State University has had a positive impact on the Miami Valley. Many of the school’s alumni still live and work here in the region and are making great contributions to our communities.
Above all, I am happy for the good news that is coming from Wright State. It’s been a rough few years for the university, but hopefully with new leadership and a hopeful attitude, there will be more positive news coming out the institution moving forward.
I’ll be the first to admit, I am not a basketball fan, but at least for one night, I will be.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at email@example.com.