A Year Like No Other: The Allegheny Year in Review, 2020 Edition

It’s almost time to bid adieu to 2020, a challenging year to say the least, but not before revisiting those events, honors and milestones that brought Gator pride and smiles to the faces of Alleghenians, no matter where they were in the world.

From setting fundraising records to launching a new branding campaign to bringing students back to campus for in-person learning, the College community continues to move boldly into its third century of excellence.

Reaching a Sustainability Milestone

Allegheny representatives at Second Nature Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit in February
Allegheny College was recognized for its efforts to achieve climate neutrality at the Second Nature Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit in February.

Throughout the year, Allegheny received awards and honors that recognized the school as a leader in sustainability and environmental responsibility. Early in the year, the school became one of the first 10 colleges and universities in the nation to achieve carbon neutrality and the first college in Pennsylvania to receive the Carbon Neutral Campus award from the Second Nature organization.

The College also was honored with the 2020 Western Pennsylvania Environmental Award, recognizing its 13-year program to achieve carbon neutrality on campus. In the summer, The PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center also honored Allegheny for achieving key energy sustainability goals. In April, an Allegheny College student environmental organization, two individual students and the College’s garden manager were recognized by the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium as 2020 Campus Sustainability Champions.

President Hilary Link continued to champion Allegheny’s reputation for sustainability leadership, having been appointed to the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments Steering Committee. She also was featured in “50 Voices for the Planet,” a video series with 50 influential leaders commemorating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and calling for transformative action to protect the planet.

An Outpouring of Service and Support

Across the country and the world, Allegheny alumni also stepped into front-line leadership roles in the health care field to help battle the coronavirus outbreak, risking their own safety. Among them were Colleen Zink Tran ’07, an emergency room physician in Tennessee, and Lauren Moore ’14, an emergency medicine resident in Ohio, who shared their stories with the Office of College Relations

In April, as the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading across the world, Alleghenians stepped up to support the College by making the annual Gator Give Day fundraising event the most successful in its six-year history. More than 2,100 donors helped raise $620,708 in crucial financial support as the College faced increasing expenses from COVID-19. In December, on GivingTuesday, donors generously added another $308,000 to benefit the Gator Success Grant program and other initiatives.

In August, the College announced that it had successfully completed a $202 million fundraising campaign — Our Allegheny: Our Third Century Quest — the largest in its 205-year history. Individuals from 15,505 households participated in the campaign, with commitments ranging from $5 to more than $14 million.

The campaign, which was introduced publicly in 2015, focused on building the College’s endowment and increasing annual support. It raised more than $50 million in new scholarships to ensure access and improve affordability for students, and nearly $37.5 million for faculty support to provide funds for professional development, visiting scholars and artists and student-faculty research, plus a number of new professorships. It also allowed more than $30 million to be allotted to renovations of historic Bentley Hall, Carr Hall, Carnegie Hall and Robertson Athletic Complex fields. It also raised $7.5 million to enhance global learning and support internships and off-campus study for students.

Reopening for the Fall Semester — Successfully and Safely

Move-in Day 2020
Move-in for the fall semester was staggered over several days to limit the number of people arriving on campus at once.

While many colleges and universities did not open for in-person learning in the fall 2020 semester, Allegheny did so and kept its COVID-19 infection rate under 1 percent during the 12 weeks students were on campus. News media outlets lauded the College’s accomplishment in a series of November interviews with President Link on CBS Pittsburgh and Erie News Now.

The successful semester — which started in August with President Link welcoming the Class of 2024 in a virtual academic convocation and matriculation ceremony — was credited, in part, to students, faculty and staff adhering to safety measures such as masking and physical distancing. The groundwork for the College’s reopening was set earlier in the year when President Link established the groundbreaking Allegheny College Health Agency, a panel of advisers that was used as a model by other peer institutions for reopening in the fall semester. The agency was created to fill the gap in clinical and public health services in Crawford County. Link assembled an expert team of advisers, including medical, epidemiology and pandemic experts, to serve on the panel to monitor and enforce COVID-19 advisories on campus. Allegheny’s decision-making process to open for the fall semester was chronicled by a reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Highlighting Faculty Expertise, Academic Excellence

Faculty members continued to receive numerous honors from professional organizations and their peers for their high level of scholarship and continuing research. In May and July, six professors — Brian Harward, Janyl Jumadinova, Caryl E. Waggett, Eric Pallant, Shannan Mattiace and Barbara L. Shaw — were featured on “The Academic Minute,” a national radio broadcast and podcast that highlights research from colleges and universities throughout the world. Throughout the year, Professor Becky Dawson also served as an expert source for area media outlets covering the COVID-19 pandemic. Dawson, an expert in epidemiology and global health challenges, researches disease risk factors and patterns of disease in human populations. She has appeared regularly on various regional news media, offering insight and advice on safely navigating the pandemic.

The College again received a number of national academic accolades as well, as U.S. News & World Report again ranked Allegheny among the Best National Liberal Arts Colleges. Washington Monthly named Allegheny among its Top 35 Best Liberal Arts Colleges. The College was recognized among the best liberal arts colleges in the nation in the 2021 Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education U.S. College Rankings with Allegheny ranking No. 56 among all liberal arts colleges and in the top 20 percent overall among all the colleges and universities identified in the publication’s annual student-focused rankings.

Joining the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance

USC Race and Equity CenterPresident Link announced in November that College was among the inaugural 51 colleges and universities that joined to form the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance, an initiative launched by the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center. This consortium is geared toward finding creative solutions for addressing issues of racial equity and diversity on campus.

“We are very proud to be an inaugural member of the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance, and we are looking forward to the resources and collaborative opportunities that the Alliance will provide for the Allegheny community as part of our enhanced diversity, equity, and inclusion framework,” said Link.

“Joining this initiative is an important step in Allegheny College’s commitment to building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus community,” said Kristin Dukes, Allegheny dean for institutional diversity. “Broadly, the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance has the potential to make meaningful and sustained change across higher education institutions.”

Gators Making a Difference

Although student-athletes and coaches were not able to compete on the field, they were able to make a difference in the community. The Department of Athletics and Recreation announced in April that it had donated a portion of unused funding from canceled home events in the spring 2020 semester, as well as donations from athletics staff, to support a select number of Meadville-area restaurants and first responders under the “Gator Give Back: Supporting our Home Teams” initiative.

In October, the Department of Athletics and Recreation introduced its Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Action Committee, a group that had been meeting since June to advance the department’s commitment toward inclusive excellence among its student-athletes, coaches and administrators. Also in the fall, some of the varsity teams achieved 100 percent voter registration to demonstrate team unity and civic responsibility.

Sharing Allegheny’s Distinctions in New Ways

Allegheny College Branding campaign web advertisement
A website banner ad for the College’s new branding campaign, which was introduced in September

In September, the College launched a brand campaign to reintroduce itself to prospective students considering a four-year college. The ongoing, predominantly digital campaign aims to demonstrate how Allegheny’s perspective-broadening education appeals to prospective students with an extraordinary portfolio of interests. The brand campaign touts how Allegheny prepares learners to think critically, communicate creatively and question everything — giving students the opportunity to express their individuality and not just train to fill a job.

“The strategy is built on Allegheny College’s meaningful difference, one that positions Allegheny grads as exactly the adaptive, broad thinkers that employers want — and that prepares them with the attributes most likely to create life success as well,” President Link said.

As one of the few colleges in the United States with a requirement to choose both a major and minor — each from a different academic discipline — for graduation, Allegheny provides students with a cross-disciplinary path in the sciences and humanities for educational depth and intellectual growth. The brand campaign includes colorful graphics that showcase at least 999 combinations of majors and minors at Allegheny that are possible today. See the campaign in action at mindovermajor.allegheny.edu.

Looking Back — and Forward

outdoor Playshop Theatre performance
The Playshop Theatre staged the outdoor performance festival “Go Play Outside!” in late September and October.

Milestones were observed, although many were done virtually. The Class of 2020 received their diplomas and stepped bravely into the business and academic world in May. Although health and safety concerns due to COVID-19 postponed their Commencement, they will be honored in person on campus at a future date. Allegheny’s highly acclaimed Creek Connections program celebrated its silver anniversary of aquatic exploration in northwest Pennsylvania. The College was once again honored for being among the Peace Corps’ top volunteer-producing schools. The Playshop Theatre forged ahead with fall productions, conducted safely outside on the patio of the Vukovich Center. Despite delays in construction materials caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the College continued to move ahead with the extensive renovation of historic Bentley Hall that is scheduled for completion in early 2021.

It all bodes well for an exciting 2021, a year in which Allegheny will continue to pursue and achieve excellence. To all the members of the Allegheny family, thank you for a truly remarkable year.

View More Photos from the Fall 2020 Semester