Letters (Week of May 30, 2007)

Athletics contribute to education package


The USD 410 bond issue election scheduled for June 5 invites the community to vote on a tax package that will improve four areas: the Hillsboro Elementary School, the Hillsboro High School, the district central office, and an athletic complex in partnership with Tabor College.

As the vice president of academics and student development at Tabor and a homeowner in Hillsboro, I would like to speak in support of the bond and of all four of the improvements being proposed.

I came to Tabor College in 2005 from Roberts Wesleyan College located near Rochester, N.Y. While there, I was invited to meet with a businessman worth well over a billion dollars. I met with him to discuss the possibility of a gift to begin a center for social entrepreneurship.

The businessman began the meeting by complaining for 10 minutes about the economy, education, drugs and crime. He then looked me in the eye and asked, ?As chief academic officer, what are you doing to solve these problems??

I paused for a few seconds trying to think of something intelligent to say; $250,000 was on the line.

?Hope,? is what I said. ?Educa?tors are in the investment business. We are preparing generation after generation of young men and women who will become the leaders of the future.?

The next day I learned that our request had been granted.

Derek Bok, the president of Harvard University from 1971 to 1990, once said, ?If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.? A strong education system is vital to the well-being of Hillsboro.

Partnerships have been a characteristic of the Hillsboro community for nearly a century. The partnership between USD 410 and Tabor College is a long one and has many facets.

Tabor students are regularly involved in USD 410 schools as student interns and as volunteers who mentor elementary and junior high students. Tabor graduates frequently want to remain in Hillsboro to teach.

In the past year, through a grant by Kan Ed, USD 410 made fiber optic cable available to Tabor College and the Hillsboro Community Medical Center. This partnership will enable all three institutions to be connected to the rest of the world with the latest technology.

Tabor has benefited from the positive relationships in Hills?boro, and it is pleased to give back to the community. It is always great to see so many community people attend the high caliber concerts, plays, public lectures, life-long learning opportunities and athletic events.

Tabor has hired some outstanding residents of Hillsboro, and it has provided graduates who have become important business, church and agency leaders.

A facilities master plan is being developed that envisions a new fine arts center, a new academic building, a renovated student center, a renovated administration building and an athletic complex.

We are eager to move forward on all of these projects as funds can be found. Each of these buildings is needed to keep Tabor competitive with other colleges and to attract students. Directly and indirectly, these developments will make Hillsboro a better community.

?But an athletic complex?? some may ask. ?Is this a necessary and worthwhile investment??

The answer is, ?Yes.?

First, athletic programs are important to students. This is true at the high school level, and it is true at the college level. Sports were first introduced into college life in the 1850s. They have been an important part of colleges ever since.

Great leaders have often benefited from athletic involvement, including President Eisenhower who grew up in nearby Abilene. Eisenhower admits in his autobiography, ?At Ease,? that he went to West Point primarily to play football. As history has shown, his destiny took him well beyond athletics.

Athletic programs at the high school level keep families in the area, and athletics draw students to Tabor. College students come to Hillsboro from numerous states including Florida, Ohio, California, Texas and Georgia, to name a few. They come to Tabor even from international places.

More than 50 percent of Tabor students are involved in intercollegiate athletics. Athletics are not the supreme feature of either the high school or college, but they are vital to them.

Second, when done right, athletic programs add to the learning environment of both the high school and college. Athletics at both institutions are designed to support the core values of learning, service, and community.

We know that involved students learn more, stay in school longer, and develop stronger relationships than students who do not get involved. This is true as well about choirs, bands, drama and other ways students get involved.

Many of the best students are students who are involved in co-curricular activities. Excellent coaching and disciplined competition teaches students lessons that will serve them for life.

Third, the agreement to share the cost of developing an athletic complex makes economic sense.

Tabor and USD 410 have shared the cost of the current athletic facilities for many years. Building a new athletic facility is not a new partnership. It is another example of how the two institutions work together to benefit the community.

Tabor is pleased to generate the additional several million dollars in private donations that the project will need. This money will not be easy to obtain, but it is worth the effort if the end result is a stronger high school and college, and a better place for the residents of Hillsboro to work and live.

Ultimately, the athletic complex is more than a space to play and watch football and provide track and field events. It is more than a financial strategy to save the millions of dollars needed to build separate facilities. To vote for the bond election is to indicate support for investing in the future of Hillsboro and the surrounding communities.

As a homeowner in Hillsboro, as one who has learned to enjoy the benefits of a community that works together, and as one who works every day to make Tabor a better college, I encourage a yes vote on June 5. I believe my tax dollar investment, and yours, will prove to be a worthy investment that will pay great dividends in the future.

Lawrence Ressler


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