By Dee Longfellow

On Saturday, March 4, before the City stepped off on the annual Elmhurst St. Patrick’s Day Parade, some 150 guests came to the campus of Elmhurst University to hear Dr. Troy VanAken deliver his annual address at the Elmhurst University’s annual President’s Breakfast.

    Before Dr. VanAken’s remarks, Elmhurst Mayor Scott Levin was introduced to talk about what he calls the “symbiotic relationship” between the City and the University.

    “Their security officers work with our police, we’ve had active shooter training and drills together,” he said. “The Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce held their annual awards gala here last year and we worked together on the ‘Stand With Ukraine’ event held on the steps of the public library.”

    Mayor Levin talked about the new mural on the wall of Faganel Hall, which faces the commuter rail line. The project was endorsed by the Elmhurst Public Arts Commission, which includes John McKinnon, executive director of the Elmhurst Art Museum. Levin also mentioned the City-College Commission (sometimes called the ‘Town and Gown’ Committee), which includes members of both working together to the best interests of the community.

    He noted that without the 125 student athletes who volunteer as parade marshals every year, there would be no Elmhurst St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

    “We keep our agenda positive and focus on the needs of the community first,” Levin said. “We consider Elmhurst University students an integral part of our community.”

    He closed with a quip:

“Dr. VanAken is always a person I know I can trust – except at the Vintage Baseball Game!”

Dr. VanAken’s remarks

    Dr. Troy VanAken came to Elmhurst University in 2016, as the institution’s 14th president. This occasion was the 53rd breakfast.

    “I’m afraid I wasn’t around for the first one!” he laughed.

    VanAken then recited a powerful maxim: “I believe in the power of education to transform lives.”

He talked about the Sesquicentennial Celebration and how it was time to prepare for the next 150 years.

    Like Levin, VanAken mentioned the mural and the Chamber Gala, and that the University had received the A.J. “Toche” Terrones Business of the Year Award. He announced at this year’s gala scheduled for Friday, March 10 at Elm Banquets, Elmhurst University’s Desiree Chen would be receiving the Chairman’s Award and that alumnus Eva Sanchez has been named Ambassador of the Year.

    On to the topic of athletics, VanAken noted that the men’s basketball team had made it to the championship game last year and, he said, “This year it turns out we’re in it again!”

    He noted that there were a number of new coaches, many of whom had coached other championship teams.

    “Last Saturday, the girls track and field came close to winning the CCIW track championships.”

He announced that John R. Quigley, an alum and the president and CEO of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce, had pledged to give $20,000 to redesign the Elmhurst University Athletic Hall of Fame display with a TouchPro® touch screen. It is expected to completely transform the entrance and lobby of Faganel Hall.

    Dr. VanAken announced that on Sunday, March 26, the university would be joining the Elmhurst History Museum to present the Chicago Immigrant Orchestra in concert in Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel on the campus. He also mentioned the Speakers Series and the Entrepreneurship program, which continues to expand and grow. The Data Science program is also drawing interest on the national and international level, VanAken said.

    “We are trying to build on the 150 momentum,” VanAken said. “We’ve been able to bolster recruitment and retention. We have had record enrollment and this year, we welcomed the largest class ever last fall.

    “We want to grow intelligently.”

    He said the Sesquicentennial Capital Campaign had a $50 million goal, which was met in October and is now at $53M.

    “We soon will present a plan to the Board of Trustees for $30 million construction project for a 45,000 sq. ft. health and science facility. We will also be renovating the stadium over the summer.

    “It will be a busy summer but it will also enhance the entire community.”

    On Sunday, June 4, it will indeed be the day that the University “Gown” team will face the City’s “Town” team in the Vintage Baseball Game, led by “The Barrister” Dave Oberg, executive director of the Elmhurst History Museum.

    So look out, Mayor Levin!


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