(This story first appeared in the September issue of The GēDUNK, Grove City College’s alumni magazine. You can read the entire issue online here.)
In July, alumnus Edward D. Breen ’78 became Chair of the Grove City College Board of Trustees. Breen, the executive chairman and chief executive officer of DuPont, succeeds David R. Rathburn ’79, who led the board for 17 years before stepping down this summer.
The New Hope, Pa., resident has served on the College’s Board of Trustees for the last 19 years. He studied economics and business at the College, and he and his wife Lynn (Branstner ’78) have been longtime supporters of their alma mater.
Having guided several global business operations in the course of his distinguished career, Breen is widely regarded as one of the leading strategic thinkers and ethical leaders in the corporate world. Grove City College recognized his extraordinary accomplishments with its Alumni Achievement Award in 2001 and he also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2004.
“Few, if any, leaders can match Ed Breen’s experience in organizational governance. As one of our most accomplished alums, his service in this unique role will be an enormous blessing to Grove City College,” President Paul J. McNulty ’80 said.
As Breen takes on his new role, The GēDUNK asked him a few questions.
Q. Small private liberal arts colleges are facing well-documented enrollment challenges, persistent financial pressures and rising questions about relevance. How does the College meet this moment?
Faith and Freedom, two words that come to mind for me, are exactly the values that make Grove City College special. It is a large part of what makes our College distinctive, and differentiates it in the higher education marketplace. We need to think outside the box, and continue to promote the College as a special place where we come together, with our faculty and student body, to create a college that is beyond compare with our peers.
Because of the dedication of our alumni base and like-minded donors, we have continued to support our students with financial aid, and will do so in the future. We have always run the college in a fiscally conservative manner, and it is important that we do this moving forward.
Development of new programs such as our expanded online offerings and proposed graduate degree programs ways to generate additional interest. Another great example is the collaborative nursing program with Butler County Community College. This program combines a highly rated nursing course with a Grove City College degree. We need to continue to seek additional programs that keep pace with our rapidly-changing world.
Q. You have a reputation for “fixing” ailing corporations to create stronger operations and increase shareholder value. Is that experience applicable to higher education in general and to Grove City College specifically?
The steps to make any type of organization better, whether a corporation or a college, are quite similar. You need a well-defined vision and mission and a solid operating plan to continue to advance the
College. A key ingredient in any organization is to have a strong leadership team, which Grove City College is fortunate to have. I have always said throughout my business career, that if you want to win the game, you need to have the best possible team on the field. I will also be working with Paul and the Board to develop the next Strategic Plan to begin in 2022.
Q. What are your long- and short- term goals for governance of the College?
First of all I would like to thank my predecessor, David Rathburn, for his friendship, strong leadership, and steady hand over so many years. We are also fortunate to have a board that is talented and engaged.
In the short term, I am looking forward to becoming more familiar with the College’s strengths and challenges, and to supporting Paul and his leadership team in managing through this current pandemic crisis.
Long term, we will be working on positioning Grove City College in a rapidly evolving marketplace. We must also make sure that we are running the College in an efficient and fiscally conservative manner by balancing our budget, which many other colleges cannot do. Other key areas of focus should be our marketing to prospective students and families, and taking care of some items of deferred maintenance to bring our physical plant up to the best standards. To accomplish these goals, I feel that we will need to formulate and begin a new capital campaign.
Q. What is Grove City College doing right? What can be improved?
When it comes to what I think Grove City College is doing right, it’s like talking about my kids and grandkids. I think EVERYTHING they do is right! Seriously though, we all love Grove City College, and are here and engaged because we think it is a special place and a wonderful community. What we need to improve on is conveying that message to prospective students and their families through our marketing. I would also like to see the diversity of our student body and faculty reflect the world around us. In addition, the support of our alumni and donors is most critical to all that we do at the College. It is important to expand the circle of those who love the College, and will financially support it.
Q. You and Lynn have been active and supportive alumni of Grove City College over the years. What is it about the College that inspired you to remain so closely connected to your alma mater?
The most important reason that Lynn and I have supported Grove City College all these years, 42 years to be exact, is because of the type of young men and women that Grove City graduates are. They are smart, hard-working, caring, and mission-minded individuals. The graduates of today, like the graduates of the past, will be leaders in their communities, and will make significant contributions in whatever path their careers take them. The reach that Grove City College has, through its graduates, is something that we need in this world, especially now. That is what motivates me as I move into this new role, and I’m hoping that my fellow alumni will join me in this endeavor.