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MC president goes to great heights to raise funds for building

Barry McNamara
04/20/2011
Monmouth College president Mauri Ditzler prepares to lower himself from the four-story Haldeman-Thiessen Science Center on Wednesday to raise $34,000 toward a new academic building. (Photo: Chuck Savage)
To raise money for Monmouth College’s new academic building, President Mauri Ditzler jumped off the old one.

“Jumped” might be too strong a word, but the president did rappel down the four stories of the college’s Haldeman-Thiessen Science Center on April 20. The event raised $34,000 for a $38 million complex that will house MC’s science and business departments. Construction will begin this summer on the innovative facility, which should be completed by the fall of 2013.

Ditzler made his jump as part of a larger Monmouth College Army ROTC rappelling demonstration. The program brought two certified rappelmasters to campus to demonstrate a wide variety of techniques used by soldiers to traverse large vertical distances.

Assistant professor of military science Charles Noble commented on two special campus guests, which also included MC senior development officer Steve Bloomer, a former colonel in the Army National Guard.

“President Ditzler and Steve Bloomer have graciously offered to demonstrate their techniques for anyone interested in either learning more about rappelling or seeing what it looks like when the president of a major college leaps from a building,” he said.

Nearly 300 members of the campus community turned out to watch President Ditzler, who followed one of the rappelmasters. Wearing an Army jacket and helmet, blue jeans and sturdy boots, Ditzler got off to a solid start, carefully navigated the first two stories and then accelerated his descent, landing on a padded blue mat to a chorus of cheers.

One of the first people to congratulate the courageous president was his administrative assistant, Deborah Davis, who said, “I’m happy to see you on the ground.”

Other bystanders shouted, “Good one, President Ditzler!” and “Good job, Mauri!”

“They showed me how to do it yesterday down at Western Illinois University,” said Ditzler immediately following the event. “Going over the edge was an experience. The worry was I’d be upside down. They were talking about me making it down in three hops. I think I did about 30.”

Bill Trubeck, a 1968 graduate of the college and the vice chairman of MC’s board of trustees, first proposed the fundraising event at the board’s winter meeting. Several trustees and senior staff donated to the cause by “betting” $1,000 on whether the president would jump or not jump.

During his years as a student, Trubeck was a member of Monmouth’s first ROTC class, and it wasn’t long before he was putting that experience to work, leading nearly 300 men as a company commander with the 11th Armed Cavalry Regiment during the Vietnam War.

“This was designed to provide some visibility and support for Monmouth’s ROTC program and to raise a little money while we’re at it,” said Trubeck. “It took a lot of encouragement for Mauri to agree to it, given his fear of heights. It’s great to see his level of support. He is committed to doing his part to raise the remaining monies for a new science and business building.”

Trubeck added, “Hopefully, we can make this an annual event. I’d love to be a part of it the next time we do it.”

The president wasn’t ready to commit to a repeat performance, but he did say it compared favorably to a past experience.

“This wasn’t as bad as the fundraiser I did when I let a tarantula run up my arm,” said Ditzler. “Now I can cross this off my bucket list.”

Designed to facilitate interaction among what have been traditionally independent departments, Monmouth College’s 136,000-square-foot science and business complex will be the college’s first new academic building since 1990. It was designed by the award-winning international architecture firm Burt Hill.

 
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