York College will become York University over the next several months, and the transition will be undergirded by a newly launched $15.9 million fundraising campaign, according to Dr. Sam Smith who made the announcement today in his inaugural presentation on the York campus.
President Smith recognized numerous York College friends, family, faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, and community neighbors in comments related to his new role as the 21st president at the 131-year-old institution.  The inauguration took place in the Campbell Activity Center and drew an audience of more than 500 guests, including 15 delegates from other academic institutions.


"The name change may sound abrupt," Smith said, "but this process began in 1956 and has included a series of steps to get to this point. Our institution has grown from being unaccredited to an accredited junior college to a four-year institution that also offers growing graduate programs. Sixty-five years in the making is anything but abrupt."  It has taken years, and the time is right to move forward."


Smith noted further how the name change fits the mission of York College, which seeks to transform lives through a Christ-centered education.  "We exist to facilitate transformation," he explained,  "So, it is appropriate that we continue to transform as an institution as well."


The transition to university status will be a systematic process over the next year, Smith added.  For the next several months, publications and the website will still reflect the historic name of York College.  Signage, stationery, business cards, listings in higher education directories, etc., will gradually be adjusted.


"We anticipate our seniors graduating in the spring with York College degrees," Smith continued, "but our freshman class next fall will be enrolling in York University.  Although the name will change, some things will not.  Our institutional mission, identity, values, and vision will remain focused on transforming lives through Christ-centered education, equipping students for lifelong service to God, family, and society."


The most exciting news about the fundraising campaign, according to Smith, is that more than 80 percent of the nearly $16 million goal has already been pledged.  The campaign theme, To Honor and To Serve, Smith added, reflects York College's homage to those sustainers whose commitments have provided the foundation for the future York University.  It also asserts the institution's pledge to continue its longtime ministry of serving students with the best possible York Experience.


Dr. R. Wayne White, chairman of the board of trustees, cited Smith's expertise and experience in providing the leadership for the college as it moves forward toward a previously agreed-upon name change.  White also confirmed that the name-change decision was reached by the trustees at their January 2021 meeting, but had previously been the topic of conversation at numerous earlier meetings.


"President Smith has proven himself to be a thoughtful listener with a visionary spirit," White said.  "When we interviewed him, we shared our vision to become York University.  We had yet to make it official, but we knew the direction we needed to go.  We knew there was no going back.  And from Day One, President Smith was in full agreement, and he has been 'all in' since then." 


The new campaign will strengthen three strategic areas--student scholarships, which continue to be the most significant annual need; campus renewal projects, including residence halls, classroom and office updates; and academic resources, which entails endowment opportunities, updated course offerings and state-of-the-art technology.


Richard and Rachel (Nowlin) James, from Wichita, KS, serve as co-chairs of the campaign.  They both attended York College in the mid-to-late-'90s.  Richard, an attorney, serves as secretary of the board of trustees, and the couple has been generously supportive of the college for many years.  


"We want to be part of a plan that is future-facing for York College," James stated.  "More than just endorsing this campaign, we are ready to invest in a greater vision for what comes next.  We want to invest in new generations of students who have dreams and potential, those who will call York home. We are ready to invest because it seems only natural in response to a place where so many selflessly invested in us."


In his inaugural remarks, Smith applauded the leadership of White, James and many others for leading by example with their own pledges of support for the campaign, the name change and the future direction of York College on his watch.  He also recognized the longstanding support that the college has received over the years from the local community.


"I am privileged to serve as an administrator with direction from a board, encouragement from a campus family, and support from this community who all aspire to see York College become York University," Smith concluded. "Our mission won't change; our tax ID won't change; our mascot won't change; and our colors won't change.  But we will still become York University!"


The inaugural event concluded with an inaugural reception on Kiplinger Avenue adjacent to the campus