Trustees approve honorary degree for Tony Award-winning actress, singer and dancer Sutton Foster

Topics: Alumni, College of Fine Arts, Administrative

January 27, 2012

The Ball State University Board of Trustees has approved an honorary doctor of arts degree for acclaimed actress, singer and dancer Sutton Foster, in recognition of her outstanding career in theater, television and music and for her contributions to the educational experience and professional growth of Ball State students.

Foster, who won Tony Awards in 2011 and in 2002 and has been nominated three other times, will address Ball State's class of 2012 at the May Commencement ceremony. She also has received three Outer Critics Circle awards, two Fred Astaire awards, which honor excellence in dance and choreography, and two Drama Desk awards.  She recorded two solo albums and performed live in some of the country's finest concert halls. Her acting credits include substantial television appearances as well.

Foster has been generous in her mentoring of Ball State students. She became affiliated with the Department of Theatre and Dance in the spring of 2005 when she conducted a workshop for students at the department's annual New York Showcase. Since then, Foster has visited campus several times to teach, mentor and provide guest clinics.  She has helped Ball State students transition to the professional world. Students have also benefited from her performance at Sursa Hall, consultation on "The Circus in Winter" and co-directing the department's upcoming production of "The Drowsy Chaperone, " which opens next month.

The board also approved a proposal to seek state approval for $3.1 million in financing to help complete its innovative, energy-saving geothermal project. The $3.1 million represents the remaining balance of the original $48 million the General Assembly authorized in 2005. The system has been widely praised as a potential model for other large-scale geothermal applications. Phase 1 of the project is virtually complete, and the project is currently in operational testing.  This phase affects about one-half of the campus and would allow the university to shut down two of its coal-fired boilers.  Work on parts of Phase 2 has already begun.

"We are excited to formally dedicate our innovative geothermal project in March, an undertaking for which we literally have written the book," said Randy Howard, vice president for business affairs and treasurer. "With this first phase of implementation, the project is in fact becoming the blueprint for others who are looking for sustainable ways to power large-scale operations at significant cost savings. Bonding authority will help us bring the full project to completion sooner. "

The dedication, which will take place March 20, features famed environmental scientist and writer Amory Lovins, who is chairman and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute. Harvard University-educated, Lovins was named by Time magazine as one of the World's 100 Most Influential People in 2009.

The board took action on a proposed plan for phased retirement that was initially discussed in its December meeting. The board-approved plan provides faculty members who participate in a Ball State retirement plan an opportunity for pre-retirement reduction of full-time service and pay while phasing into retirement over a period not to exceed three years.  Howard said the proposal was developed based on faculty interest and through discussions with the salary and benefits and financial and budgetary affairs committees. The plan will be available as of fall of 2012.

In other business, the board approved an average 1.6 percent increase in students' room and board, the lowest percentage increase since 1978.  The increases range from 0 percent for returning students on the premium plan to 2.4 percent. Howard noted that students who opt for the premium plan receive many perks, including no increases in room and board rates for the second year of their contract, an extra $50 per semester in Dining Plus dollars, standard vehicle registration, preferred scheduling for rooms in their second year and an earlier move-in date.

In addition, a revised trademark licensing program that updates the university's procedures for use of Ball State trademarks in sponsorship agreements was approved. The update ensures that agreements are consistent with the university's Beverage Alcohol Advertising/Sponsorship Guidelines. These corporate sponsorships must meet existing university guidelines, which would ensure that inappropriate alcohol use is not promoted.

The board elected officers, including Hollis E. Hughes Jr. as president, Frank Hancock as vice president, Rick Hall as secretary and Barbara Phillips as assistant secretary. The board also accepted the financial report for year ending June 30, 2011.

By Joan Todd, Executive Director of Public Relations
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