Last updated: January 15. 2014 2:51PM - 1487 Views
Paul Baldasare Contributing Columnist

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It was community support that brought St. Andrews to Laurinburg and Scotland County more than 50 years ago. And in challenging economic times, the public/private partnership between St. Andrews and the Scotland County community has never been stronger or more beneficial to all of us. As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

St. Andrews is continually in the top five employers in the county. And its employees, and students, have long demonstrated a strong commitment to volunteer service in many charitable and service organizations throughout the community. The list of their volunteer activities over the years would literally be too long to print. In fact, we are currently preparing for the 2014 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Last year more than half of our students, faculty and staff donated more than 300 hours of community service at sites throughout the community on that single day. Our goal this year is to exceed that number, and numerous work sites have already been identified for our volunteer service crews.

In addition to the benefits of volunteer service, St. Andrews also has a significant impact on the local economy. It is a commonly accepted assumption that an organization’s payroll turns over, or ripples through a local economy about seven times. This means that the annual St. Andrews payroll of about $6 million produces an eventual annual economic impact of about $40 million in the local community. On the other hand, the Laurinburg Area Campaign for St. Andrews raises more than $500,000 annually to provide vital support for the University, a level of community support that is the envy of other schools in both the state and the region. With enrollment steadily increasing, the number of employees at the University is growing as well. This means an increasing payroll, an increasing economic benefit for our community, and more opportunities for service and teamwork.

St. Andrews is also a destination point every year for a large number of visitors, putting heads in hotel beds, bringing hungry people to restaurants and grocery stores, and driving cars to the gas pumps. On average, St. Andrews draws more than 15,000 visitors to our community every year through events such as open houses for prospective students and their families, athletic competitions, the regional and national equestrian events that we regularly host, the popular Scottish Heritage Symposium, and Alumni Weekend.

For example, this spring, our equestrian program will once again be hosting some large competitions that will draw many visitors, including the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Western Semi-Finals and the Hunter Seat Regional Finals.

On the athletics front, our women’s basketball team is off to a fast start and our men’s swim team just tied for first place with the reigning national champion team in the NAIA coaches’ poll. And the wrestling team will host a quad meet on Jan. 18, with several schools traveling to Laurinburg from throughout the southeast to compete.

During the spring semester we will again be welcoming a variety of special guests to the campus to headline various events. Dr. Randy Bremer, a Presbyterian pastor who previously served in Laurel Hill, will be providing next week’s Religion and Science Roundtable on The Related World of God and the Atom. We will welcome alumna and young adult novelist Terra Elan McVoy back to campus Jan. 23 to kick off the spring semester of the long-running Writer’s Forum.

Plans for our annual spring Scottish Heritage Symposium are also moving ahead. As we look to continue growing the event that is now in its 25th year, we are bringing such top-notch scholars as genealogist Professor Bruce Durie, Galeic traditions scholar Dr. Michael Newton, and Carolina Scots author Dr. Douglas Kelly. Entertainment for the weekend will include the St. Andrews Pipe Band and Jamie Laval, North Carolina’s top fiddler of Scottish Music.

In addition to these events that bring in visitors from throughout the region and the country, many citizens from the local community utilize the St. Andrews facilities throughout the year. From the fourth-grade students learning to swim in the O’Herron Pool to the community members participating in the annual Red Cross Celebrity Dinner in the Belk Center, the St. Andrews campus welcomes the community on a regular basis.

St. Andrews and the Laurinburg/Scotland County community make a good team, and the best is yet to come. We value ideas, suggestions and advice from the community, and hope that the people of Scotland County will always see us as the partner and resource that we strive to be. Or, as a SEAL Team saying goes, “Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.”

Paul Baldasare is president of St. Andrews University.

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