In Support of Teaching
“The most critical asset of an institution is the faculty; if you do not have a strong faculty, the college will never be successful.” This statement from Ken Gassman, Jr., member of the Ferrum College Board of Trustees, demonstrates what he believes is one of the highest priorities for Ferrum College. “My focus is to get the best faculty available. The students, physical assets, and other aspects of a college will come along behind a stellar faculty.” Gassman’s belief in building a strong faculty is the basis for his capital campaign gift in the priority area of faculty development.
Gassman’s history with Ferrum College and in international business gives him a broad perspective on what is necessary for success. He came to be associated with Ferrum through his work with The United Methodist Church and has served on many boards within the church organization, including The United Methodist Family Services Board, the Wesleyan Theological Seminary Board, and the board overseeing The United Methodist Church pension plans. Gassman retired from Davenport & Company in 2001 as the senior vice president of research, after several decades in the financial services research industry. Responding to numerous requests for assistance from former colleagues in the jewelry industry, Gassman started his own company, Jewelry Industry Research Institute, in late 2001. Specializing in jewelry industry research worldwide, Gassman stays busy with his company and the travel he and his wife, Mary-Bo, enjoy.
As a member of the Board of Trustees, Gassman serves as cotrustee for the
R. Stuart Moore Charitable Trust for benefit of Ferrum College; this trust represents a large part of Ferrum’s endowment. He considers this position to be an honor and one in which he takes a great deal of pride. This term on the Board, however, is not Gassman’s first. In the late 1990s, his work with the Methodist Church yielded his first two four-year terms on the Board of Trustees. In his current role, he has noticed the numerous changes that have taken place since his last term. Chief among those changes are the physical ones—the renovations and additions of many buildings. “Ferrum has gone a long way to build the proper structure to better educate students, such as updated living quarters and technological advances conducive to more effective student learning,” he notes. In addition, he sees personnel changes that have served to reorganize the infrastructure of the College, making the institution more effective from top to bottom. Gassman cites the creation of a chief technology officer as an example of this effectiveness.
While the College has made great strides, he still believes there is much more to do. Gassman supports Ferrum College for a number of reasons, but first and foremost because he knows his gift can and will make a difference. Gassman also understands the importance of graduating from college and earning a degree, as he is the first in his family to do so. To that end, Gassman wishes to direct his support of Ferrum toward faculty development. “Dr. Braaten has streamlined the main focal points of Ferrum by looking at what the College does well and being the best we can be in those areas,” he says. Gassman points to the Water Quality Management program and the Environmental Science program as pieces of Ferrum for which the College is developing a strong reputation. He believes Ferrum has done an excellent job in finding the needs of the student body and the surrounding community and working to fill those needs with programs of study and civic involvement.
The focus on the individual student at Ferrum College is also an attribute that sets Ferrum apart from many other institutions, says Gassman. Many donors to colleges and universities direct contributions to student scholarships, which are certainly necessary, but the development of the faculty should not be minimized. He believes the true key to continued success is to direct time and funding to attracting strong faculty members, which in turn attract strong students and provide the best opportunities for current and future Ferrum students. “If we believe education is the key to our future, then Ferrum is where we need to focus our resources.
It is second to none.”