The preeminent English poet, John Donne, chastised self-centered behavior by arguing that such individuals struggle to see themselves as part of a larger community. In arguably his most famous poem, "No Man is an Island," Donne asserts that no individual is an island unto oneself. Rather, each person is a part of a larger community and the actions of each person serve to impact the community. Donne's words were confirmed once again this past week as the university experienced the tremendous support of a larger community during the NAIA national basketball tournament. From far and near, people ventured to cheer on the women's basketball team in their historic run to the national championship.

Let me begin by offering my sincere thanks to all of you who cheered our Wesleyan women to victory! As our coaches and student-athletes acknowledged, we believe that you - our community - were our "sixth person" on the court! Your visible presence enabled the success of our team and intimidated others whose crowds simply did not compare. As senior Chesney Nagel remarked, "you (our community) were definitely a force to be reckoned with!" Any coach or athlete will tell you, the momentum of a game can shift at any moment, and much of that momentum builds in the presence of an energized crowd.

Beyond this tremendous outpouring of support for the Tigers exists a commitment of the community and the university to a shared vision of progress.

Dakota Wesleyan's growth and momentum is confirmed by new facilities to support the scientific and healthcare labor force of our area, a new community sports and wellness complex, unprecedented support for our Teammakers and Wesleyan Scholarship Fund, and national recognition of our academic programs. Our excellence has largely been possible because the university and community have embraced a symbiotic relationship in which each one provides notable benefit to the other.

As a university, DWU is only as strong as our community support. In addition, I would like to believe, Mitchell's strength evolves in part from the growth and momentum of Dakota Wesleyan University. Over the past week while attending games at the national tournament, I had countless elected officials, regional college presidents and community leaders reach out with simultaneous admiration and bewilderment about how DWU garners such a strong following. To me, the answer to that question lies in our undeniable partnership and our mutual understanding that collectively we make each other better.

Your support enables us to continue to provide scholarship funds to support nationally recognized student undergraduate research on genetic polymorphisms or molecular brain biology. Your support enabled the construction of a state of the art sport and wellness complex that now hosts well over 10,000 students annually for everything from the state Special Olympics to youth soccer, youth basketball and youth wrestling yielding notable increases in city sales tax revenues during our slowest months of the year. Your support directly affects the nearly 40 percent of our students who are the first in their family to attend college, making a four-year degree a reality. Your support in attendance at choir events, lectures and theater productions enhances a vital dialogue about the cultural and intellectual vibrancy necessary for healthy communities. Your support of internships and community-based learning allowed countless students to be placed across the region in summer jobs and eventually long-term employment ranging from Vantage Point, Innovative Systems, the Mitchell School District, Avera Health Systems, Avera Queen of Peace, the Abbott House, agriculture companies and regional banks (to name a few). Your support also enabled a renewed focus on developing relationships for recruitment and retention of employees to rural communities - from Parkston to Kimball, and Wessington Springs to Huron - our efforts to strengthen the labor force of this region are paying remarkable dividends for these communities. Finally, your support of athletics has made the success of countless athletic programs, most notably, our women's basketball program a reality.

On behalf of our entire institution, thank you for making your commitment to this university a priority. You have made us priority in your advocacy, your genuine support and your financial commitment. We will continue to be a university, not merely in the community, but a university "with and for" the community as we launch new efforts to be an active partner, labor force incubator and regional collaborator for a stronger Mitchell, a stronger South Dakota, and a stronger nation.

Thank you to each of you from across the region for "bleeding blue" in support of Dakota Wesleyan! This is a special place and you reminded all of us of how great it is to be a university in this region.