A college education provides not only personal enrichment in knowledge but also a better economic future for graduates.
That is the message Brian Levin-Stankevich brought Saturday as he was inaugurated the 17th president of Westminster College.
Although trying economic times have led critics to question whether college is a good bet, Levin-Stankevich assured about 300 attending the ceremonies at the 137-year-old liberal arts college that it is a worthy and worthwhile investment.
The 61-year-old Buffalo, N.Y., native served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire from 2006 to 2012 before coming to Salt Lake City. He also has held positions at the University at Buffalo, Florida Atlantic University and Eastern Washington University.
A liberal arts education at Westminster College means "educating the whole student," Levin Stankevich said.
That includes the "great Socratic traditions of questioning and inquiry." But it also means preparing students for a successful role in the community and a good job, he said.
Citing the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Census Bureau, and Utah Educational Savings Plan, Levin-Stankevich said college graduates are much less likely to be unemployed and could expect to earn between $21,500 and $25,000 per year more than high school graduates.
"The average student indebtedness of a Westminster College graduate as of 2011 was $22,557," he said.
That debt is roughly equal to one year of additional earning power that comes from college education and less than the average loan on a new car about $26,000, he said citing the Federal Reserve.
"A college education will appreciate over the lifetime of its holder," he said. "The value of a new vehicle will not."
But, he added, a college education should mean more than a good paycheck.
"As we introduce questioning and inquiry to students, often breaking down the preconceptions and causing them to question their accepted beliefs, we should also help them find the tools and guideposts to rebuild those beliefs," he said. "Whatever view of the world and their place in it that our graduates hold, it will be stronger and more consistent for having been questioned and for their having reflected on those views in the light of challenging and contrary perspectives."
Levin-Stankevich lauded the faculty and staff of Westminster and said he would continue its traditions.
"Many of us took academic work expecting little by way of financial reward," he said. "We sought to improve lives, change family histories and contribute to the collective knowledge and wisdom of the world."
The Westminster College Board of Trustees hired Levin-Stankevich in March after a nation-wide search. He succeeds Michael Bassis who served as college president for 10 years.
Westminster President Brian Levin-Stankevich
Bachelor's degree in history from Hamilton College 1972
Master's degree and doctorate in history from SUNY at Buffalo
Fullbright Fellow at St. Petersburg State University in Russia
Academic expertise in 19th century Russian history