I see an exceptional group of people before me: dedicated and outstanding leaders, linked through your common recognition of the value of learning. The heartfelt words of those who have given so generously to support our students, as well as the deep gratitude of our student scholars, capture well the spirit of this evening and the mission of this University.
We share a very practical understanding of and commitment to education, in so many ways, life's true commodity of lasting value. And you have all, wisely and wholeheartedly, invested in it. Our most priceless treasures are, of course, our students.
I am delighted to say that we welcomed our largest incoming class ever this year: 1,083 students, which includes 654 undergraduate and 429 graduate students. At this point in time, we have an overall fall enrollment of 3,468 students, consisting of 2,264 undergraduate students and 1,204 graduate students. Currently, nearly half of our undergraduates, 46 percent or 1031 students, reside on campus.
Whether returning or arriving here for the first time, they found such impressive additions to the campus as the Woodland Residence Facilities II, which opened this fall to accommodate the growing numbers in our resident student population. Construction of the new Aquatics Center is right on target to open in the spring. We already have in place two new varsity teams, Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving, bringing our varsity sports offerings to 16. Much has taken place and much more is yet to come.
Just as Marywood has invested millions in these new facilities, many of you have invested generously of your own resources to help provide us with those dollars. Just as you have invested generously to support our students through scholarship aid. Just as our students have invested themselves in educational goals. The dividends from such investments are paid in responsible leadership, in service to others, in enriching people, communities, and professions worldwide. What more noble return on investment than that?
The task of naming all those who have made and are making important investments in the future defies even a definition of "impossible," but tonight I do want to especially recognize several individuals who have made an enormous investment in Marywood University and its students. We can surely find no finer examples of generosity and dedication than those who serve on our Board of Trustees. This past spring, two of those individuals completed their terms, after compiling impressive records of service to Marywood.
You can see in your programs the specific committees on which they have served and roles they have fulfilled. We are pleased tonight to honor them for all they have done for Marywood by presenting scholarships in their names to deserving students.
One of our former trustees, Patrick Fricchione, Jr., who, along with his family has so diligently supported and served Marywood University, could not be with us this evening.
However, we do have the pleasure of paying tribute to Sister Mary Persico, IHM, who has been dedicated in her service to her alma mater, as well as her congregation.
Her energetic and faithful service to her congregation and to Marywood University has affirmed and promoted our mission and cherished core values, including Catholic identity, opportunities for service, respect for all persons, empowerment through education, and commitment to excellence in all areas. When Sister Mary was called to serve as President of the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary eight years ago, she undertook the responsibility of leadership with characteristic humility and unique wisdom.
She well understood the importance of education in maximizing individual potential and embraced Marywood's mission of sending forth well-trained, thoughtful learners to lead on in creating a more just and peaceful world. Her support for the educational endeavors of her congregation has been firm and unfailing. Her vision was to enable IHM Sisters to continue their "tradition of service that responds to the longings and challenges of a wounded world" and to do so "with integrity and in a joyful spirit."
Sister Mary Persico herself, indeed, has reflected "integrity and joyful spirit," throughout her lifetime of service and her years of selfless, inspired leadership. Marywood University expresses deep admiration for and heartfelt gratitude to Sister Mary Persico, IHM, whose commitment to humanity, education, and spiritual values make her a role model for future generations.
Tonight we are also pleased to honor three former members of the faculty and administration, whose investment in Marywood as been a complete commitment of self, of time, talent, and energy, to Marywood students. When they retired last spring, their incredible records of service collectively spanned more than 100 years. Some of them, including Dr. Leonard Herman and Mr. Terry O'Brien, were unable to join us this evening, but we are pleased to recognize those who have joined us tonight.
For nearly 40 years, we relied on Sister Dolores Filicko, IHM, for her peerless sense of organization and fine eye for detail. But she has, in fact, been part of this campus for even longer than that. She is one of our own, a Marywood alumna. And one would be hard-put to name a daughter who more thoroughly reflects the heart and soul of her alma mater. She has served this institution in a variety of roles: Director of Residence Life, Director of Student Accounts, Director of Special Service, Director of Physical Plant, and for many years, Registrar. Ultimately, Sister Dolores assumed responsibility as Secretary of the University, where, with her typical organizational prowess, she undertook the massive task of managing the flow of informational materials crucial to the operation of the University. Sister Dolores, you have had many callings at Marywood, and you have blessed us with each one. May you be equally blessed as we designate a University scholarship to an eager, talented student in your name.
Dr. Paulette Merchel recently retired after a nearly 20 year-tenure as an Associate Professor of Theatre and the Director of the Theatre and Dance Program. She produced or directed more than 50 productions at Marywood, ranging from musicals and dramatic performances to Children's Theatre and comedies. She brought to our campus a host of renowned theatre and dance professionals, who conducted master classes with our students and presented premier cultural events on our stage. Her clear, articulate voice was a long-time standard at important University ceremonies, where she introduced and explained the order of procession. Indeed, each one of us who has had the privilege of knowing Paulette recognizes that she could enjoy no finer applause than that which we offer tonight, as we celebrate the designation of a University Scholarship in her name to benefit a talented student.
At a time when the blossoming world of technology was largely male turf, Dr. Barbara R. Sadowski saw the limitless potential for academic applications and stepped right in. She was the first woman at Marywood to serve as Director of Academic Computing, then Chief Planning and Research Officer. When the late Sister Patricia Ann Matthews fell ill, Barbara served as Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs. She also taught in Marywood's doctoral program and has been a strong supporter of Marywood University and its students through the the Sadowski-Ambuske Family Endowed Scholarship, which she and her husband, Bob, established in 2006 to provide scholarship support to undergraduate students majoring in Mathematics Education. It is fitting, then, that this evening we honor Barbara once more in a way that genuinely reflects her deep commitment to Marywood: the designation of a University Scholarship in her name.
If you refer to your program booklets, you will see the list of our scholarship recipients, as well as a description of the criteria for awarding University Scholarships. These students are our best and brightest-not only must they meet stringent academic qualifications to merit the scholarships in the first place, but they must maintain a minimum 3.25 GPA-or better-to renew these awards each year. Another integral part of a University Scholarship is its service component. All University Scholars must engage in ongoing service activities to fully meet the qualifications for these prestigious awards. We at Marywood recognize the vital, interdependent link between learning and serving. We know that to shape true leaders, both academic excellence and dedicated service must go hand-in-hand. And so, let us offer our enthusiastic applause to acknowledge our outstanding University Scholars.
Finally, your presence here this evening affirms the importance of what we do at Marywood University. Your commitment bears witness to the fact that our important work can and will continue, assuring that our students will always have access to a meaningful education and significant opportunities. We celebrate Marywood and the leaders who have come from it to become, in turn, a blessing to communities and professions and people regionally and throughout the world. We celebrate our many devoted benefactors who believe in and have so generously invested in this University.
It is with thanks to God that I offer my deepest gratitude, on behalf of Marywood University, to you-the students, the benefactors, the faculty, the alumni-to all who believe in Marywood and who continue to actively support and carry forth our mission to the world. God bless you!