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Greetings!

While summer memories still linger, and I hope they are pleasant ones for you, a new academic year beckons as we welcome returning students and the class of 2002. We have a bumper class of entering freshmen and transfer students this fall. Throughout campus, many more freshmen than expected have elected Illinois, making this the largest entering class in years. At the college, we have made a decision to reduce the size of the entering MBA class — from the 300 of the past several years to 225. With these changes in mind, I have chosen as the watchword for the coming year "building for the future." That phrase relates both literally and figuratively to what we have on the drawing board for the year ahead.

Plans are well underway for the renovation of Commerce West. Thanks primarily to the generosity of distinguished alumni Al and Jane Wohlers, we will be able to modernize and refurbish the building, which will eventually be renamed in their honor. Beginning next May, right after graduation, the sawdust will start flying as improvements get underway. The job should be completed in time for classes in the fall of 2000. Features of the renovation include a new central entrance, which will complement the entrance to the building planned for the west side of Sixth Street, a student lounge on the first floor, and much needed remodeling of the corridors and staircases. As a result of a revamping of the cooling system in the building, we will gain considerable extra space, allowing us to create an attractive suite of offices and a conference room.

Meanwhile, our efforts to fund the building across the street proceed. While gifts from Arthur Andersen alumni and friends are coming in, we are also attempting to expand the building initiative. We hope to report some significant developments in this area during the coming year.

Finding adequate classroom space to meet student demand has been a major challenge these past several years. Class size has been limited more by the availability of large classrooms than by lack of instructors. The additional space that will result from the renovation of Commerce West and the construction of the new building will alleviate this problem. It can come none too soon.

"Building for the future" also encompasses the plans for our academic programs. This past year, two major task forces looked at significant aspects of our curricula. One task force reviewed undergraduate offerings in general and the other reviewed technology in particular. Both task forces completed their studies and turned in recommendations last spring. During the coming academic year we will carefully examine the implications of recommended changes and implement those that are feasible in a timely fashion. These and other activities are part of an ongoing effort to improve Commerce. Staying abreast of developments is made difficult by the speed with which things change today, but we are committed to do so. You would expect no less of us.

There will undoubtedly be changes in the core and probably some modifications to the various majors. Technology has become an integral part of our lives, at home and in business. Computers are now a fact of business life. It is our responsibility to ensure that our students have all the skills they need to succeed in this environment. The mastery of information development and dissemination and the management of technology and its impact are fast-growing areas that require our attention.

All of you are familiar with our present facilities. All of you also understand the knowledge and skills business demands of its practitioners today. We would be pleased to learn about your ideas and concerns as we remodel our buildings and our curricula. Where do you think we should be making changes and what modifications would you recommend? Please drop in and see me whenever you are in the area. I would enjoy discussing these developments with you and showing you our progress, first hand.

Sincerely,

Howard Thomas, Dean and James F. Towey
Distinguished Professor of Strategic Management