Dear President Dell’Ormo:
This month twenty-seven years ago, I received my acceptance letter to Westminster Choir College. After receiving my admissions offer, I completed no other undergraduate school applications. Westminster offered unique opportunities in choral and organ music that were unmatched by any other school. Before enrolling at Westminster, I can imagine how it might be possible to offer these educational opportunities on a campus like Rider. After completing my degree, I don’t believe the formation I received can be duplicated on the Lawrenceville campus. I am deeply saddened by the possibility of moving Westminster and urge you, the Board of Trustees, and all involved to keep Westminster in Princeton.
As a student during the merger with Rider, our largest fear was losing the Princeton campus. My understanding is that this question was explored at that time, and I have been delighted to see the support of the Princeton campus, especially the Marion Buckelew Cullen Center and renovation of the Playhouse. While I expect there are still renovations and upgrades to be made to the existing buildings on campus, it is hard for me to imagine that those costs would be higher than the construction of new facilities that would be required in a relocation to Lawrenceville.
When Westminster merged with Rider, we were told that Rider was one of the few educational institutions in the country that was operating in the black. I am sorry to hear that the school’s finances are no longer what they once were. I recognize the need to balance a budget, but when considering Westminster, I urge you to include goodwill in your accounting.
The value of Westminster lies not just in the buildings and campus, but in the people and community. The small size of the Westminster campus forces people into community. When I was a student, everyone knew everyone else on campus. This tight community persists even after graduation enabling Westminster students to connect with alumni even decades apart. I attended a larger school after Westminster, and even with its own extensive alumni network, the same value is not there.
We pay more for brand name items because of the reputation of the company. Business with high brand recognition are valued higher than equivalent businesses with no recognition. The programs offered by Westminster are not just a product that can be created at a different factory. To me, moving Westminster to Lawrenceville sounds like changing the formula for Coca-Cola. We know how well that turned out for them, but at least they had the option to change back.
To even consider moving Westminster from the Princeton campus damages the goodwill that Rider established in the years since the merger. If you need additional financial support, this is not the way to solicit the Westminster community.
Westminster does not just offer a program of study; it offers a community. The formation of that community is dependent upon a small campus. The persistence of these bonds across time represents a value that would be lost in any relocation. Until you go through studies at Westminster, this value may seem negligible, but I assure you that it is not. The small community and focused study offered by Westminster is why I came to the school and why I can continue to support it. To lose that community and focus would turn it into just another music school like all the others I ignored. I urge you to settle the campus question once and for all as quickly as possible so as not to damage the goodwill value any further.
Wm. Glenn Osborne
B. Mus, ‘94
Member, Westminster Alumni Council