by BOT Chair Ricardo A. Balbido, Jr.
Delivered at Tipon Silliman 2017 Hawaii

Your theme "Beyond the Gates of Opportunities" is indeed very timely as this keeps us in check and in track of what Silliman expects from us and of us.

When we look back at Silliman, we are awed and challenged by its 5 missions:
- infuse into the academic learnings the Christian Faith anchored on the gospel of Jesus Christ;
- provide an environment where Christian fellowship & relationship can be nurtured & promoted;
- provide opportunities for growth and excellence in every dimension of 
the University life in order to strengthen competence, character, & Faith;
- instill in all members of the University community an enlightened social consciousness and deep sense of justice & compassion; and
- promote unity among peoples & contribute to national development.

These are the missions of our Alma Mater, which when imparted and lived with passion by the people tasked with this responsibility, should produce abled human beings with strong competence, character, and uncompromising principles anchored on strong Christian faith.  These are the qualities of the people we send outside that Portal. They are the Ambassadors of Silliman. They are US, you and me.

Alumni is the backbone of any University. The University can only be as strong as its alumni. Alumni projects to the world what Silliman University is made of in terms of the quality of education imparted & the reinforcement of values necessary to be part in and of a society of human beings. Alumni reflect these expectations and reputations through our actions, advocacies, & expressed principles. Alumni can make or break an Institution.

Silliman is at a crossroad as I speak today. The challenges are tough but surmountable with some sacrifices. The K+12 challenge put us all in our toes - losing more than 4000 college students for the 2- year period is a big dent in our financial coffer. While we thought drumming up enrollment for the Senior High would replace the lost 2000 freshmen students, the resistance related to finance always surfaces. While we set the entry tuition fee very competitively, the board & lodging is the primary issue.

Silliman is situated in and surrounded by regions classified as the poorest regions in the country - Siquijor, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Zamboanga del Norte & del Sur, Surijao del Norte & del Sur, Agusan  del Norte & del Sur, Cotabato, & other island neighbors.  That is the reason why Silliman cannot 
simply make tuition fee increase as the recourse whenever it has financial stresses. The experience in the past is a decrease in enrollment whenever tuition fee is raised.

I chaired the Fiscal, Properties & Investment Committee of the Board for several years before I became your Chairman of the BOT. I espoused the idea to commercialize the perimeter lots across the city commercial zones. This idea is not even new as the big Universities in the US are engulfed with commercial establishments leasing in University properties - Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, George Washington U to name a few.  The University cannot live on tuition fee alone. At Silliman, the cost of maintaining quality faculty alone already outpaced tuition revenues. Those who believe otherwise would eventually find the debilitating effect on affordability of its education, eventually losing students, & face a natural slow but painful death seeing ones legacy going down the drain.

Commercialization of the perimeters had some oppositions from well-meaning Alumni - that it will destroy the academic ambiance & that Administration's focus may shift from its real academic mission to profit business orientation.  On the academic ambiance, a compromise was made where the back of the building facing the campus would be designed & finished consistent with the University look so that the desired ambiance from the inside is preserved. No less than our very own Urban Planner & Architect Manny Almagro, an alumnus, made sure of this.  And this is what you feel once you passed the Portals of Silliman, the academic feel. On the apprehension regarding possible shift in focus to profit orientation, the constitutional composition of the BOT by itself is our natural check & balance built into the entire process of decision making.

Today, these commercial establishments & properties under build, operate & transfer schemes I.e Jollibee, 711, Banco De Oro, & others are now contributing 15%of total revenues of the University. This is still not counting Portal East, which we expect to be on lease by the second semester.  At this juncture, our deepest gratitude to SUACONA not only for taking the lead in seeing Portal West to reality but also for the projects it has supported all for the greater interest of our beloved Alma Mater.

Obviously, we shall continue to maximize and optimize the potential of our perimeter lots and off- campus properties with the end objective of not only tempering the urge to raise tuition fee but also to support the other core objectives of the University - that of improving the quality of our programs and offerings, expansion of academic facilities, availability of more dormitories, on-line learning programs, scholarship & research.

Let me also just go briefly on the academic side.  The President will go over with you the University performance In more details.  Out of the 37 accredited programs, 20 of these are accredited Level 4 (the highest grade) by accreditation agencies I.e, PAASCU & ACSCU,AAI.  Leading the top are our College of Nursing, College of Business Administration, Accountancy, and several Masteral programs.  The High School program is level 3. We still have 6 programs in Level 1 & the University is working on their upgrades.

In the Ministry of Healing, the SUMC hospital is in the thick of its expansion programs.  We continue to retain our Tertiary hospital category & related "teaching hospital" status. We have already the most beautiful & advanced Medical Arts building, which am certain most of you had already seen in one of your trips back to Dumaguete. Today, we are expanding the patients' rooms from 250 to 375 rooms and all these rooms should be available this year. We have aggressively looked for partnership & collaboration with LGU's for cross medical training programs not only from an outreach side of the mission but also enhancing medical program accreditation especially on the surgery area. The hospital is doing well financially & has earmarked 10% of its net income yearly to build up a "Charity Fund" portfolio to support the medical needs of indigent patients.

In the most recent Commencement Exercise at Silliman, I spoke specifically about what to take care of when they go out that Portal. I decided to get specific rather than bombard them with general words of wisdom, encouragement, motivations, & empowerment for all these can readily be accessed or, in their lingo, Googled by our Millennial graduates in the internet. I spoke about their Signatures. That their signatures must be safeguarded & protected for these signatures are reflections of their competence, character, & principles. We veteran alumni know all too well that once ones signature is compromised for whatever reason, getting up again makes it more harder, difficult & most of the time, frustrating.  We are our Signatures. We commit what we have signed & that commitment carries the kind of person we are in terms of the degree of our competence, strength of our character, and our uncompromising principles anchored in Christian faith.  That Signature speaks a lot about us and us as Sillimanians.

Let me end by wishing you "May the spirit of Silliman anchored on the motto "VIA, VERITAS, VITA" be with you as you continue your journey with readiness & confidence. Have a pleasant day & may GOD continue to fill your lives with HIS gifts of grace.