BLOOMINGTON - When they formed the new educational institution in 1850, founders of Illinois Wesleyan University said, "We stand in a position of incalculable responsibility."
That hasn't changed today.
"We are inspired by the awe and responsibility they felt," said university President Richard Wilson at the Founders' Day convocation Wednesday. "I believe we stand in a position of incalculable responsibility in 2006."
Wilson was in a celebratory mood at his second Founders' Day, partly because the trustees approved the school's strategic plan on Tuesday. "We've been working on it for three years," he said. "Now the process of putting the plan to work begins.
"We will make progress and you will see the results," he said.
When 30 Bloomington leaders founded a collegiate school in 1850, only 18 students and two faculty members met in a church basement, Wilson said. Today, more than 2,000 students are enrolled in the liberal arts college.
The founders emphasized the importance of being a school of international caliber and were thinking about globalization long before it became a popular term, Wilson said. That goal is being achieved, as the number of international students studying here this year increased by 20 percent, Wilson said.
Zuzana Paulechova-Stiasna, an accomplished pianist visiting from Slovak Republic, performed at the event.
Featured speaker Kenneth Pomeranz, a professor of East Asian languages and literature at the University of California, talked about the "The East Asian Miracle."
His focus was coastal China, which has been one of the most commercialized areas for the world for most of the last 1,000 years. "Until 1800, it was probably as rich as any place on the planet," he said.
The arrival of Western gunboats, opium and other misfortunes led to crises in the poorer regions of China and resulted in unrest in the rich regions as well. It produced a "disastrous century" in China from 1839 to 1949, he said.
He spoke of a theory of "reversal of fortunes," which says various parts of the world that were once comparatively rich declined because of some of the very things that made them rich in the first place.
"He was interesting," said Kami Irvin, a junior psychology student and member of the University Speakers Committee.
The primary emphasis of Pomeranz's work revolves around Chinese and comparative economic development, rural social change, environmental change and state formation.
He also has written about the history of popular religion and on family organization and gender roles.