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Strength in numbers

My Biggest Win: Jeffery Docking

Adrian President Jeffrey Docking led the addition of 19 sports teams and several new campus facilities, from a football stadium to an ice rink. He shares his business model in a book scheduled for release in February, “Crisis in Higher Education: A Plan To Save Small Liberal Arts Colleges in America.”

By Jeffery Docking As told to Rachel Stark

By the time he became president at Adrian in 2004, enrollment had dwindled to 840. Staff morale was low; athletics facilities were few. He rebuilt by investing in sports - and it paid off. 

"I was taking an alumnus around who had heard about the growth and was extremely excited to hear all that was happening at his old school. I was trying to explain our business plan to him, and why our budget had grown so much, and why we had so many more kids, so much more vitality on campus. And I said, ‘You’ve got to see this ice arena we built. You’ll love it.’

We walked in, and when I came through the doors, up on the wall were the pictures of every kid on every ice sports team that we have. There were seven pictures: the men’s NCAA hockey team, the women’s NCAA hockey team, three American Collegiate Hockey Association teams, a women’s synchronized ice skating team and a woman’s figure skating team. 

I wasn’t even completely aware that they were taking these pictures of these teams and putting them on the wall because I was so busy. 

Each team in the pictures had about 30 kids. I play hockey myself, and I skate with the kids every Sunday night. I knew from talking to them that there was not one student in those pictures who would’ve been at Adrian had we not had this ice arena, if they couldn’t play their sport. That’s 210 students in a school that’s grown to 1,700. I remember thinking, not one of those kids probably even knew the name Adrian College when the recruiter walked through the door, and now they’re part of our campus culture and they’re going to graduate in a few years. 

I said,‘Holy smokes!’ And I just stared at the pictures for a minute. It was stunning. 

Later, I went back and I multiplied $20,000 – our approximate yearly revenue per student – by 210 students, and that comes out to around $4 million. My ice arena cost $6.5 million. I realized in the first year or two, I’d already paid for it with the new students we brought in. The additional money can now be directed to the academic mission of our college. Both in terms of new students and the dollars it brought to campus, it was a total win."