“A beauty to behold, to think about, and to remember”
I first heard of the statement, “A beauty to behold, a beauty to think about, and a beauty to remember” from the mouth of someone who was responsible for the tremendous growth of the university that he led.
I am referring to Dr. Juanito M. Acanto, who was the President of Central Philippine University from 1997 to 2008.
Central Philippine University (CPU) is a 59-acre university located at Iloilo City, Philippines. Founded by American Baptist missionaries in 1905, CPU is so far the largest university in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines, with a total population of 11,700 in 2010. The vision of CPU is “Exemplary Christian Education for Life or EXCEL and responsive to the needs of the total person and the world.”
At first, I thought that the statement, “A beauty to behold, a beauty to think about, and a beauty to remember” was merely a quote to perk up a speech of Dr. Acanto. Later, I realized that it was not so because each time he addressed the university community, he would always mention the statement.
For the decade-long that he was leader of CPU, he would keep on repeating and repeating the phrase each time he had the opportunity to speak. He stated this even until the day he spoke his farewell speech. Much of the university’s development in the aspects of academics, infrastructure, and administrative manifested during Dr. Acanto’s term.
There is no doubt that the mission statement of Dr. Acanto during his stint as president is akin to the law of attraction. Having the opportunity to work with him as executive secretary, I was able to internalize the meaning of the phrases, “a beauty to behold, a a beauty to think about, and a beauty to remember” in my work and family life.
Dr. Acanto believes that the Lord God Almighty was greatly responsible for fashioning CPU into what it is now. He shared that the Board of Trustees appointed him Officer-in-Charge of CPU in 1997. At that time, he saw that his premier qualification was his availability to serve and he doubted his capabilities and readiness to be university president. He accepted the big responsibility to lead CPU because his faith assured him that God will be his guide.
At the start of his administration, Dr. Acanto gathered major stakeholders (all the members of the Corporation, the faculty and staff members, and the alumni) to rally their support for CPU’s development and progress. He appealed for unity and commitment to upgrade the level of achievements of the university. Affirming the vision and mission of CPU, he sees that the primary challenge was to make concrete manifestation of it.
Dr. Acanto presented his approach in leading the school. He set into action the paradigm of attraction. Basing on the Biblical principle that a smiling face is proof of the merry heart, Dr. Acanto declared openly his mission to make CPU a beautiful university, making it a beauty to behold, a beauty to think and to feel about, and a beauty to be remembered.
He aimed primarily at creating an environment and atmosphere that would encourage students to study well and also attract the community to encourage acceptance and following.
He saw that if the institution is beautiful, it would attract students to enroll and study at CPU; attract generous people to get involved in the cause of beautifying the university; and attract the alumni to wholeheartedly participate in the programs of their Alma Mater.
He was proven right because when CPU embarked on the big task of beautifying the university, the student population increased from 9,132 in 1997 to 13,506 in 2003. Since then, CPU’s enrolment has remained in the 11,000 plus bracket.
The increase in student population caused the university to allocate more funds for the improvement of physical plant facilities. From a budget of 10.78 million pesos in 1997, the physical plant facilities budget reached 62.68 million in 2007.
Program for the enhancement of faculty and staff capability was strengthened through the allocation of more budgets for training, seminars, and further studies. Faculty and staff research and extension budget increased from 2.43 million in 1996 to 14.43 million pesos in 2006. The financial growth of the university could be seen through her budget. In 1997, the total annual budget was 93 Million and by 2007, it reached 396 Million pesos.
With the law of attraction employed, CPU achieved so much for ten years in the aspects of academics, finances, physical facilities, alumni affairs, scholarships and donations. It all started when the person at the helm focused on a vision of growth and development through attraction.
The development at CPU attracted many people, both alumni and non-alumni. They willingly got involved through their donations, words of support and prayers. Supportive policies guided the school officials, faculty and staff members participated actively through ideas and suggestions that were not only acceptable but contributed to the total positive appearance of the university.
Dr. Acanto attributes everything that was accomplished for CPU to the Higher Being, who moves people, inspires ideas and events. He says, “Scaling new heights of greater successes for Central Philippine University was never a solitary task but has been and is a corporate and communal undertaking for those who love CPU and made CPU a part of their lives.”
Much of Dr. Acanto’s dream for CPU is captured in the campus development plan that the Board of Trustees approved in 2007. The video “Central Philippine University of the Future” shows it all.
The scaled miniature model of the Central Philippine University of the Future was elaborately displayed at a special shed in front of the Stuart Building, towards the right side of the CPU Administration Building. Dr Acanto believes that a good vision must not be hidden but must be exhibited and inculcated in the hearts and minds of the stakeholders (students, employees, and alumni) thereby, generating attraction and support.
Dr. Acanto continues to serve Central Philippine University as Vice Chairperson of the Board of Trustees