Education and community leaders gathered Tuesday at the new Western Illinois University-Quad-Cities riverfront campus in Moline to celebrate the school’s 100th year in the community.

Western Illinois president Jack Thomas presented his “State of the University” address as part of the annual Founders Day event at the already-expanding campus.

Using the theme “Let Us Not Forget,” Thomas said many people paved the way for the university’s Macomb campus to open with about 200 students. Now, more than 12,000 students are enrolled at its two campuses, including 1,400 in the Quad-Cities, he said.

He also described the university as a model for successful dual campuses. His goal is to grow the Quad-City campus to 3,000 students, while others say it could go as high as 5,000 students, Thomas said.

“Who knows what we can become here in the Quad-Cities,” he said. “This has become the hub of community growth.”

Joseph Rives, vice president of the Quad-City campus, said the region’s only four-year public university has made great strides since its first classes were offered in 1912. A video shown about the university’s history in the Quad-Cities explained that Western Illinois’ presence began as a normal school for teachers. But after much evolution, the university has worked on six buildings in the past year alone to make the new Moline riverfront campus a reality, Rives said.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants in advancing the great traditions of our university,” Rives said.

Thomas said university enrollment has declined by 2.7 percent overall, but the Quad-City campus has grown its number of undergraduates by 9 percent to a record high of 799. Including graduate-level students, total enrollment at the Quad-City campus is 1,377.

In response, the university has created a strategic enrollment committee to work on actively recruiting and retaining students. He said Western Illinois will continue to recruit high-achievement students, while remembering its core population of first-generation and nontraditional students.

Despite declining enrollment and decreasing state funding, the university “must remain undaunted by the many challenges,” Thomas said.

“We are a student-centered campus,” he said. “We make decisions with our students’ best interests at heart.”

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