Prepared remarks for the 2017 State of the University

Good day everyone! It's so great to be with you on this fine afternoon… and not to be with Irma! SC dodged a bullet but so many in Florida didn’t. Nor did so many others in Houston affected by Harvey. Harvey and Irma…such humble names…but they brought extreme suffering. We are in touch with our university friends in Texas and Florida to let them know we are here for them, as they were for us in our time of need.

It’s my tremendous honor to be with you today as I begin my 10th year as president of this great university. A decade is a long time for a college president to serve, especially in turbulent times, but it’s a mere footnote in the 216-year history of our cherished university.  Yet, I believe, that the progress we are making together is something that may well be remembered as significant and hopefully it will be the foundation to continue serving our children and grandchildren many years from now.

What a road we have traveled together. Today we take a well-deserved moment to reflect on where we’ve been and how far we have come and then to pivot to the future and to the important work before us in spite of the challenges we face. 

Our benchmark is not how well we did yesterday. Our yardstick must be how well we do in the new world order, not the old. 

I’ve used the word “challenging” in every one of my State of the University addresses, beginning in 2008. Let me offer you a preview of next year’s address…I’ll use it again! The specifics change but navigating through challenge has become the permanent state of higher education. Technological change, new forms of communication and social media, political polarization, cultural tension, ongoing financial anxieties…all guarantee that the best universities will be those that navigate the turbulent seas they are dealt and who manage them effectively. 

At Carolina, we use our institutional values…our core values as our guide. Our strong community values, our positive culture, and our commitment to civility, hospitality and courtesy…these are the rudders that point us in the right direction. And our fantastic team of professionals…our staff, our faculty, and our Board of Trustees…they are the oars that propel us forward. And our alumni, our fans, and our communities…they are the wind behind our sails.

Many university family members are here and I am appreciative of them. Let me recognize members of the Board of Trustees: our Chairman John von Lehe Jr., Vice Chairman Hugh Mobley, Mark Buyck, Tommy Cofield, Tommy Preston Jr., Thad Westbrook and Secretary J. Cantey Heath, Jr. I also recognize the Board of Visitors including Chair Julia G. Mims and others in attendance; and the Carolina faculty represented by the chair of the Faculty Senate Professor Marco Valtorta. In addition, I am delighted to welcome and thank members of my Community Advisory Council and my Student Advisory Council. Thanks to each of you.  

My sincere thanks also go to Student Body President Ross Lordo and Graduate Student Association President Clint Saidy, and all of the student officers who advise and serve our university.   

I would also like to welcome our newest Rhodes Scholar, Jory Fleming who will, with Daisy, be leaving for Oxford this month. We wish him Godspeed, knowing he will make us proud.

I would also like to express gratitude to the members of my Executive Leadership Team and, finally and importantly, Patricia Moore-Pastides, without whom I would already be a footnote in our university's history. Thank you for winding me up every morning and for delicately unplugging my battery pack every night. Patricia’s new book, by the way, “At Home in the Heart of the Horseshoe,” is magnificent and will be out in time for your holiday shopping!

When I say “challenges we face” I want you to know that I’m not saying “the sky is falling” or that we are in the midst of some historic storm. The people of Florida and Houston, and others have real challenges… hurricanes, fires, Illness, terrorism, war, human tragedy...these are huge and staggering challenges.

The challenges of Higher Education, while serious and here to stay, don’t cloud the true beauty of our mission… to educate our students with classical and contemporary knowledge; to provide relevant and adaptable skills that today’s world demands; and to develop South Carolina’s and America’s future leaders.

In this context, our challenges are merely weeds in a beautiful garden. 

So let me get right to a central message today.

It is our intention to move the University of South Carolina to the head of the nation’s great research universities. In other words, to make an even greater impact on our world—impact that is tangible and vital. The way to do this is to demand excellence of ourselves, and to raise the expectations of what we can produce, especially the expectations of what our faculty scholars and researchers can produce. 

We must recommit to excellence, accelerate our progress, and realize greater impact. And, the good news is…we know how to do it.

The purpose is not selfish and is not about chasing rankings. We need to demand and invest in excellence because excellent people in excellent institutions do great things and have a great impact…and that’s necessary…for our students and our state and our nation.

Our state has rarely pursued true excellence with strategy or with determination. We have been held back with no one to blame but ourselves. However, our time, I believe, is right now. Our time has arrived. We can and should be a leading state, not a trailing state. I desire this, I believe that you desire this, and the University of South Carolina can help accomplish this.

You might ask, how do we help? The first thing is for us to provide an example of why excellence matters…it matters when we produce excellent graduates and excellent, innovative and relevant faculty research. 

Our benchmark is not how well we did yesterday. Our yardstick must be how well we do in the new world order, not the old. We must turn our backs on the old world order that seeks to vanquish competitors and shuns new and quicker ways of doing business. The old world order is conventional, slow and intolerant. The new world order is collaborative, intersectional and interdisciplinary. It is led by innovators, it stimulates entrepreneurs, and it rewards the nimble, the flexible, the collaborative, the hospitable and the open-minded.

Some of you might be thinking “…but USC has already made so many strides and advances. We already are so good.” That’s true to some degree. We are already the number one global university in the state, as reported by U.S. News, QS Rankings, the Center for World University Rankings and others…but that’s not enough.

We already have as many highly ranked departments, degrees and programs, as other top universities in the nation, but that’s not enough.  We already have great research accomplishments to build on. This past year we brought in over a quarter of a billion dollars in external funding, another new record high, but that’s not as high as we can and need to go.

We must recommit to excellence, accelerate our progress, and realize greater impact. And, the good news is…we know how to do it.

We need no complex strategy, no experimentation, and we don't even need to get lucky. We simply must make more resources available to invest in our faculty. They have the vision, they have the drive, but they have not had the resources to fuel their ambitions or their abilities. And while we’ve grown the faculty to keep up with student growth, we have not invested enough in their success. 

Our plan is to build and support a faculty that is among the best in the nation. We will find and dedicate new resources to expand the amount and quality of our research and scholarship. We will wisely invest in the work most likely to yield success. And we have had a head start.

Last semester we recognized several of our professors by lighting Capstone Tower in their honor. This included sociology professor Doug Anderton and chemistry professor Stephen Morgan who were named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and chemical engineering professor John Monnier who was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. 

And we will continue to search for others. I’m pleased that we have been able to add 228 faculty members to the newest “freshmen” faculty class – this includes 157 tenured, tenure track and non-tenure track faculty members on Columbia’s campus. In fact, each of our eight campuses experienced faculty growth as well.

I’m grateful to the Board of Trustees for endorsing a program to tighten the university’s belt in administrative and service areas, as well as in academic units, in order to capture a reasonable, initial investment fund. There was simply no other way to secure these funds to start meeting our goals.

Since not all units who contribute to this “fund for excellence” will gain directly—most notably the service units—we must repay their contribution by creating a culture of excellence—one that is beneficial to all and increases everyone’s confidence and pride. 

Provost Gabel has already established a Blue Ribbon Committee of respected faculty members, students and staff, that she co-chairs with College of Pharmacy Dean Steve Cutler. This committee will draft the plan and the metrics to monitor our progress.

And as we accelerate our pursuit of excellence, our national and global recognition will, no doubt, continue to increase and so will South Carolina’s. When the state’s name is your university’s name, you sink or swim together. Look around, it’s true for every region or state with whom you would want to benchmark our economic progress.

Benchmarking with the Research Triangle, Austin and Silicon Valley remains tough but there are great and exciting economies developing in Nashville, Indianapolis, and Salt Lake City. These regional economic opportunities are usually based on technology innovation and are always…I repeat, always centered in places with a major research university. It also helps to have affordable home prices, and high quality of life. Who does that sound like? Right, it sounds like us and it sounds like South Carolina. So let’s get poised for great things…if we commit to being excellent…and if USC plays the role required.

The role of the research university is not symbolic. We provide the workforce, indeed, the “life force,” for emerging economies. Without the knowledge workers— new investment, job growth and increased wages are just a pipe dream.  And we contribute throughout the state, not just in the Midlands. For example, working with Sumter leaders in the private and public sector, USC helped to recruit Continental Tire and others. Now there are 11,000 new jobs and over 1 billion in capital investment in the Gamecock city.

Dean Haj Harriri is going to work with Chancellor Susan Elkins and Dean Mike Sontag at USC Sumter to provide an engineering and IT workforce that the region sorely needs. And while South Carolina is well known for assembling and manufacturing amazing world class products, the state is lacking in large numbers of corporate headquarters as well as in cutting edge technology companies.

If importing companies is hard, why not grow them here? Our USC/Columbia Technology Incubator is helping to grow vibrant startup companies right here in the Midlands. Many of those startups are founded on technologies born at USC.

In fact, USC has been recognized by the National Academy of Inventors as being in the top 1 percent of patent producing universities in the world….in the world.   With our Incubator providing small business resources to entrepreneurs who are launching those patented technologies into the market, I predict that one day a Fortune 500 company will be born right here…in Columbia. And in the meantime, we will continue to produce the baccalaureate and graduate-degree educated workforce that our great SC businesses need.

Joan Robinson Berry, Boeing South Carolina’s CEO, and Jack Sanders Sonoco’s CEO tell me about this need all the time.  I’m proud that USC graduates are rapidly filling the gap for engineering, IT and other graduates at corporations like Boeing and Sonoco.  I often visit these companies and am always impressed by the large numbers of Gamecocks who hold both leadership and support positions. 

Bill Kirkland, deserves recognition for making our Office of Economic Engagement the place for companies to connect with the state-of-the art resources of USC. Through the Office of Economic Engagement, USC has had another successful year creating and growing partnerships that drive the knowledge economy of South Carolina.  

IBM, is helping us develop new approaches and curricula in an area that every single South Carolina company also needs and needs now…that’s in data analytics. For those, like me, who until recently, would have hated to have been asked by a child what data analytics meant, let me say that it is defined as the “science of drawing insights from raw information.” In other words, data analytics can reveal trends and metrics that would otherwise be lost in the mass of numbers we collect. In turn, these trends and metrics can be used to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of a business or system. I believe that every single Carolina graduate should leave here with some data competency—the ability to create information from data and, to eventually create valuable information to be used in decision making. We will work with our faculty this year to infuse more data analytics into our curriculum—in manufacturing, insurance, tourism, communication, health care and the arts—because in every segment of the economy, data analytics is central to success. Today, we are pioneering a curriculum, coupled with internships and other applied experiences, that will render our graduates ready to handle the challenges they are given.  

Last June 22, I was excited to be with Siemens executives as we announced a USC/Siemens Digital Factory Innovation Lab.  Anytime an investment over $600 million is announced it’s going to be “A Great Day at the University of South Carolina.” This announcement is actually a gift that will keep on giving…not only to USC but also to the State…because the software with which our students will learn, is THE Software used by the aerospace and other sectors throughout South Carolina and around the world. This is a phenomenal “value-added” to a USC bachelor’s degree and is one more reason students who want to assure themselves and their families of landing a great job, will choose to study here.

Even more recently, I was pleased to announce a deepening of our partnership with Greenville Health System. Our Office of Economic Engagement will help identify opportunities for clinicians at GHS’ Health Sciences Center and the USC School of Medicine Greenville to engage with industry partners together to commercialize drug therapies and medical devices. Together, USC and GHS will advance the health sciences economy of the region. 

I would also like to recognize Provost Joan Gabel. Inspired by our cherished friends Bob and Janice McNair of Houston, Joan helped develop the McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise at USC. Last year the McNair Foundation provided $8 million to help students across the university gain a deeper understanding of the principles that underpin the American economy. We welcome Professor Dirk Brown who will lead that effort.

In addition, Provost Gabel and colleagues continue to develop our critical arenas of distinction. I’m pleased to announce that this year we will launch a new arena in information and computing, focused on our strong programs that range from Digital Humanities, Information Science and Technology, Computer Science and back to Digital Media with everything in between. We will begin recruiting students, who will be known as Rhodos Fellows to become part of this new living-learning community. We may be the first university in the United States to develop such a program, but we won’t be the last.

If it’s even a smidgen as successful as the “Health Sciences Arena,” we will have an immediate impact on our students. More than 1,000 students applied to be Galen Fellows last year, and 455 now participate in our Health Sciences living-learning community. 

We expected success but have been surprised by the level of interest. The need for more and well-prepared graduates in the health majors is becoming increasingly evident. In fact, we know that by 2030, just 13 years from now, 70,000 new baccalaureate degree holders will be needed in our state—and health care and social assistance sectors are projected to be the largest employers in our state.

I am delighted to share the great news that our College of Nursing recently learned that its 2017 class received a 99.3% pass rate on The National Council Licensure Exam, to put this in perspective, the national average is around 83.5%! Well done, Dean Andrews and colleagues.

This is among the many reasons that USC is clearly gaining recognition from high school counselors and others as the best university to prepare students for a career in the health professions—with two medical schools, pharmacy, nursing, social work, public health programs and much more, that makes sense and we will continue to spread the word.

We will give our own undergraduates admission priority to these highly competitive graduate programs. In turn, this will encourage even more Gamecocks to build their careers in South Carolina where our growing population continues to require health care services and expects and deserves quality professionals.

Of course we take great care of each and every student in the university system. I could not be more proud of the educational experience we afford to students throughout the system.

...we are the University for South Carolina.

From our stalwart Palmetto College campuses in Allendale, Walterboro, Lancaster, Sumter, Union and Laurens—to our on-line baccalaureate degree completion programs present in every county in the state with over 1,000 students enrolled and nearly a 1,000 graduates to date…

…to our mature and thriving, independently accredited, comprehensive universities in Aiken, Beaufort, Bluffton and Spartanburg, to our Medical and Public Health Schools in Greenville and right back here to Columbia, and to the top public Honors College in the land, we take great care of each and every student. It has always been and always will be Job One. That may not be the headline tomorrow, but it is the main message I would have you take away today, that we take exceptional care of our students.

 That, friends, is our major contribution and it dwarfs the $5.5 billion annual impact on the state’s economy, including sustaining 60,000 jobs and with associated tax revenue that is over double our state appropriation. That’s why we are the University for South Carolina.

And that’s why our enrollment trends are positive in Columbia and around the system. According to the Washington Post – USC Columbia is the fourth fastest growing flagship university in the nation. I coined the term “basketball bump” but I believe our popularity among young people and families around the state and nation is due to much more than athletic accomplishment. College presidents get lots of letters and emails and I try to respond to every one. I get lots like this one from Jane Campbell, of Lexington, Kentucky, who wrote, “Our son just graduated from USC. It was a memorable, wonderful experience for him. We love USC as well.”

 Gina Goddard from Cheraw, SC wrote, “Our first child is leaving home and attending the Honors College at USC … I feel USC is the perfect place for him to be. Thanks to USC for welcoming our son and all the freshmen and transfer students to Columbia so warmly.  Looking forward to Parents weekend!”

Let me offer you a profile of this year’s incoming Freshmen class, the Class of 2021:

  • More than 25,000 applications
  • 5,896 freshmen class members
  • 56% are female
  • 42 states, plus the District of Columbia
  • Students from 15 countries, with 105 countries represented in the entire student body.
  • 77 were valedictorians
  • SAT score of all freshmen 1254; ACT = 27.3
  • # Honors College/SAT=1478, ACT=32.5      
  • 28 sets of twins but, sorry, no triplets this year.

The USC system has enrolled the largest number of in-state students… the largest number of African American students, and the largest number of Hispanic students in our history and in the history of any public or private university in this state. All of this at a time when many other universities are struggling to fill classrooms and residence halls.

I’m so delighted and proud that more than 90,000 students have graduated from the USC system during my presidency…that means that one third of all our living alumni have graduated in the last decade. And you will be gratified to know that Diverse magazine places USC in the top 3% of universities in the United States in graduating African-American students.   

There are those who question the value of higher education. Let me be clear: The percentage of a state’s population with a four-year degree or higher is the best predictor of that state’s personal per capita income levels. In fact, South Carolina’s college graduates make on average 40% more than those who don’t have a 4-year degree. Nationally, 4-year degree holders make about $1 million more over a lifetime.

A higher education degree not only makes a difference; makes all the difference.

We continue to be an accessible public university and we work very hard to prevent runaway tuition prices. You might even be surprised to know that our tuition is lower than other public colleges in the state…and because of that, we have less to invest in education than other colleges do.

You will also be surprised to know that our per capita state appropriation in Columbia, Aiken, Beaufort and Upstate is lower than other publics. You might ask why and I would say, truly, for no good reason…or worse…for no reason at all.

The press and others like to report that South Carolina has among the highest in-state tuition prices in the nation – of course, that’s because we have the fifth lowest level of state funding in the nation.

But it’s not the sticker price that should matter to our SC families, it’s what they actually pay that matters. Cost containment within the university combined with the SC Education Lottery scholarships means that in-state undergraduates at USC Columbia pay, on average, less than $6,000 per year in out-of-pocket costs for tuition and fees. That is simply not reported by the press and we need to proclaim it more boldly.

Kiplinger’s ranks us as one of the “Best Values among Public Colleges,” and we are also recognized by Forbes magazine as one of “America’s Best Value Colleges."  

This year we will again lead a statewide effort to strengthen higher education—making it more affordable and more accessible to all South Carolinians. With some commitment to increasing appropriations; defining a funding formula that rewards institutions for retention and graduation rates; a capital bond bill; and the freedom from burdensome, time-consuming and cost-wasting levels of review, we can become the most cost-efficient and cost-effective system of higher education in the country. 

For 10 years, USC has offset drastic cuts to higher education funding and held tuition growth for South Carolina residents in check by importing talent, the nation’s best and brightest, and increasing our population of out-of-state students. The time has come for state government to re-engage with higher education. If we are to pursue excellence and educate more South Carolinians, we must find agreement. We must make a pact.

We want to find that level of funding that is fair to all—fair to students and their families, but also fair to the hardworking taxpayers of the state. We must find a funding level that will freeze tuition increases for in-state families, and freeze it for a long time. We are ready to listen and invite government leadership to make a proposal. We will cooperate. State government holds the key to college tuition. 

As we continue to provide affordable pathways like Gamecock Guarantee, it’s important to note that about half of our Columbia students do not borrow at all. Of those who do, the average debt is well below both the state and national averages. And our students who do borrow are repaying their debt. USC Columbia’s three-year cohort default rate is only 4.5 percent, compared to 11 percent nationally. We have put a formal and strategic action plan in place aimed at reducing debt. We call it On Your Time Graduation. And it’s paying off. You know about it by now but let me remind you that On Your Time seeks to significantly reduce the major reason for student debt…extra and unnecessary tuition for semesters that go beyond the traditional eight.

Throughout American higher education the lack of timely graduation has become the status quo.

In fact, the federal government doesn't even track four-year graduation rates, they track six-year rates. And the average six-year graduation rate in the US is only 50%. (National Student Clearing House released in 2017). Ours is much higher and, in good measure, due to our commitment to offer courses, especially the required core courses year round and especially during the summer calendar. The move is already garnering results with more summer registrations than ever before.

I am so gratified that we are receiving national attention for these initiatives and I thank Deputy Provost Helen Doerpinghaus, director Shelly Dempsey and all the deans and the registrar who make the calendar work in our students’ best interests.

And while our intense cultural calendar slowed down for a couple of months, I can assure you that there was much creativity being planned behind the curtain of summer. I could create an entire State of the University speech dedicated to the wonderful and creative artistic events from around the system. It will be hard to top last year’s lineup which included a fond farewell to Maestro Don Portnoy who celebrated his last year as beloved conductor of the USC Symphony; a celebration of the McKissick Museum’s 40th anniversary; a breathtaking integration of dance and sculpture by Professors Tanya Wideman-Davis and Naomi Falk, challenging drama from Theater South Carolina, and inspiring student and faculty art works. All of these served to raise our spirits.

Of course, who can forget art professor Chris Robinson’s spectacular Southern Lights laser installation that spanned across the Congaree River prior to the total eclipse? 

And we’ve had many inspiring guest speakers such as: SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, alumnus Bob McNair, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Academy Award winning director Francis Ford Coppola; Nobel prize winner Dr. Shuji Nakamura, Pulitzer Prize winner David Leonhard; Holocaust survivor and author Eva Schloss and former National Poet Laureate Rita Dove, to name a few. 

We begin this year with a visit, in two days, from United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito who will help us dedicate the new home for our Law School and help usher in its next 150 years. And last Friday we cut the ribbon on our new Center for Health and Well-Being, in the heart of campus. Both buildings are excellent, let me use that word again because excellence breeds excellence. Mediocrity does not belong in places designed to inspire and support our core values and our bold goals.

The entire campus has been reshaped during the last decade and today I am especially pleased to announce something that many USC presidents before me, I’m sure, had hoped to announce…we are committing to a comprehensive renovation and repurposing of the House that McGuire built, the hallowed Carolina Coliseum. It’s been a long time coming, primarily because we needed the space for academic programs while better locations were being prepared. Most notably, our College of Communications and Information, and now, our College of HRSM, either are, or are about to be, in terrific, newly renovated homes of their own. There aren't many opportunities in an institution’s history that a signature building gets to be rethought. One that comes to mind is the The Musee d’Orsay, an 1986 adaptive renovation of a Beaux-Arts style train station built in Paris. It is considered to be one of the most prestigious and visited museums in the world and we saw how a building designed for a very specific purpose was re-envisioned for a completely new and inspiring use.

Closer to home would be the state-of-the art SC State Museum where renovation transpired inside the shell of the world’s first totally electric textile mill—originating in 1894. While we’re not ready to announce the specifics for our own adaptive renovations yet, the ground rules are in place. The renovation must serve the central mission of the university…teaching and learning, so it will provide necessary spaces that have become scarcer and tighter over the years, spaces like the Russell House.

 And finally, the renovation must benefit from the breathtaking architecture of the DMSB next door, and account for the vacant university-owned parking area on the South side of the Coliseum to create an academic podium stretching from Green to Blossom and from Assembly to Park Street. This will take a long time to plan, design and execute but, I assure you, when we’re finished, we will have, once again, improved the landscape of the university, our city and even our state at one of the most important urban gateways in South Carolina.

I’m also terribly excited about our Campus Village public private partnership. We worked hard and honorably with our diverse neighbors and the city to design a village where university and community not only could co-exist, but could both be better as a result. In addition, shop drawings are in review for the indoor track structure that will be complete in early December. And at each home game you’re going to see great progress on our new Football Ops Center as the foundation, firewall and steel will be erected to the roof!

I’m pleased to see our Director of Athletics, Ray Tanner, here. He strives for excellence and so do our coaches and our fans. We are number one in the state and one of the top universities in the nation with respect to attendance at our athletic events….

  • #1 Nationally in Women’s Basketball
  • #3 Nationally in Women’s Soccer
  • #5 Nationally in Baseball
  • #8 Nationally in Men’s Soccer
  • #11 Nationally in Softball
  • #17 Nationally in Football
  • #21 Nationally in Men’s Basketball

Coach Dawn Staley has said: “[Our fans] unwavering loyalty and support helped prepare us to compete on the biggest national stage and come out as champions.”

Athletics and academic units all had a great year in private fundraising with a total of $133.5 million raised, a healthy 29% increase over the year before. And our endowment has increased by 81% in the last decade. My thanks to Jancy Houck and her team.  

I’m also grateful that so many of our Carolina family have generously given each year to the Family Fund. Very few universities have such robust giving from faculty and staff. I congratulate Wes Hickman and Roger Sawyer who chaired last year’s successful campaign and this week we kick-off the 2017-18 Family Fund so be on the look-out for information from our new co-chairs CFO Leslie Brunelli and Professor Bobby Donaldson. Family giving to family happens when and where there is faith in the future.

This will not be a quiet year, nor do I expect or even hope for quiet years at our university anymore. Societal issues will spill onto our campus. But we will not add to the many shrill and shallow voices. We will listen as much as we talk and we will not shout down the voices of those with whom we disagree. We will not douse their passions but we may dissent peacefully.

Above all, the University of South Carolina will be the place where society can look for civil debate, for enlightening research on the issues of the day, and for seeking some level of compromise when compromise is needed to move our university, state and nation forward. I want to finish by coming back to two main points this afternoon…our institutional values, and the pursuit of excellence.

I read two biographies this summer that drove home these points. One was about Bill Friday, the 30-year president of the U of NC (starting in 1956). He can be credited with driving home the civic purpose of public higher education…the value of a university to more than its students and graduates. He endured scandal, system mergers, student protests, conflict over desegregation, and more…and he led by drawing on his values, including his upbringing and life experiences. He was a study of grace under pressure.

 The other book by David McCullough, The Great Bridge, chronicled the father/son team of John and Washington Roebling, the German immigrants and engineers who designed the magnificent suspension bridge that captured Americas imagination in the late 19th century…the Brooklyn Bridge.

They defied conventional wisdom and prevailing politics with logic and science, and they demanded excellence from themselves and those around them to chart their path and complete their goal. Theirs was not a linear path, nor were they uninterrupted. But excellence was the beacon that guided their progress.

So friends, our university will follow that same beacon of excellence as we move into this new academic year, full of hope and guided by our community values. And we stand ready to be a beacon for our state…a lighthouse to educate our young and future leaders, to be a major engine in economic development and job creation, and to be a safe harbor where society can meet, debate, and advance.

I look forward to this year, as much as any before but I’ll need your steadfastness, your ideas, your advice, and your support.

Forever to Thee.