Presidential Inaugural Address
October 5, 2007
Chairperson Graber, members of the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Fingerhut, President Moore, Provost Angle, Professor Sudkamp, family members, students, colleagues, friends and honored guests: Thank you so much for being here today. I am so honored and privileged to have the opportunity to serve and lead this great university, a university with an amazing group of faculty and staff dedicated to transforming lives and the relentless pursuit of excellence in everything they do.
Having grown up in Ohio and then having spent 27 years away, it was a thrill to return to my roots in 2003 as provost of Wright State University. It has been a gift to be back in the state I truly admire and care about, to be back with my parents, to be back home.
The inauguration of a new president is an important symbolic event in the life of a university. It is a time for celebrating achievements, taking stock of who we are, and looking into the future; and I want to do that with you today. But for a moment this is also an opportunity for me to reflect on my own history and appreciation for those who have helped me to get where I am today.
I am so thankful for so many people who have touched my life in so many positive ways. My wife Angelia is the most extraordinary person I have ever known. I marvel every day at her compassion and passion for people. Her love and support is a magical force in my life. Our children, each in their own way, are such a special source of joy, pride and inspiration for me; and I truly cherish the time we can spend together. While Angelia and I hope we have taught them much, we certainly have learned a lot about life from them.
I can't tell you how much it means to have my mom and dad, Lois and Carson, here today. As a first-generation college student, I know how much they sacrificed to open up the world of possibilities for my life; and their love and encouragement continues to sustain me.
There are so many special friends and colleagues from across the decades who I have the highest esteem for, and I am so pleased some are here today. We are all products of our past experiences and the willingness of people to touch our lives. I have been very fortunate that they chose to make a difference in my life.
You see, outside of my family, the two of the most influential people in my life were professors. Professor Maria Sexton, from the College of Wooster, and Professor Clinton Strong, Indiana University—I wish they were here today. W. H. Auden said, "A professor is one who talks in someone else's sleep." These two individuals speak to me often in my dreams. I can still hear Dr. Sexton, my education professor, admonishing me, "David, you are not really teaching unless students are learning." They loved their discipline but their greatest passion was for their students and their success. I know all my colleagues join me in saying what a privilege and honor it is to work in higher education—transforming lives through the power of education, finding new knowledge and applying it through service to real world problems.
Through the years, I have worked with so many terrific professors dedicated to the life of the mind:
Professor Bob Rhodes
Professor Sue Pernice
Professor Bob Levy
Professor Frank Bell
Professor Steve Lamb
What great role models! And what an inspiration it is to see some of them in the audience today.
Great universities are a gift from one generation to the next. Presidents Brage Golding, Bob Kegerris, Paige Mulhollan, Harley Flack and Kim Goldenberg, each left a lasting legacy for our institution. We all stand on their shoulders today. I will do my best to strive to attain the high bar of excellence they have set for our university.
I have been so fortunate to have two individuals who have served as my mentors at different universities and during different phases of my career: Dr. John Moore, ninth president of Indiana State University; and Dr. Kim Goldenberg, fifth president of Wright State University—distinguished, successful presidents with great integrity and compassion. I thank them for their unwavering faith in me.
Someone once said, "I have lived a good life; I wish I had realized it sooner." Thank you for allowing me to take stock personally and to clearly realize why I have lived and am living a very good life.
The regalia we wear today—caps, gowns, and hoods—are emblems of scholarship from the middle ages that serve to remind us that universities are enduring institutions. Many American institutions have histories and traditions more than 100 years old. The most successful are dynamic, ever evolving to meet the demands and opportunities of a changing world.
Forty years ago, almost to the day, WSU was created by and for the people of this region and Ohio; and two years later, 1969, our Lake Campus in Celina was chartered.
So began our quest, our great passion to serve our region, state and beyond. Today, we celebrate 85,000 graduates representing every county in Ohio, virtually every state in the union, and more than 68 countries. We celebrate the 47,000 alumni who daily bring their professional and personal talents to the Miami Valley.
Today, Wright State is a growing, vibrant enterprise, value-driven and distinctly outcome focused.
A collaborative group of people with a can-do attitude, honoring tradition, and with a spirit of innovation to go boldly into the future, determined to create a new paradigm in Higher Education, a new institutional model of American Higher Education to serve Ohio in the 21st century.
So, what has been the impact of our university after 40 years?
Last week SOCHE (Southwestern Ohio Consortium for Higher Education) released an economic impact study indicating that Wright State and our sister institutions have an annual (economic impact) of almost $2 billion dollars in our region. Wright State is leading the way with almost $700 million dollars in annual impact.
While economic impact studies are certainly important, they don't capture the true total impact of an institution of higher education. To that end, last spring we commissioned a thorough and objective study by the Appleseed Company to capture not only the economic, but also social, and cultural, impact of WSU. The final report available on our Web site highlights our impact in Producing Talent, Attracting Talent—Fueling Innovation through research and scholarship and Enhancing the Quality of Life for our citizens.
I want to share briefly some highlights from the study:
- Today, WSU is the largest provider of four-year undergraduate, graduate, and professional education in the region. In the fall of 2006, of the 17,000 enrolled, 70% were Miami Valley residents.
- In 1970, 8% of adults over 25 had baccalaureate degrees or higher in our region, below the state average. In 2006, 24% had baccalaureate degrees or higher, above the state average. WSU has played a very significant role in this growth in educational attainment.
- In the last decade, WSU is the second-fastest growing among Ohio's public universities.
- WSU is the leading producer of talent in education and health care.
- Last year, 720,000 attended arts/culture/entertainment events on our campus.
- In 2006, our students provided more than 400,000 hours of community service.
- Our Research and Sponsored Programs have grown by 140% to $72 million annually. A national study published in the Chronicle of Higher Education among like institutions rank WSU fourth in the nation in the research productivity of our faculty. Last year, WSU was number one in Ohio in regard to the percentage of our research funding being devoted to working with industries in our region.
Taking Stock of Who We Are Today
As we take stock today, it is important to understand all of what has made this possible? Certainly: it is our people. It is always about people. So, who are we? What are we passionate about? What is the heart, soul and spirit of this great university and its people?
Last year our Men's Basketball and Women's Softball teams won championships and advanced to the NCAA tournaments. They had a chance to participate in the regionals with highly respected universities such as the University of Pittsburgh, Northwestern University, Duke University and others. I will never forget the 20,000 people in the basketball arena and the proud Wright State fans chanting "We Are Wright State." I gave a great deal of thought to the power of that statement, and I'm sure the fans of the other teams were unfazed by this upstart, relatively new public institution in Ohio. They certainly didn't appreciate that we are a shining example of a new breed of American Universities, and what I believe is a model university for Ohio in the 21st century.
So, what has driven us and will drive us over the next decade?
Inclusiveness—a commitment to provide opportunity and access to high-quality educational programs and a full university experience to students with a wide range of academic abilities, educational backgrounds, ethnic and cultural heritage, family experiences and economic means, physical and learning differences, mobile and placebound circumstances, career and life expectations.
We honor our roots, "open our arms," to serve a diverse student body. Nothing is more exhilarating than to look out my window every day and see the reality of that commitment in the diversity of our 17,000 students.
Forty percent are first-generation college students
Six of the last seven years, WSU has been the number one and number two choice of valedictorians and salutatorians from our region.
We are a national leader in serving students with disabilities.
We are providing opportunities to students who need a second chance to pursue their dreams.
Because of that commitment to being inclusive, this fall, we welcomed the largest direct-from-high-school, degree-seeking class in the history of our institution—the largest FTE student enrollment in our history.
This is a real tribute to our faculty and staff and their commitment to quality; and that quality attracts students. We understand that for our graduates to compete in a Global Knowledge Economy fueled by Innovation/Entrepreneurship that we must provide a 21st century education that inspires creativity and innovative thinking. And this can only happen when we provide them with a strong foundation in the arts and sciences, as well as in their chosen professions in nursing, medicine, psychology, education, business and engineering. We also understand that since over 80% of Ohioans attend public higher education, the future of our state depends on our ability to produce talented graduates able to compete in a world being transformed by an education revolution.
More than just providing access to a rigorous high-quality education, we are relentless in our pursuit of success—we challenge with vigorous academic expectations and desired learning outcomes. Our faculty and staff have worked hard to provide a support structure (nationally recognized first year experience program) to clear obstacles to achieving their dreams.
Our faculty and staff take very serious our commitment to meeting and exceeding the rigorous professional academic standards of excellence—to intended student learning outcomes and our focus on adding value.
Michael Crow of Arizona State University talks about what some refer to as the gold standard in higher education. These are institutions that define their academic excellence by the academic qualifications of their incoming students—an input-driven model.
On the other hand, we have and will continue to focus on an outcome-determined excellence that respects our commitment to inclusiveness and access for students with different interests, backgrounds and level of preparation. Consistently, our students are excelling on national exit exams in business, nursing, medicine, education—evidence of the value added by a WSU education. But the most important way to determine our quality is the achievements of our graduates, their professional and personal impact:
As a new president, I have the opportunity to hear the stories of many of the 86,000 graduates of our great institution—so many stories of impact and touching the lives of others.
- A graduate providing psychological support to veterans
- A graduate working to save the biodiversity of our forests
- A graduate in medicine serving the uninsured and mentoring disadvantaged high school students
- A graduate nurse managing end-of-life care for Hospice patients
- A graduate in bioinformatics designing and developing software that analyze DNA samples at one of WSU's first start-up companies
- A graduate expert in Buddhism and Japanese culture exploring global questions
- A graduate in business responsible for 10,000 NCR customers world-wide
- A graduate who ensures Dayton's water supply is safe, clean and always available
- A graduate VP for Dell Computers responsible for business world-wide
- A graduate in teaching who is bringing the cycle of role models full circle by serving as one himself.
We have worked very hard and purposefully to offer affordable, family-friendly tuition so that students who want to achieve careers like those I just mentioned will have that opportunity.
Through diligent attention to cost efficiencies, cost savings, cost avoidance and a focus on diversifying our revenue streams, we are the second-lowest tuition of four-year public institutions not receiving a special supplement. This has been purposeful; and we continue to explore collaborations with our sister institutions to find other opportunities to reduce costs and enhance affordability while continuing our relentless pursuit of quality.
Thanks to Governor Strickland, the state legislature, and the leadership of Chancellor Fingerhut—over the next two years we will continue to raise the bar of excellence but not one dollar in undergraduate tuition.
We work very hard to be a caring and responsive community. A community working together to do good work. A community willing to go the second mile in service to each other.
As a leadership team, we are dedicated to creating an environment where people, ideas and social justice can flourish, where we celebrate success and nurture the spirit, where people can be authentic and respected, where the status quo can be challenged as we find better and new ways to achieve our mission and goals.
As leaders of organizations, we must always remember that people spend most of their waking hours serving our organizations. That is why it is almost a sacred duty for us to help create the right environment.
To that end, we were so proud of the results when a team of accreditors from all over the nation visited WSU in 2006. This happens every decade and every aspect (nook and cranny) of an institution is reviewed. We were proud of receiving the highest accreditation possible without any concerns raised, and that is a rare occurrence; but what meant so much to all of us was the team's chair commenting that she had never visited an institution where its people were so committed to the mission with such a collaborative spirit. Perhaps an even greater compliment was some of the visitors asking about potential job openings.
President Harry Truman once said, "Isn't it amazing what you can achieve when you don't care who gets the credit."
That also captures the spirit of partnerships that permeates Dayton and our region.
So, what has driven our achievements?
A commitment to being inclusive.
A commitment to quality and a value-added model.
A commitment to a relentless pursuit of student success.
A commitment to affordability.
A commitment to building community internally and externally.
And, finally, the essence of our namesakes—a commitment to innovation.
The Appleseed study talked about our region's economic past and the opportunities for the future. Like many other communities throughout the Midwest, Dayton and the surrounding Miami Valley region are in the midst of a decade-long transition from an economy built on skills in mass production to one in which the creation and creative application of new knowledge are the cornerstone of regional prosperity.
Accounts of the development of the U.S. economy in the latter half of the 20th century sometimes sound as if innovation, or taking ideas to market, and entrepreneurship first emerged as the driving forces of economic growth sometime after the second World War; but these forces have, in fact, been driving the growth of U.S. economy and Ohio for 200 years. Just as we now think of the regions around Palo Alto, Boston and Austin as being at the leading edge of innovation, other cities and regions have at various times played a similar role.
In fact, if a century ago an economist or an investor had been asking to identify the epicenter of innovation and entrepreneurship in the U.S., that economist or investor would have found it not in what is now Silicon Valley but in and around Dayton:
- John Patterson—National Cash Register Co. revolutionized the way business was done, not just in U.S., but around the world.
- Orville and Wilbur Wright: Our namesake, the first in the world engaged in the manufacture of airplanes as a commercial venture.
- Charles Kettering and Edward Deeds in 1909 founded Dayton Engineering Laboratories (DELCO) to manufacture an electric ignition system for automobiles.
- Kettering was among the founders of General Motors
The pioneering work and creative thinking of these individuals and others like them turned the region into a powerhouse of engineering and sophisticated manufacturing. They set the foundation for an era of prosperity that lasted into the latter part of the 20th century.
Today, our region of Ohio has some significant assets to draw upon as we look to build a future of prosperity in a rapidly expanding Global Knowledge Economy:
- Historic and continuing strengths in the information sector, NCR, Standard Register, Lexis Nexis, Reynolds and Reynolds
- a strategic location within 600 miles of more than half of the U.S. population
- relatively low cost of living
- WPAFB with the AFRL, which not only provides a steady flow of federal funds into the region, but represents as well a major addition to the region's human and intellectual capital
- and perhaps, most importantly, is a cluster of colleges and universities that have in recent years been a growth industry in themselves—none will play a greater role in our region's future than WSU.
A Look to the Future
So, what does the future hold? What will we celebrate a decade from now at our
Ohio is at an historic crossroad. In 2003, the Commission on Higher Education and Economy stated, "In a global economy, average is not competitive. The states, regions and nations that generate new knowledge, innovations and a ready supply of well-educated, highly skilled citizens will be the winners in the knowledge- and innovation-based economy."
After years of state budgets where Ohio's investment in higher education lagged behind other states—the current biennial budget made higher education the priority it must be for our future.
Speaker of the House John Husted said, "We are serious about making higher education a driver of the state's economy."
Through the leadership of Governor Strickland, the legislature and Chancellor Fingerhut, we have taken a big step.
Our challenge will be how we all work together to sustain our journey over the next decade.
We are proud to be working closely with the Chancellor and the Ohio Board of Regents and other institutions to craft a master plan for the University System of Ohio, comprised of the public four-year universities, community colleges, and adult learning centers, with clear goals for Ohio and defined indicators of success and metrics for accountability regard to educational attainment, affordability, quality, and economic development. Each of us on our own can be good, but together, we can be great.
WSU is a shining example of what some have termed the New American University, higher education's roots are uniquely European (German and British) in our models of university. Through the writings in the 1990's of thought leaders like Gene Rice (AAHE) on the new American Scholar, Ernie Boyer, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Higher Education, and, most recently, Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, a new prototype of higher education, uniquely American has emerged—a model of a public university destined to serve and lead in the 21st century.
WSU in uniquely positioned to be that model university for Ohio, to do so we must continue to:
- be inclusive not exclusive in serving a diverse student body. We must continue to build a university that celebrates the richness of our cultural complexity.
- We are a community that honors the creative expressions of our artists, musicians and poets as much as the newest models in supply chain management or new discoveries in tools to aid learning with disabilities.
- Our great strength in the arts and humanities as well as in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) reminds us of the importance of the creative class as knowledge workers.
- Recent research on the creative class indicates that more than 30% of the national workforce is comprised of scientists, engineers, architects, designers, writers, musicians, artists for whom creativity is an essential dimension of their livelihood. Research also indicates a clear correlation between the availability of knowledge workers in a local economy and its success. We must not only produce the knowledge workers but we must lead the way in creating an environment that attracts them from all over the world to our doorstep.
- Be a force, not only a place, as Crowe states, we must become a ubiquitous presence and an active partner in the local neighborhoods, region and statewide—an integral part of our communities in enhancing the quality of life in the arts, education, and health care. A lifelong presence in the lives of our alumni a well as the general citizenry.
- Be globally engaged: just as our cultures and societies are increasingly intertwined, so too are the economics of the world. We must help our students with the Global Knowledge necessary to understand, become increasingly aware of issues of development around the world, so they can be internationally competitive.
- Ohio companies exported $4.8 billion in goods in 2005. As a university we can help in the continued development of these vital business relationships through our growing population of international students and strategic partnerships throughout the world. We must continue to think globally and act locally.
- Continue to grow our research enterprise—an enterprise that fuels innovation and is becoming a powerful engine of transformation for our region and Ohio as we target in collaboration with the Dayton Development Coalition, growth industries and enabling technologies in aerospace research and development, information technology, advanced materials and manufacturing and human sciences and healthcare. We will do this by building on our strengths, centers of excellence, and on our strong relationships with AFRL and local industry.
- A community of scholars erecting new knowledge through basic research, but also guided by a focus on purpose through use-inspired and applied research.
Over the next decade Wright State University will continue its journey to become a model of the New American University, a model university for Ohio.
We will do that by serving the educational needs of a demographically diverse population. We will measure our success not by who we exclude, but by the educational attainment achieved through inclusion.
We will be not only a place but a strong, active and positive force as a good partner to grow prosperity and the quality of life in our region. We will do this through the active engagement of the expertise of our faculty and staff and the tremendous enthusiasm and energy of our students.
We will be aggressive in building global partnerships that prepare our students to excel and will drive economic development for our region and Ohio.
We will aggressively grow our research enterprise through infrastructure investments and most importantly by continuing to attract and retain world-class faculty. Talent will attract talent. Talent will attract dollars. Talent will fuel innovation and talent will attract entrepreneurs.
Governor Strickland in his State-of-the-State Address in January 2007 said, "If we do it right, higher education will feed the economy. Success will bring success. And the beneficiaries will not only be students in the classrooms, but all Ohioans."
This afternoon, I pledge to you that I will do my best to, as the Governor said, "Do it right," so that Wright State can continue making a difference in the lives of its students, the people in the region and all Ohioans.
We have much to be proud of, and much to look forward to. I am honored and humbled to have this opportunity
- to serve a great university;
- draw on the innovation and research of our dedicated faculty;
- tap the energy and expertise of staff;
- marvel at the achievements of our alumni;
- participate in the vision of our community partners;
- and most of all, witness the dreams of our high achieving students come true.
I thank Wright State University, the Board of Trustees, and the WSU community for this opportunity to serve. I will do my very best!
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