"A Citizen University"
"A Citizen University," UofL magazine, Fall 2003
I was honored and overwhelmed by the events marking my inauguration on Sept. 9 as the University of Louisville’s 17th president. While it was a day that I will never forget, it was a day that was not about an individual but a day to celebrate a great university’s past and its future. And it was a day that could never have been possible without the strong support I have received over the past year from the university’s administration and faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as members of the community and state government.
It also was a time for me to reflect once again on what has made U of L such a great institution. Throughout its 200-year history U of L has deeply impacted the people on campus and throughout the community, state and region. At my inauguration I reaffirmed our commitment to that cause and outlined the tenets that will guide us to this end. I share several of them here:
We will renew our commitment to our fundamental goals: to provide educational excellence; conduct research that impacts the quality of life; focus on diversity; and to build productive partnerships. We also will constantly evaluate our progress and make adjustments as needed. We cannot allow the challenges we face today to become excuses for slowing our progress.
We will think beyond our campus, for there is a direct correlation between advanced education and contributions to the state’s tax base, between academic research and entrepreneurial development, between reduced crime rates and social services costs and an educated populace. We must prove over and over that we benefit everyone in the state, not just those in Shively and St. Matthews, but those in Somerset and Smiths Grove, too.
We will be dreamers and doers. Our deeds should lead to a day when a cancer diagnosis no longer strikes fear, but inspires hope created by new treatments; a day when we can diagnose our children’s learning disabilities early on so that we can better help them lead productive lives; a day when the best heart care in the world can be found right here in Louisville.
We will reconnect with alumni and supporters. Our history is filled with inspiring stories of students who came to U of L and were shaped and influenced to leave here and make a difference in the world. To each of you I plead: Join us. We need you to be successful.
We will re-commit ourselves to partnerships, with leaders of business and industry, health care, the community and our sister educational institutions. To reach optimal efficiency we must show that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
We will work hard, be creative and take risks. But we also are obligated to base our decisions on analysis, information and facts. We must find innovative solutions to the challenges we face and in doing so demonstrate that we are investing in our best efforts to serve our students and state.
We will be driven by values. Nothing is more important. We must value respect for all individuals regardless of position, race or educational background. We must value excellence in all that we do. And we must value humility, focusing not on who gets credit or blame but on our students, the people of Kentucky and the job with which they have entrusted us. These values shall underpin our every action and decision, defining not only who we are as individuals but what we are as an institution.
These simple but vital principles will help steer us in meeting today’s challenges and in positioning ourselves for a time in the near future when this center of academic learning is a "place of even greater consequence." This is the job we have been given. But it also is our job to ensure that those who come after us will look back and say that despite the challenges we faced in 2003, we did not retreat. Rather we hitched up our belts and did our jobs, to make a better Kentucky.
James R. Ramsey