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2008 State of the University Address

by Gibbs,Neil W last modified Jun 18, 2009 05:20 PM

State of the University Address
September 9, 2008 – 3:30 p.m.
Comstock Hall, School of Music

Thank you Marc and thank you Rudy for your extraordinary leadership. We look forward to working with you and all of student government this year.

And to each of you thank you for joining us for this year’s State of the University address.

The State of the University ceremony allows us to celebrate our past achievements, to reflect on our challenges, and most importantly, to recommit, as a campus community, to achieving the mandate given to us by the people of the commonwealth of Kentucky.

Let’s quickly look back – for it really was a very special year!

Again, we welcomed our best academically prepared freshman class in the history of the University of Louisville, a freshman class richly diverse in race, gender, and geographic origin.

We continue to become a “school of choice” and not merely a “school of convenience.”

Last year we celebrated the many achievements of our students:

  • Our retention and graduation rates were again up;
  • We led the state in the percentage increase in baccalaureate degrees awarded; and
  • Our students achieved national recognition at record levels, the second straight year that seven of our students have won Fulbrights – the most of any school in the state.
We must be creative and we must take risks — calculated risks. Doing the same old, same old would not work. Change must occur — knowing change is not easy.

Last year we moved forward with “Ideas to Action.”  We welcomed Patty Payette back home to lead this program that ties the rich classroom experience of our students to the application of this knowledge in our community.

Under the leadership of Tom Jackson, we did as we said we would do in last year’s State of the University address – we strengthened our International Service Learning program in Belize – improving on an already outstanding program.

Last year, we celebrated a record number of Ph.D. graduates – an important public policy goal of our state and an indication of the growing reputation of our academic programs.

Last year our research programs continued strong.  More importantly, we continued to prove that the value of our research is much more than the numbers.  For it is our research that continues to make a difference in the classroom experience of our students as well as the quality of life of those in our community, our state, and beyond. 

You know the successes:

These are just a few of our successes. 

Last year we advanced our commitment to our community with:

  • Our Signature Partnership Initiative;
  • Our Partnership for a Green City;
  • Our co-hosting with the University of Kentucky, Centre College, and Berea College the first in a series of “Energizing Kentucky” conferences to focus on energy production, energy consumption and energy conservation – all very important public policy issues;
  • Last year we increased outreach across the state with our accredited stroke program and our “robots,” the most sophisticated application of telemedicine;
  • Last year we hosted the Autism Awareness Rally, and we created the University of Louisville Autism Center to ensure the best in clinical care, research, and education and training programs to benefit our precious children;
  • Last year our School of Dentistry received acclaim for providing care from Pikeville, in East Kentucky, to Portland in downtown Louisville;
  • Our School of Nursing expanded its educational outreach to our friends in Owensboro;
  • We broke ground on the Scholar House, a partnership with Project Women and the Kentucky Housing Corp.  We thank Gladys and Sonny Bass for their lead gift for this important community initiative.  And with the opening of the Scholar House a child development center, a longtime priority of our Commission on the Status of Women and our campus, is now finally a reality;
  • And last year the Louisville Medical Center Development Corporation continued its evolution from being an organization focused on wayfinding to an organization that is leading economic development in Louisville and Kentucky through our NUcLeus initiative, Metacyte and the approval of our Tax Increment Financing District.

We showed our commitment to community, state and beyond with a licensing agreement with NeoStem and the 31 other companies that take knowledge we create in our laboratories “from the mind to the marketplace.”

Last year was a year of renewed commitment to accountability and being good stewards to all of our stakeholders.  And remember that accountability at the University of Louisville means more than just financial accountability; it's academic accountability and environmental accountability. 

We created a Sustainability Council to coordinate our many environmental efforts and initiatives. Under the leadership of Dr. Barbara Burns, this Council will also develop the blueprint for us as we move forward in the future. 

And after 40 years of talk, last year we finally moved ahead with the development of the Shelby Campus.  A new road system critical to this development will be open December 1, and our biosafety lab will be ready in 2009.

Last year we celebrated record fundraising.  Yes, a record fundraising year – $86.6 million – the largest total raised in a single year in the history of the University of Louisville.

Last year we continued to prove that through partnerships 1+1 can equal 3.  Our partnership with the Edwards Companies will provide 850 new beds on campus for next fall.  You know the data.  Students who engage in campus life have higher retention and higher graduation rates.   So building a strong residential campus continues to be a priority of our institution because of the impact it has on our academic success.

To enhance our students’ campus experience – and in response to student and parent concerns that we had heard – we contracted with a new food services provider and $11 million in upgrades to our dining services are underway.

To further enhance that campus experience, Dr. Priscilla Hancock and her staff improved and expanded services to students, including launching an IT store; an initiative funded by selling excess bandwidth that we had.  What a great example of using an underperforming asset to fund a strategic priority.

Last year our clinical programs continued to grow to provide increased support for our education and research missions with the opening of our Outpatient Center for faculty physicians downtown; the continued success of our Passport program (and, I might mention, the only such Medicaid Managed Care program in the commonwealth of Kentucky). And then, also, our clinical programs were strengthened with the successful negotiation of a single-point contract for Humana with our physicians.

And, after 30 years, we finally created a community-based UofL Hospital Board of Directors that will allow us to achieve what is important to this community – a strong academic-based Medical Center model right here in Louisville, Kentucky.

Last year was a year of progress.

Last year was also a year of special recognition for the University of Louisville.  While we don’t do what we do for recognition, we do take pride that John Trent was recognized as one of ten Innovators of the Year by the Apple Corporation for his work with Dataseam, a project that provides computers for Kentucky high schools while helping us more quickly develop new cancer drugs.

What could have been more special last June than to see All-American golfer, Derek Fathauer, playing on the final Sunday of the US Open at Torrey Pines, and then watching three of our coaches at the Olympics and three of our student athletes competing at the Olympics?

Our university and community were proud to watch the TV program, “Extreme Home Makeover.”   For what wonderful recognition for Patrick Henry Hughes, his family, and the University of Louisville Marching Band.

Dr. Laman Gray was recognized last year as the recipient of the Medallion for Intellectual Achievement, given by the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Dr. Shirley Willihnganz received many recognitions – including the 2007 Pacesetter Award, an honor given by the National Academic Advising Association to the one person, to the one person nationally, who exemplifies a commitment to advising and who is a true advocate for students and advisors.

And I know well that when the President receives recognition, it is only because of you, the entire university – so it is you that deserves the praise for selection as Business Person of the Year.

Yes, 2007 and 2008 was another special year in the life of the University of Louisville.

But last year was more, for together we achieved a special milestone.  2008 marked the end of the Challenge for Excellence. 

You know the story – an important story in the history of this institution and the history of our state.  For the University of Louisville and our Board of Trustees stood tall in support of the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997 from Day One and UofL’s support for Reform has never wavered.  

Our Trustees were the first, and for a long time the only Board, to put in place a detailed plan with goals, strategies, tactics, and metrics of measurement of performance outlining what the University of Louisville would do to achieve the mandate given to it in House Bill 1. 

This plan, the Challenge for Excellence, was the road map that guided this university for the last decade. 

The marching order given to me by the Board when I was asked to serve as President was to stay the course – implement the Challenge for Excellence.  Our Board knew then that it would not be easy – the fiscal challenges would be overwhelming, but we had to move forward. We had to move forward full speed ahead.

We stayed the course, we moved ahead, we dared to be great – we are great!

And while we cheer this progress, we know the job is not finished; far from it; we have more to do.

So 2008 also became the year in which our Board of Trustees adopted the new road map that will take us to the “finish line” as given to us in the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act.

So let us as a campus community during this coming year take up the challenge of defining the values that are the University of Louisville.

The 2020 Plan sets our vision, our goals, our strategies, our tactics; our metrics for performance that will ensure we finish the job.

So today we commit to the 2020 Plan by reaffirming that we will achieve the “Double the Numbers” goal that was set for us by the Council on Postsecondary Education and we will graduate 3,100 undergraduates per year by 2020.

Today we commit to awarding 350 doctoral degrees per year by 2020.

Today we recommit to transforming campus life with 32% of our students living on campus by 2020.

Today we commit to doubling the number of nationally recognized programs at the University of Louisville to 60 by 2020.

Today we commit to recruiting 180 nationally recognized research scholars and to increasing our total research funding to $400 million by 2020.

Today we recommit to expanding our programming in downtown Louisville and to other Kentucky communities through the City Solutions Institute that we created with our great partner, the Kentucky League of Cities.

Today we recommit to the 13 goals we have set for our Signature Partnership Initiative – for the achievement of these 13 goals will make a real difference in the economic, educational, medical and social well being of the individuals that live in that part of our community.

Today we recommit to increasing our endowment, we recommit to spurring economic development through MetaCyte, NUcLeus, the Haymarket project, the Health Sciences Campus master plan, and the Shelby Campus. 

And today we make two very special recommitments.

First, we recommit to pursuing with increased determination Phi Beta Kappa status and NCI designation.

For Phi Beta Kappa reflects the increased emphasis we have on undergraduate teaching and learning.  It reflects the ideals of “Ideas to Action.”

Phi Beta Kappa status reaffirms that, while research and service are vital to our mission, we continue to offer our students the very best undergraduate educational experience.

NCI designation reaffirms our commitment to community through excellence in cancer prevention programs, groundbreaking cancer research, and the best in cancer care.

Secondly, we make another very important recommitment to be the leader, the leader, in preparing students to live and work in our global society, with emphasis on cultural diversity, international study, and social justice.

2008 was also special to the University of Louisville as we developed a new message, a new branding campaign, to tell the University of Louisville story.  Based on community and campus feedback, it became obvious that “It’s Happening Here” captures what we are about at the University of Louisville – educational advances, happening here; medical advances, happening here; community successes – all happening at the University of Louisville.

2008 will also be remembered as the year we began rebuilding the infrastructure we need to undertake the largest capital campaign in the history of the University of Louisville.  For fundraising is more critical than ever for us to achieve the margin of excellence that is expected of us by our community and state.

2008 – was a very special year!

But we cannot forget that last year was also a difficult year.

The announcement on December 21, 2007, that the University of Louisville would be cut $5 million in the current year.

The announcement on January 4th, just a couple of weeks later, that we needed to prepare for a worst case cut of 15%, or $25 million for our 2009 and our 2010 budgets.

But we worked hard, and we do, let me be clear, we do appreciate the efforts of our General Assembly to minimize these cuts in a most difficult fiscal environment. 

We applaud the legislature for directing an additional $7.5 million to Bucks for Brains for translational research at the University of Louisville.  And we thank the Governor and the General Assembly for finally giving us authorization for much needed capital construction projects.

Still, 2008 was a year in which we had to face the reality of an “ugly budget,” with $10 million less in state funds than we have had in the past, $22 million less than what the Council on Postsecondary Education recommended for us.

2008 was a year in which our commitment to building a strong health care and life science cluster in our community was challenged by flat funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In 2008, we faced the challenge of – were we doing everything we could to assist our minority students?  We answered this question honestly by saying we could do better.

And so, with the support of our students, we dismantled the Multicultural Academic Enrichment Program, a center that had been successful but which had seen its programs implemented in other units across campus.

We created a Cultural Center that will more directly address the needs of our African American students, as well as other minority students on campus.

Late last year, we faced another challenge – the allegations of wrongdoing by an individual within the College of Education and Human Development.  We immediately brought this to the attention of the legal authorities and their investigation continues.

Further, we met this problem head on, calling for the internal auditor at the University of Louisville to review the college’s financial records. We called for an external independent review of our grants policies, and we asked the Faculty Senate to study our faculty grievance procedures  And we will support, fully support, the recommendations and leadership of the Faculty and Staff senates in their recommendations for us to review our unit governance issues on campus.  The changes that come from these reports will be implemented to protect our university, our faculty and our staff going forward.

Let me say our College of Education and Human Development is strong, doing work vital to our community and state due to the talent and hard work of our faculty, staff, and students.

And under the leadership of Interim Dean Blake Haselton the college will continue to grow and address the educational needs of our community and state.

2008 was a challenging year for us in the academy in the commonwealth as our relationship with the Council on Postsecondary Education was strained. 

We spoke out.

Despite a strong endorsement of the State Chamber of Commerce that higher education in Kentucky has made progress in achieving the goals of the Reform over the last 10 years, our Council struggled to bring us together to advance higher education in Kentucky.

I am convinced, however, that today our CPE, under the interim leadership of President Richard Crofts, now is ready to take up this challenge going forward.  And we at the university say clearly to the CPE, “We are ready to work with you to finish the job set for higher education for 2020.”

We had challenges. 

But we are an institution with courage, an institution of passion, an institution with insight, an institution of imagination, an institution with will, an institution of promise, and an institution with the people to make things happen.  

So we were not, nor will we ever be, deterred in our efforts to advance our university, our community and our state.

And so it is that we recommit to the 2020 Plan.  A recommitment that says no matter how great the challenges, the University of Louisville will move forward as a “premier metropolitan research university,” for we know that Kentucky cannot succeed if Louisville does not succeed, and Louisville cannot succeed if the University of Louisville does not lead the way.

Again, it is fair – very fair – to ask, “How do we continue to move forward given our budget constraints?” 

First, our financial model will continue to guide us.  It is a model that includes: 

  1. Ongoing reviews of all activities and expenditures, to make sure that each dollar entrusted to us is spent to advance our academic mission;
  2. Analyzing our balance sheet, and turning non-performing and under-performing assets into fully performing assets; 
  3. Building strong, vibrant clinical programs that financially support our education and research mission;
  4. Developing partnerships that allow the private sector to use their capital to build residence halls, dining facilities, and to assist us in moving forward with critical initiatives;
  5. Achieving new fundraising records year after year after year;
  6. Continuing to commercialize our research and creativity, to generate royalties, license income, and return on equity from our start-up businesses; and
  7. Continuing to work creatively to find new sources of funding as we did with our Tax Increment Financing district.

This is our financial model.  It has been working.  It will help us move forward.

But to be successful we need more than a finance model. 

So let us remember another gathering of our institution five years ago today – September 9, 2003, Inauguration Day.  For then, as now, we had an ambitious agenda and limited state support.

At that time we outlined a plan for how we would move forward as we faced these challenges:

We said we would remember, respect, and learn from our past – both our successes and failures and that is very important to us at this time;

We said we would renew our commitment to the state’s vision that sets for us a course of excellence and preeminence;

Drawing from Dr. Martin Luther King, we said we must dream of a better tomorrow; 

But we we went on to say it is not enough for us to dream.  For it has been written that, “behind the dream, the deed; behind the deed, the doer.”  And we have been, and still are today, called to be the “doers” of the deeds to allow us to achieve our dreams;

We said we must fully engage all of those who have a stake in our future.  Not just our campus community – but all with a stake in our future.  This summer, some of us attended the BIO Conference in San Diego and got a first-hand look at a community that succeeded, thrived because of the engagement of their entire community.  So today we again reach out to all in our community and our state to say – be part of this great transformational journey that we as an institution are taking;

We said then we must not be outworked.  We must be creative and we must take risks – calculated risks.  Doing the same old, same old will not work.  Change must occur – and we know that change is difficult;

We said we must remain true to our mission and our priorities, reminding ourselves that in doing so, there will be times when we have to say, “No.”  Being focused continues to be more important than ever.

and today, as on September 9, 2003, I speak from the heart, for we must recommit ourselves to the values that will never fail us.

I laid out the values that I hold dear:

  • Openness/honesty/transparency;
  • Respect for all individuals regardless of length of tenure, regardless of race, educational background, regardless of task assigned, regardless of sexual orientation; Everyone at the University of Louiville is important and we must never forget that.
  • An unrelenting commitment to quality and excellence in all we do; and
  • I value very much humility.

So let us as a campus community during this coming year take up the challenge of defining the values that are the University of Louisville.

Finally, we said on September 9, 2003, what is true today, September 9, 2008:  We must commit ourselves to moving forward as One University, one community, one common set of objectives.  Today let us recommit to being One. 

So, there you have it:

  • A great institution with a distinguished history and tradition;
  • An institution rightly celebrating the successes of the past year and the past decade;
  • An institution facing challenges, but an institution that won’t back down from those challenges;
  • An institution coming together today, September 9, 2008, to say loud and clear to our community, to our state, “We will finish the job that you have given to us.”

I end this year’s State of the University as in prior years – on a personal note. 

To you, the faculty, staff and students and friends of the University of Louisville – thank you.  Thank you, not just for what you do for the University of Louisville, but for your friendship and support.  I treasure it.  There will continue to be rough spots. There will continue to be some tough issues, but together we can and will work through whatever faces us.

To you, our Board of Trustees – thank you for your commitment and for coming together in a very special way to advance the agenda of this university, our community and state. 

To those of you in administrative positions, thank you – with a very special thank you to our Provost. 

I’ve told the story many times that when I was interviewed for my position as Chief Financial Officer at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, which was over a decade ago, I was told later after the search process that I wrapped up the job in my first campus interview when I was asked, “What do you see as your role as the Chief Financial Officer?”  I responded, “To support the Provost, for we are an academic institution and the Provost is our chief academic officer.”

Despite differences in time and position, my task continues to be the achievement of our academic mission by supporting the provost. And so I ask that you join me in thanking our academic leader, Dr. Shirley Willihnganz.   Sometimes I deviate from my script. So this wasn't in my original script because they would have made me take it out. Next year I think it would be appropriate for our State of the University address to be given by the provost.

And lastly, to those who I never could possibly thank enough, my family, Jane, Jenny, and Jacque for you have sacrificed much and often paid a steep price, but you have done so out of a deep affection for and commitment to this University. 

I've now finished six years in this position – the longest I have held any job.  For the next four years, I will continue to do my best, I will continue to be me, and I will continue to redefine my role to add value to your efforts going forward. Thank you.


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