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President John Shumaker
John W. Shumaker

MEASURES OF EXCELLENCE

Many friends of the university are avid supporters of U of L sports, and rightly so. The rich tradition and competitive spirit of Cardinal athletics attracts many people in the community, touching lives far beyond those who have graduated from U of L.

Fans have come to expect excellence from U of L sports, and this year they were given an example of it by the football team. Under the direction of Coach John L. Smith, the Cards finished the regular season 7-4, with the nation's number one offense, and earned a trip to the Motor City Bowl. Although defeated in that game by Marshall University, the Cards gave their fans an exciting season.

It's not difficult to agree on what constitutes athletic excellence. Win-loss records and statistics are tangible and quantitative. U of L football fans can look at the team's 1998-99 statistics and know they have reason to be proud.

But what about excellence in academics? How do we know when we have reason to be proud of the quality of education U of L provides to our students or the significance of the scientific research being conducted on our campuses?

Academic excellence is more difficult to measure than athletic excellence, because there are no win-loss records and team statistics. We measure academic excellence in the individual lives that are touched by it daily-the children whose love of learning is instilled by our teacher education graduates; the lives that are prolonged or saved through our research in cardiovascular disease and transplantation; the impact on the business community of our Labor Management Center; the new companies that develop from our Center for Entrepreneurship; the artistic contributions of our graduates and faculty in music composition; and the families strengthened through the efforts of our graduates and faculty in social work.

All of these programs have been defined as existing strengths in our 10-year Challenge for Excellence academic improvement plan. In the coming years, we will continue to support these programs, while hastening the growth of our developing strengths in other disciplines, such as neurosciences, perception and sensory physiology/psychology, environmental health, applied mathematics, intellectual property law, early childhood development, fine arts and art history, civil engineering, and undergraduate research.

That growth will require us to recruit key new players, just like a sports team. We already have strong "home grown" talent, but we need to bring in established faculty from other universities to help us develop new areas of excellence.

One example is the recent recruitment of Dr. Suzanne Ildstad and her 40-person team of physicians, scientists, and technicians, whose research is at the frontiers of transplant medicine. As part of Kentucky's "Bucks for Brains" initiative, support for the team will come from an endowment of $4 million in state funds and $4 million from the Jewish Hospital Foundation.

Ildstad's recruitment is another step toward becoming a preeminent metropolitan research university. It sends a message that U of L is serious about research, and that we are willing to invest money to back up our rhetoric.

Excellence in athletics and academics requires the same formula: challenging goals, highly-skilled and committed players, strong financial support, teamwork, and perseverance. With those elements in place, U of L is building a rich academic tradition to match that of our athletic teams. We want to touch as many lives through our research and teaching as we do through our efforts on the field of play.

It is a pleasure for me to lead an institution of higher learning with so much talent and promise in both academics and athletics. Go Cards!

John W. Shumaker
President