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Campus News


President’s Fall Speech to the Faculty

October 28, 2003

Thank you so much Marjorie…and, good afternoon everyone.

I am so glad to see so many of you here today during what is always a very busy time in our academic year. In fact, already much has been accomplished.

As you know, the Bylaws Group of the University Senate, chaired by Professor and Senate Chair-Elect Carolyn MacDonald, has been working diligently for almost two years on major revisions to the Faculty Bylaws and a Charter of the University Senate.

Recently, as the Bylaws Group has begun sharing their draft with various campus constituencies, I have had the opportunity to read the proposed revisions and I applaud the Group for its efforts. In conversations with Professor Pryse, I have agreed to call a special meeting of the faculty for Monday, December 8th at 3:00 p.m. to allow for a formal vote on the bylaws revisions. Indeed, Marjorie and I have been trying to figure out what incentive we might offer to get you all back here December 8th for the vote. How about a drawing for a season ticket to Great Danes basketball? Or, a drawing for a larger office? Whatever it takes to “get out the vote” since under the current Bylaws, it will require 493 of us to constitute a quorum.

Seriously, I do hope you all will come, and bring many colleagues with you. Faculty Bylaws embody our deep belief in shared values and the importance of engagement with our institution and with each other.

The Policies of the Board of Trustees specify the President or his or her designee as the Chair of the Faculty and, in the spirit of a proposal in the Bylaws revision, I have delegated that role today to the Chair of the University Senate, Professor Marjorie Pryse – and I want to thank her for presiding at today’s meeting and for all she does, day-after-day, to advance and enrich our university.

Thank you Marjorie.

Let me also thank Professor Ed Mayer for serving as Chair of the Faculty for the last 4 years. His grace and good humor added much to our meetings.

Ed, thank you!

Indeed, there are so many among us to thank. As is the custom at this particular Faculty meeting, I hope you will all join me in thanking our academic leaders – those faculty who have taken on leadership roles in their disciplines. Would all who have recently completed their service as chairs please rise so we can thank you for all you have contributed over the years.

And join me as well in acknowledging – with thanks – all those who are about to commence their service as chairs. Would you also rise?

Thank you all for your wisdom, your caring and for your commitment to the University at Albany.

And, as we welcome our new academic leaders, we also welcome the newest members of our UAlbany family…faculty and staff who define our programs and provide the kind of environment for learning essential to our students as they prepare for fully engaged and informed participation in a global, ever-changing world.

This year we are so pleased to welcome some 30 new faculty - faculty who bring tremendous talents that will assure that this institution will continue to renew itself in service to our students and our many communities.

Would you all please rise to receive our welcome?

I hope everyone here today can join us for a reception and formal introduction of all our new faculty and staff immediately following this meeting in the Fireside Lounge. I know they will greatly appreciate your personal words of welcome.

I also want to congratulate all our faculty colleagues who were promoted and/or tenured over the past year. They represent the finest in the academy…and they do honor to us all.

I am also delighted today to congratulate two of our colleagues who have been promoted by the Board of Trustees to the highest rank within the State University of New York, that of Distinguished Professor…a rank which recognizes exceptional contributions in research and teaching. The contributions of these faculty have helped to define their respective fields.

While, unfortunately, they could not be with us today, please join me in congratulating, in alpha order, Distinguished Professor Marlene Belfort of the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the School of Public Health, and Distinguished Professor Edward Hannan of the Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior also in the School of Public Health.

I also want to take this opportunity to welcome and thank two exceptional academic leaders who will be assuming the role of Dean…who have taken on the tremendous responsibility to lead their faculties in furthering their fields and, in so doing, advancing our institution.
First, again in alpha order, Dr. Peter Bloniarz, Dean of Information Sciences; and Dr. Susan Phillips, Dean of Education.

We will all benefit from your leadership – thank you both.

At times of fiscal challenge, the University at Albany, like all institutions of higher education requires prudent and wise financial stewardship. We are all so fortunate that Kathryn Lowery has accepted the position of Vice President for Finance and Business. She is prudent, she is wise…and she cares deeply about our institution – one she has served in various capacities for some 25 years.

Please join me in congratulating and thanking our own Kathy Lowery.

UAlbany, like all institutions of higher education, inestimably benefits from its volunteer leadership…individuals who, in addition to their “day jobs,” contribute tremendous amounts of time to helping to advance their adopted university. We here at UAlbany are blessed with an active and engaged University Council and University at Albany Foundation. All the members of these organizations care deeply about our welfare and the future of our institution. While they couldn’t be with us today, I would like to formally thank Mr. George M. Philip, Executive Director, NYS Teacher’s Retirement System, who chairs the University Council, and Mr. George R. Hearst, III, Chair of our UAlbany Foundation, and the leader of our $500M Bold.Vision. Campaign.

These individuals, and all the volunteers who work tirelessly for us all, have contributed so much to making UAlbany a very special institution of higher learning.

And I end these “thank yous” with a very special group of people.

As you know, we have, over the last several years, been examining ways to enrich the educational experience here at UAlbany. The 6-Point Plan I presented last year at this time, and which I reported on this past Spring, dealt with teaching excellence. I asked us to review, together, additional ways we could continue to enhance the environment for learning here at UAlbany. The plan for institutional investment and programming I proposed a year ago has led to such major initiatives as our new Innovations in Teaching Program, with eight new faculty projects ongoing to improve our educational programs; a major refurbishing of 27 of our teaching spaces – including 6 lecture centers and all 21 classrooms in the Humanities building; and, the establishment of a new Awards and Recognition Program for the part-time faculty and graduate student teaching assistants who are so critical to our teaching mission.

Join me now in thanking and congratulating the first winners of these new UAlbany Teaching Awards. Jill Hanifan, of the Department of English, and The Honorable Eleanor Stein, of the Department of Women’s Studies are the winners of the 2003 University at Albany President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching by Part-time Faculty.

Congratulations to you both!

Also, please join me in thanking Susan M. Hughes of the Department of Psychology, and Raymie Wayne of the School of Social Welfare who are the recipients of the 2003 University at Albany President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching by Teaching Assistants.

Congratulations to you both.

These four members of our UAlbany family epitomize the best in the art of teaching. They care deeply for their students and, as a result, allow us to address our teaching mission in ways essential to fulfilling our institutional vision.

It is so very fitting that we thank those among us who have given of themselves…given that extra measure of devotion to our beloved University at Albany. This university is defined now and into the future, not by its buildings, not even by its academic programs, but rather by its faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends…those people who have been shaped by – and have helped to shape – this very special place of learning. It is their devotion and talent and passion for learning and discovery which allow this university to endure…indeed, to thrive. This university will continue to move forward; will continue to serve with excellence its students, the citizens of New York, our nation, our entire global community through all the people who have called the University at Albany their University…who, over the years, have given so much to create the legacy of excellence each of us here today is committed to protect, preserve and advance across the fullness of our mission.

Seven years ago this coming November 8th, I was privileged to address the University at Albany family when I was inaugurated as the 16th President of this exceptional institution of higher learning. Even as I committed myself to the values and ideals of this great university, to the intellectual and personal growth of our students, to the essential freedoms so critical to our faculty’s research and scholarship, I also called on the faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of UAlbany to be bold…to be engaged. I said at the time:

“We must be bold as, together, we envision the future of the University at Albany. We must engage with each other, engage with those we serve – our students and the citizens of New York; engage with our national and global colleagues – all toward the end of deep engagement with our University and its future in the context of great societal change. Such engagement has been the tradition of our University; it must continue to be.”

So many of you have been bold – have been deeply engaged – as you have advanced our university’s legacy.

I am extremely proud of what we have achieved – together – over these past seven years…achievements which will help to define our University’s future. We have developed challenging and, often, unique new academic programs to attract, challenge and retain ever-more talented and committed students and help prepare them for their future. We have expanded in a major way our physical environment to support our faculty’s superb programs of research and scholarship and teaching – from state-of-the-art science and technology facilities, to the visual arts to a new library, new residential and recreational facilities, new support services; indeed, an entire new campus. We have commenced the largest private fund-raising campaign – Bold.Vision. – of any campus in the history of public higher education in New York.

And, we have done all these things working together and in partnership with our state, the federal government and innumerable private sector colleagues. We have developed with these many partners new strategies that have allowed us to advance our programs even in times of major fiscal constraint.
And, perhaps most important of all, you, the members of our University at Albany family, are increasingly engaged; and, through that engagement with your colleagues, students and local, state, national and global partners, you will continue to move this institution forward in ways which embrace and advance our shared vision for this exceptional place.

As most of you probably know by now, I was recently a finalist for the University of Florida presidency. Being asked to become a candidate in that search caused me to think deeply about my future…the next phase of my professional life. From the time I heard that I had been nominated, and throughout the process as it evolved, I naturally thought long and hard about where I was in my career and whether I had fulfilled the hopes and dreams I had held for my presidency at the University at Albany.

This academic year marks my twelfth year here at the University at Albany…four as Vice President of Academic Affairs, one year as Interim President and now my 7th year as President. Together, we have done much to preserve and enrich the legacy that is the University at Albany…to move ever closer to the vision I enunciated for the University at Albany when I accepted the responsibility and deep honor of the presidency. Let me repeat it now:

“As at its founding, this University will be known for its ability to anticipate and address creatively the needs of its students and its various communities, and will have the courage to realign itself to newly emerging realities, even as it preserves its basic defining values. It will be committed to the intellectual and ethical growth of its students. It will be an inclusive community which advances the diversity of its faculty, students and staff, and which recognizes and seeks to enhance the rich potential of differences of opinion and culture. It will be an institution committed to excellence and willing to take risks as it constantly renews itself in service to society.”

Each of you – through your exceptional talents, your commitment to and love of this wonderful academic community we all share – has moved us ever closer to the fulfillment of this vision.

With the leadership of the finest group of Vice Presidents and Deans I have ever been privileged to work with, we have broken new ground – literally and figuratively.

Yes, I am deeply proud of what we have all achieved, even as there is clearly much yet to be done to fulfill our shared vision for this exceptional university.

But, the momentum is there, as is the passion you all have for excellence. As I said a moment ago, thanks to you, this university will continue to move forward in new and important ways.

This reality…that our university will, through all of you, continue to grow and to thrive…figured heavily in my thinking over the last several months, as I pondered whether I would seriously consider a new post. The very fact that I decided to actively pursue my nomination as president of the University of Florida, clarified for me that I am clearly ready for a new set of challenges. As we all know, transitions – while often difficult - can be very healthy, for individuals and institutions...and I have decided that the time has come for such a change. It is the right time, personally and institutionally. Having come to this realization after long and often painful introspection, I have submitted my resignation to Chancellor King, to be effective at the end of this academic year.

Throughout the Florida search process, I was deeply touched by the outpouring of support I received here at the University at Albany and throughout the community; however, the reasons for my serious consideration of that opportunity have not gone away.

And, words can not express my feelings when I learned of the Resolution passed by the University Senate yesterday evening voicing their strong support for me and affirming their confidence in my leadership. This Resolution is deeply gratifying and deeply appreciated. My decision to resign has been extraordinarily painful; and this Resolution of support from the University Senate made that decision all the more difficult.

However, since I feel so strongly that this is the right time for such a change, my resignation is, I believe, appropriate and in keeping with my deep respect for and love of this institution and all who are a part of it.

I will be here throughout this academic year to continue working with all of you to fulfill our shared goals of research and teaching excellence, and I will do all I can to assure an orderly and productive transition. I know that each of you will lend your support, wisdom and guidance during this time of change and new opportunity. I know we all care deeply for the University at Albany – what it is now and what it can become. And know that each of you – and all you do day after day to enrich the lives of our students and to better our world through your new insights and discoveries – will be in my heart for the rest of my life.

While I am not yet saying farewell, do know that I will miss you all – each and every member of the University at Albany family – more than I can ever say.

Let me end by paraphrasing the thoughts I expressed at the commencement of my presidency here…

I am privileged to have been the President of the University at Albany at a time of major societal transformation. Throughout its history…to the present…the faculty, staff, students and alumni of our great institution have taken leadership; have helped to shape the future. I can not think of a group of colleagues with whom I would rather have shared such a defining moment for the academy, and for our institution.

You care deeply, you are willing to risk, and you value excellence.

I am privileged and honored to have served as your President.

Thank you!


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