University Day 2006

Thank you and welcome to University Day.

Every year we set aside this day to celebrate the best of OSU.

We celebrate great teaching, research, and service.

We celebrate a mission that reaches every corner of Oregon, and throughout the world, to help solve pressing problems and seize opportunities locally and globally.

The problems can seem overwhelming in their complexity, like global climate change and the health of the world’s oceans, the struggle for economic development and social progress and peace around the world.

The opportunities we seize range from creating new methods to produce renewable energy and new varieties of crops that increase Oregon’s and our nation’s export competitiveness and to promote healthy aging and social justice.

Likewise we are busy generating new knowledge and products that prevent or treat diseases, revolutionize segments of the consumer durables sector, or enhance the sustainability of our forests and other natural resources.

These problems and opportunities are put into context by OSU’s writers and artists and teachers, people who challenge us to see and think in new ways, helping lead us out of traps of our own narrow thinking.

OSU is at the forefront on these and many other issues.

Along with our celebration today, we also take this opportunity to recognize the remarkable contributions made by individual faculty members.

You will meet these people momentarily.

I know you will be deeply impressed.

I also hope you will feel renewed and proud of what you and your colleagues achieve here in this wonderful university.

To all of you, I offer congratulations and thanks.

Those of you who were here last year may recall I touched on two subjects, above and beyond my account of faculty achievements.

I made reference to an Oregonian article that explored the extensive overseas travel of some of my presidential colleagues in Oregon.

I told you I would make similar trips when the time was right. More importantly, I reminded you that the world was coming to OSU for the expertise and scholarship we can offer on the really profound questions facing mankind.

Well, the world is still coming to OSU in increasing numbers, but I also made an extensive trip to China, Taiwan, and Thailand this summer. In fact, I returned less than two weeks ago.

My first response, when told I should talk about this journey, was that “what happens in China stays in China.”

In fact, this was a very useful trip. I have said repeatedly that our graduates are the most important contribution we make to the future. This trip offered remarkable reinforcement for this belief:

  • At an alumni event in Taipei I met three presidents and one former president of universities in Taiwan who are graduates of OSU.
  • In Bangkok at Kasetsart University I learned that three of their thirteen presidents have been OSU graduates.
  • The Director General of the Chinese Academy of Sciences studied at OSU.
  • In Taiwan and Bangkok we were welcomed by large and enthusiastic contingents of OSU alumni.

Time and again I was reminded of OSU’s strong influence on education and economic development throughout Asia through our graduates and our faculty.

This trip also confirmed for me that OSU enjoys a fine worldwide reputation. As some of you know, last year an international university analysis ranked OSU as tied with a number of other universities as 101st in the world for research and scholarly performance. We are indeed well known and well respected globally.

I also talked last year about OSU as a university that, by any rational measure of inputs and outputs, overachieves dramatically.

I still believe this fervently.

Unfortunately, by definition over-achievement is not a sustainable strategy.

High performance, driven by mission and a commitment to quality and a good strategic plan and the devotion of our faculty, matched by sufficient resources is an admirable and sustainable goal.

Constant over-achievement is not. No person or institution can keep doing more with less forever.

Therefore, this year we will continue our discussion and diligent work as a university community to align Oregon State University’s programs with its resources.

We will preserve our strengths and protect the things that make us distinctive.

But we have to manage the size and composition of our enrollment and our offerings to bring our activities in line with our means.

This will be a major topic of my talk to the Faculty Senate in October, and I hope you will be able to attend.

This process of alignment is, of course, a very difficult one. It’s been demanding, and it will continue to be a challenge going forward.

What I want to leave you with today, however, is a sense of pride and optimism for the future. I believe we are seeing evidence of broad support for the mission of the university in the response of our alumni and friends to our first university-wide fundraising campaign.

They are demonstrating their confidence in OSU’s performance and strategic plan aspirations every day.

This means they are also proving their confidence in you, and in the men and women who enroll here for what we can offer.

Our friends and supporters believe in our mission. They believe in the extension agents in every Oregon county, the professors in our classrooms, and scholars in every lab, field, forest, and ocean.

Here is the evidence: as of ten days ago, the OSU Foundation has conservatively recorded $235 million in gifts to the quiet phase of our campaign.

We are two million dollars ahead of the year-to-date pace we set last year in just the first two months of the fiscal year.

We booked twenty gifts of a million dollars or more in the last fiscal year.

We are getting a great response from beaver believers. And we are seeing high performance by Mike Goodwin and the staff of the Foundation, and by Jeff Todd and his staff at the Alumni Association. Luanne Lawrence and her staff are quickly establishing a first class capacity to tell the OSU story. All three of these entities are working together closely to make OSU, and the OSU campaign, succeed.

So, here is my University Day message for this year. While real challenges remain, we can be enormously encouraged by the enthusiasm and support of beaver believers everywhere and very proud of your accomplishments that have garnered that support.

Thank you, congratulations, and keep up the great work.