Reflections on my first year

July 7th, 2010

July 1 marked the conclusion of my first year as president of the University of Oregon.  With the passing of this milestone, it is appropriate to take a moment to reflect on some of what this great institution has accomplished.  

Through this past year we have come to know each other, work together, face a number of challenges and share an even greater number of joys.  As I think back on these past twelve months, many images come to mind:  pizza at the president’s house with numerous student groups from SPUR participants (Summer Program for Undergraduate Research) to the Black Student Union; speaking to a Freshman Interest Group class about the meanings of ancient stories; the staff recognition events where we honored and thanked our front-line employees for their dedication and service; and the university’s moving Veteran’s Day ceremony.  

Other highlights include dancing with Kelly Middle School students and our own MeCHA students as part of the Ganas Program; cheering at the Rose Bowl; and the uplifting Honor Song at the investiture ceremony, a gift from Oregon’s first peoples.

It was a year to celebrate the excellence and scholarship of this faculty.  Michael Posner at the White House to receive a National Science Medal – a first for the University of Oregon; Judith Eisen and Carol Silverman, our latest Guggenheim Fellows; and our seven new Fulbrights, just to name a few.  On a per-capita basis, our faculty continue to be among the nation’s most productive in sponsored research.  This fiscal year we are on pace to break our record of $115 million in externally funded grants and contracts.  In fact, we’ve already received $100 million through the third quarter and expect a strong fourth quarter to push us past the record.  This is extraordinary, especially when you consider that we don’t have medical or engineering schools.

Some of the most instructive and enjoyable events of my first year were the unplanned, serendipitous conversations and tours: listening as faculty shared their teaching and research; lunch with incoming students and their families at the EMU during IntroDUCKtion; visiting labs, classrooms, the Vivian Olum Child Development Center, and more pleasant sidewalk chats than I can count.

In addition to these and many other campus opportunities, I have found it fascinating to travel throughout the state, engaging Oregonians on the important issues of higher education.  I have learned a great deal.  I have learned about Oregon itself, its natural beauty, its fascinating history, and its dedicated, hard-working citizens.  I have learned about the excellence and rightful pride we have in the University of Oregon, the commitment of students and staff, and the deeply meaningful generosity of donors and friends.

I have also learned that our state and our university have struggled with the same funding issues for decades.  The consistent response has been that we simply need more revenue.  It is time to try something new – something bold.  That’s what we’ve done with our New Partnership proposal ( 

Last month the provost sent a message about the current budget situation—the continuing cycle of deficient state resources and volatile appropriations.  This is exactly why we must make fundamental changes if we are to preserve our ability to fulfill our public mission.  After all, innovation is the ethos of this place.

Thank you for making my first year an amazing and wonderful experience.  As I said at investiture, this is a great university, and we will become greater still.  I say that with utmost confidence because of what I have learned about you.  I continue to marvel at the richness of intellect and passion of our faculty, at the dedication and caring of our staff, and at the wonder I see in the students who come here to learn.  I am lucky to be in the company of so many who care deeply about the University of Oregon.  I am lucky to be here.

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