Good morning everyone! I’d like to thank U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, U.S. Senator Rob Portman, Interim Chancellor Stephanie Davidson and member of the Ohio Board of Regents Tim Burke, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, the many state and local elected officials, visiting delegates, our Trustees, administration, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and students of the University of Cincinnati as well as military veterans and ROTC students for being here today. Heartfelt thanks also to those of you viewing today’s events from afar via streaming video. I am especially grateful to my wife Wendy and daughters, Juliana and Sarah, for their love and understanding and to my friends and family for traveling long distances to be with me. Your collective presence today warms my heart.
I also want to take a moment to recognize Mrs. Bea Winkler, widow of Henry Winkler, our much-loved President Emeritus, who passed away at on Dec.26th. We know that Dr. Winkler is watching over us today.
To Chairman C. Francis Barrett and past Chairs Buck Niehoff and Sandy Heimann, thanks for your unflinching support of me over the past three years while I have served as Provost and then President and for being my partner as we guide the university together. Thanks to all of our Board members, our UC Foundation Trustees and our UC Alumni Association Board of Governors for your sage advice, friendship and collaboration. UC would not be what it is today were it not for your service to your Alma Mater.
Our great university was founded in 1819 when Cincinnati College and the Medical College of Ohio were established. It was in that year that Daniel Drake – the renowned physician, educator and scholar - convinced the state legislature to grant charters to these founding colleges that would together constitute one of the nation’s earliest medical schools. In 1835, President William Holmes McGuffey would add a College of Law and the world’s largest observatory at the time to broaden the scope of the institution. Charles McMicken would bequeath his estate to the city in 1858. This would greatly strengthen the institution and this transformative gift is remembered still today with our iconic McMicken Hall and our McMicken College of Arts & Sciences.
The colleges would be amalgamated in 1870 as The University of Cincinnati, becoming one of America’s first and largest municipal universities. Colleges of Allied Health, Applied Science, Art, Business, Education, Engineering, Music, Nursing, Pharmacy, and a Graduate School would later be added as would two regional colleges (UC Blue Ash and Clermont College).
By the time I was born in 1962, the University of Cincinnati was in a state of financial distress. There were insufficient municipal funds to support the growing institution much less make necessary repairs to an aging physical plant. In 1967, UC would become state-affiliated and in 1977, UC became the 12th university within the University System of Ohio.
Today, the University of Cincinnati consists of fourteen colleges and boasts 42,000 students, 16,000 employees including almost 6,000 faculty members, making it one of America’s largest institutions of higher learning. UC has morphed into a research powerhouse with an annual budget of $1.1 billion and over $405 million per year in sponsored research. Facilities are spread across six campuses and our health-care providers deliver patient care in a fully-integrated $1.6 billion health system.
The university has also grown in stature with 11 programs that rank in the top ten in the U.S. and 34 programs in our nation’s top 50. Several programs in music, theater, design, classics, paleontology, criminal justice, emergency medicine, pediatrics and environmental science (to name just a few) are among the very best in the nation. We remain one of the region’s largest employers, and we are an economic engine for the state with an estimated annual impact of approximately $3.5 billion per annum.
On top of this, our College-Conservatory of Music remains the single busiest site for fine arts performances in the state, and our athletic teams compete at the highest levels in NCAA Division 1 sports. Our CCM faculty has included luminaries such as Dorothy Delay and Awadagin Pratt and has graduated multiple winners of Tony’s, Grammy and Emmy’s as well as graduated the opera star Kathleen Battle, the pop star Faith Prince and the Hollywood composer Randy Edelman (composer of Mask, Ghostbusters and Last of Mohicans). It was on UC playing fields that players such as Oscar Robertson, Kenyon Martin, Tony Trabert, Sandy Koufax and Kevin Youkilis cut their teeth.
With such a storied history, UC certainly has much to be proud of just within our campus. But what matters even more to me (and indeed what I think is part of our ethos) is that we as an institution have always been determined to be innovative, have always dared to imagine and have committed to influencing the world well beyond our campus. I submit that it is this ethos that has led to UC having an immense impact around the globe ̶ in how we think, how we teach, how we govern, how we heal, how we build, how we dance, how we sing and how we manage in the real world. And I say to you today that as this university’s president I will not allow us to ever become simply an ivory tower on this hill in Clifton, nor on our regional campuses. I will ensure that we are forever connected with the city, state, nation and the world; and through those connections remain a transformative force in society.
Some may say that something as ephemeral as ‘ethos’, something as ambiguous as imagination or innovative spirit and real-world connectivity cannot possibly lie at the heart of an institution. But I say that these core values are everything. The focus of an institution on core values such as imagination and a commitment to real-world problems is not dissimilar to the galvanizing force of a flag for a nation.
Who can forget the War of 1812 when a vast armada of British warships was working their way up the Chesapeake Bay as part of Britain’s attempt to conquer America? As they approached the major port and commercial city of Baltimore, it appeared certain that the city would fall as would the new nation.
Who can forget the young Francis Scott Key, who witnessed the entire battle and wrote about the significance of Fort McHenry to the nation? He wrote:
Now think about that flag and its association with our nation’s core principles of freedom and justice for all. For millions of Americans and over several generations, I submit to you that the image of that tattered flag (captured in Francis Scott Key’s verse) and our knowledge that thousands of soldiers died in defense of that flag and our nation, lies at the very heart of what it means to be American.
In a similar vein, guarding imagination and innovative spirit and real-world connections as core values at UC is in my view my most profound and important responsibility.
It was only 7 short years after the War of 1812 that our university was founded. I’ve told you about the fits and starts of our university and how it has grown into a research-extensive university (and by definition one of the top 2.3% of universities in America). Our founder Daniel Drake held as core values in the creation of a nascent medical college a place dedicated to imagination and a connection to real-world medical problems. Along the way, UC has preserved this ethos over nearly 200 years and transformed the lives of our students, but also transformed the city, state, region, nation and indeed the world.
Let me remind you of just a few of the ways UC has transformed the world and how this continues to this very day.
Remember, it was here at the University of Cincinnati that William Howard Taft would receive his law degree in 1880. He would return to UC from 1896 to 1900 to serve as Dean and Professor of Constitutional Law. He would then serve as President of the United States from 1909-1913 and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1921-1930 (the only person to serve as President and Chief Justice).
UC law today is the home of the renowned Ohio Innocence Project, which was founded in 2003. Harnessing the energy and intellect of law students as its driving force, the OIP seeks to identify inmates in Ohio prisons who are actually innocent of the crimes they were convicted of committing. The Ohio Innocence Project to date has helped 13 individuals obtain their long-sought freedom.
Remember, it was here at the University of Cincinnati that Herman Schneider invented co-operative education, intercalating classroom and laboratory education with real-world work experience. The UC Board of Trustees allowed Schneider to "try this cooperative idea of education for one year only, for the failure of which they would not be held responsible." The cooperative education program was launched in 1906, and became a worldwide success with more than 900 universities now adopting what is now known as the “Cincinnati Plan.” The University of Cincinnati revisited the “idea” at its September 2005 board meeting, declaring the 100 year trial period of Cooperative Education officially ended, for the success of which the Board resumed full responsibility.
Today co-op continues to thrive at UC with 6,000 students participating in co-op experiences each year, earning approximately $46 million per annum in their placements. But we also continue to innovate. Under a framework called UC Forward, we have evolved co-op to also include an interdisciplinary approach to education, and extended the experiential component of the curriculum to include work on real-world problems such as the creation of the first health-care facility in the Roche region of Tanzania or the revitalization of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in inner-city Cincinnati.
Remember, it was here at the University of Cincinnati that Albert Sabin developed the oral polio vaccine in the 1950s. Sabin in Cincinnati and Jonas Salk at Pittsburgh developed two variants of the vaccine. Sabin’s live attenuated vaccine was easier to administer and its immune protection lasted longer than Salk’s “killed” vaccine. There was also a reduced possibility of transmission of the polio virus to others. In 1960, two years prior to my birth, 180,000 school children would be vaccinated in Cincinnati and 100 million people vaccinated around the world. He would win the American Nobel – the Lasker Award as well as the National Medal of Science and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In more recent years, UC would continue to shine as a beacon in the world of medical science. Until December of last year, UC would be home to another Lasker Award winner Elwood Jensen, our Distinguished University Professor and Wile Chair of Cancer Research. Jensen discovered the estrogen receptor and a subsequent superfamily of nuclear hormone receptors. His work would show how the receptors participate in human development and would form the basis of several therapeutic approaches for the treatment of breast cancer. And even today, Joe Broderick, our Albert Barnes Voorheis Chair of Neurology, has performed ground-breaking research on stroke that has literally changed how we treat and care for patients with stroke. It was Joe Broderick who led clinical research and patient trials demonstrating the effectiveness of the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, to treat acute ischemic stroke.
Remember, it was here at the University of Cincinnati that Neil Armstrong chose to join our faculty as Professor of Aerospace Engineering following his retirement from NASA and his famous first step on the moon on the Apollo 11 mission. Although he received numerous invitations to teach at colleges around the globe, Neil chose UC because he felt the ethos of the institution matched his own. He wanted to join an outstanding college of engineering that had transformed the field but was attracted to the “understated” excellence of UC. While at UC, he placed students at the center and taught students general concepts of aerodynamics in now legendary paper airplane contests. Let’s face it; this is yet another example of marrying theory and real-world experimentation. But Armstrong was also committed to thinking outside the box and was a key member of a UC think-tank called HARP (Heimlich, Armstrong, Rieveschl and Patrick) where four of UC’s and Cincinnati’s finest thinkers converged on UC’s campus to dare to imagine of transformative concepts and the cutting edge of knowledge. We are lucky to have in our collections some of HARP’s actual experiments, such as a prototype artificial hip.
And today, this pioneering spirit continues with our formidable aerospace group within the College of Engineering and Applied Science and our exciting collaboration in this area with GE Aviation via our newly-launched University of Cincinnati Research Institute (UCRI). Faculty members such as Jason Heikenfeld and Andrew Steckl have moved UC to the very forefront of engineering research in areas such as microfluidics and nanoelectronics, where we are world leaders in these transformative technologies.
Remember, it was here at the University of Cincinnati that Nancy Zimpher, one of my predecessors as UC President, collaborated with Father Graham of Xavier and Jim Votruba of NKU to launch the Strive partnership aimed at improving the entire educational experience (from cradle to career) for students in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. This partnership between our universities, companies and school systems is now considered a national model for public/private partnerships focused on enhancing K-16 education and ultimately in work force development. Multiple municipalities across the nation come to us to learn how to mirror our approach in their communities.
Today, we continue to play a leading role in this effort, participating in new initiatives such as the Read On campaign (where we are making a push to get all children in this area reading at grade level by the end of third grade) and in developing a mentorship program for area students involving both higher education and corporate leaders.
These are just a few of the numerous examples that show that UC today continues our tradition of scholarship and teaching with a real-world impact.
So looking into the crystal ball and into the future, what role will UC play in our nation's future? Well, that depends upon all of us to protect those core values of imagination, innovation and real world connectivity that lie at the core…if I may…lie at the very soul of UC. It depends upon our believing in our individual abilities to contribute to the betterment of our planet and to realize that much is expected from those of us to whom much has been given. It depends upon how as teachers we can kindle passion in our students and as scholars to push the boundaries of knowledge.
Earlier, I mentioned the words written by Francis Scott Key …words that became the national anthem of the United States. Another iconic verse that grounds our American ideals is the Pledge of Allegiance….a pledge that most Americans learn by the time they enter kindergarten:
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
As I look to our university’s future, I want to make my own pledge to UC. I pledge to ensure that we remain an institution focused on transforming lives, in creating new knowledge, in increasingly being a global change agent tackling the world's grand challenges….To serve as catalyst for innovation and to cultivate a pioneering spirit within this great university
Finally, I promise to always remember that as one of the nation’s largest and most research-intensive universities, we will never lose sight of our responsibility to America.
You have honored me greatly by choosing me to lead the University of Cincinnati.
As your 28th president, I pledge to wholeheartedly and passionately serve UC. I pledge to you all that I will give my all to ensure that we remain true to UC’s distinguished history and to our core values.