Published April 18, 2011
Earlier today, I had the great honor of accepting the appointment by the State University of New York Board of Trustees as the University at Buffalo’s 15th president.
This is a very proud and humbling moment for me personally, and I consider it to be, without a doubt, the highest point in my academic career to date. But I also have every confidence that the best moments are all yet to come as our university community comes together to build on our strong foundation and realize our hopes and aspirations for the future of our great university. I say this because I believe that this moment in time represents much more than the beginning of a new presidential administration. Its significance goes far beyond that of a personal milestone. Today, we as a university community proudly honor our past while celebrating our extraordinary present and vast potential for our collective future.
One hundred and sixty-five years ago, the University of Buffalo was established as a small local medical school,with a mission to serve the citizens of Buffalo. While remaining true to that core mission of public service, a great deal has changed for UB over the decades. Today, UB is recognized as one of our nation’s most internationalized universities, as well as the largest and most comprehensive university in the SUNY system. And as a testament to our university’s national and international stature, the University at Buffalo is a proud member of the prestigious Association of American Universities.
In part, it was this established reputation for excellence that drew my interest in UB seven years ago when I was a candidate for the Provost position. But what ultimately led me to move my family across the country from California to Buffalo was not only UB’s distinguished past, but its promising future. The UB I knew by reputation had an impressive record of excellence, to be sure. But the UB community I experienced first-hand impressed me even more greatly by its determination to build on this foundation—its commitment to continually seek out new paths for pursuing excellence, and new ways of making a positive difference in the communities it serves, from the local to the global.
These are all goals that resonate strongly with me on a personal level as a fourth-generation educator and a proud product of public higher education. I believe wholeheartedly that this is the essence of our mission as a public research university. It is why we do what we do as scholars, researchers, and educators—to change the world for the better. And so it was with great pride and enthusiasm that I decided to join the UB community in these pursuits.
My pride and enthusiasm for UB have only continued to grow over the years. Throughout the last decade, we have built steadily upon our university’s tradition of excellence, and the UB 2020 strategic vision we have pursued together has done much to strengthen this foundation. Our promise is great, and I am confident that UB’s national prominence can, and will, rise—bringing our university within the upper echelon of public research universities. But this goal is not an end in itself. We pursue this level of excellence to fulfill our core mission as a public research university—to make the world a better place.
As a university, we have a responsibility to bring the benefits of our research and education mission to our surrounding communities and to citizens across the globe. Our university significantly contributes to the cultural, social, economic vitality of the Western New York region and our state. And as we fulfill our potential to advance into the upper ranks of the nation’s great research universities, our impact will be even stronger than it is today.
I fully believe we will fulfill this promise. I believe this because I know the impact of our faculty’s transformative research and creative work. Our students are among the most accomplished and intellectually ambitious students in the nation and world. Our outstanding staff have dedicated themselves to advancing this university’s vision of greatness through their own commitment to professional excellence. And our larger communities—from our Western New York neighbors to our alumni, partners, colleagues, and friends around the world—share our great pride in UB and believe strongly in its future.
We all recognize that challenges lie ahead, and it will take the entire UB community and our loyal supporters and dedicated partners working together to overcome these difficulties. But we will overcome these challenges, and UB will be recognized as a leader among leaders.
To our good fortune, we have the great benefit of many supporters throughout the system and throughout our community. I extend my thanks and gratitude to SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Carl Hayden, SUNY Trustees, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, UB Council Chairman Jeremy Jacobs, UB Council Members, and the University at Buffalo search committee for their expressions of confidence in my leadership. We also have the benefit of a very strong foundation on which to build, and I extend my heartfelt appreciation to John Simpson for his mentorship and for his remarkable leadership of our university over the last seven years.
Most importantly, as the core of our academic community, you—our faculty, staff, students, and university supporters—have contributed substantially to strengthening this foundation of excellence. Now, together, we begin the exciting work of building on this foundation as we continue to expand our reach, strengthen our impact, and set our sights even higher for our future.
Thank you sincerely for joining me in this exciting endeavor. And thank you for the extraordinary opportunity to lead our great university – the University at Buffalo.