Robert F. Cioffi
Board of Trustees, Chair's Report
May 20, 2011
Good morning, everyone. This is the start of what is a busy, exciting, perhaps exhausting weekend where we combine the hard work of examining and addressing the University’s many opportunities and challenges with the exuberance and celebration of Commencement and all of its associated activities and events. I always look forward to this weekend with great anticipation, and admittedly, at its conclusion I do also look forward to getting in my car and heading home…
I have been thinking about this weekend, colored by Dan Fogel’s announcement some two months ago of his plans to step down a little over a year from now. I began musing about the past, the present, and the future. In thinking about the past, one cannot avoid recalling the precarious condition of this institution at the turn of the 20th century, and contrast it with the strong position we occupy today. On virtually every front we are in vastly better shape, from academic quality, to enrollment, to facilities, to strategic direction, to faculty compensation, to the reputation of UVM in the state, the nation, and the world. While we will have other opportunities to recognize this progress in the future, I want to note here that Dan Fogel is to be credited for his significant leadership role in moving us to where we are today. Thank you, Dan, for all you have done, and all you will do before stepping down from this relentlessly demanding job.
And with respect to the future, and our new President, I believe we are well positioned to attract an outstanding pool of candidates due to the hard work not only by Dan but by everyone here today. During the past month, we have named a search committee that has been charged with finding Dan’s successor, the 24th President of the University of Vermont. Having had two meetings of that committee and the chance to interact individually with many members, I am confident that this very talented team is more than up to the task. We are now in the process of gathering perspectives on the next President and UVM’s opportunities and challenges from various groups and from the entire UVM community and beyond. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to provide thoughts, ideas, and feedback through the Presidential Search website which may be found off of the Trustee home page.
I know that in his remarks Dan will do his usual excellent job of chronicling the events, accomplishments, and milestones of the year and I do not want to be repetitive. But I do want to mention a few items of importance, that relate to both the present and the future. We have made significant progress on a number of fronts – but the work is not done and must continue. The Board will hear about advancement with the General Education proposal. The first stakes are firmly in the ground with the Transdisciplinary Research Initiative. Workable approaches for increased internationalization are forming. The footings are in place for the new UVM Foundation. Difficult choices with respect to the budget are being made. We are wrestling with ongoing facilities needs as well. This is all good. But we must do more, and we must keep going – to improve, refine, and in some cases retool and rethink to strengthen and solidify our position as an institution – especially in terms of attracting, retaining, and successfully graduating students who will live meaningful lives and contribute to society. Also looking toward the future, we have once again attracted an incredible group of students who will join us in September as the members of the UVM Class of 2015. By all measures including academic achievement and diversity, this is an incredibly strong group of students who will undoubtedly make an indelible mark on our institution. I would like to personally thank Chris Lucier and his staff for all of their work in making this happen.
And speaking of students, let’s look at the Class of 2011 for a moment through the lens of past, present and future. I think about our graduating class who came to us just a few years ago with hopes, fears, and aspirations as they joined our community. I hope that in the past we have given them an extraordinary experience that has exceeded their expectations. In the present, I hope they will celebrate their accomplishments at their University, and savor every moment with their families and friends. And in the future, we have every confidence that they will find their way to careers and lives of great value and success while always remembering that they are graduates of this great University.
In addition to recognizing our students this weekend, we have an extraordinary slate of Honorary Degree candidates whom I would like to mention.
Billie Jean King, Commencement Speaker. In this era where, sadly, vacuous celebrity seems to be so highly regarded, Billie Jean King is the real deal. A person of substance, passion, and compassion, who has been a pioneer and standard bearer for issues of social justice, equality, and environmental stewardship. We look forward to hearing her remarks on Sunday.
Letitia Biddle (UVM Class of 1983) has had an unwavering, lifelong commitment to improving education and providing opportunities for children. Her laser-like focus on children is especially powerful in the direction of under-served, at-risk, and multicultural populations, finding ways to open doors for those who would otherwise find them closed.
Major General Michael Dubie (UVM Class of 1982) knows the meaning of service to his community and to his country. A highly decorated officer, Michael Dubie has met every challenge with hard work, enthusiasm, and care for those under his leadership, and his deep concern for the families of those serving our country is legendary. As the son of a retired Army officer, I am personally excited to honor Major General Dubie in this way.
Many of you know Bruce Lisman, former Chair of this Board, and member of the UVM Class of 1969. Bruce has given of himself so generously to his University both in terms of volunteer leadership and personal resources. He provided decisive, steady leadership as UVM Board Chair during some difficult times, laying the groundwork for the many successes we have enjoyed since. And his investment in students who might otherwise not be able to attend UVM has provided opportunities for scores of deserving young people. As a mentor and role model to me personally, I look forward to joining in honoring Bruce.
Keith Miser, former UVM Dean of Students, has been a mentor, teacher, friend, and inspiration to countless college students here and at the other institutions he has worked at since leaving UVM. You can count me among those who greatly benefitted from his advice and support as a college student, as well as enjoying the warm hospitality (and food) that he and Ann always provided in their home. Keith is also a distinguished, visible national leader in higher education, but has never lost his passion for connecting directly with students and helping them cope successfully with the challenges in their lives.
Simon Pearce is a glassblower, master craftsman, and business leader extraordinaire. The Vermont company that bears his name is world-renowned for blending clear glass and graceful forms with practical designs intended for daily use. Born in Ireland, he and his family represent the very best of Vermont values, optimism, and community spirit.
Marion Brown Thorpe, UVM Class of 1938, was greatly influenced, both as a teacher and a friend, by UVM’s first woman faculty member, Bertha Terrill. With a degree in home economics education from UVM and a master’s degree from Syracuse University, she taught au UVM for 33 years. A revered faculty member, generations of UVM students looked to Marion Brown Thorpe for mentorship, friendship, and academic inspiration.
Thomas J. Sullivan, M.D. UVM Class of 1962 and UVM College of Medicine Class of 1966. Sadly, Dr. Sullivan passed away in December 2010 after he was selected to receive this honorary degree. He was a role model for aspiring physicians, and will be remembered for his relentless passion for improving health care and health education. His generous gifts in support of the education he valued so greatly leave a legacy that will impact physicians, medical students, and nursing and health sciences students for generations to come.
In closing, I want to acknowledge that this has been a very productive and successful year in many ways, and I want to thank all of you gathered here, as well as so many members of the UVM community, for your hard work in making it so.
As I said, this is an extraordinary weekend. I hope that my fellow Trustees will choose to balance the hard work we will do today and tomorrow with the joyous celebration of our students and our University at Commencement. Please come!
Thank you. This ends my remarks.
Last modified September 21 2013 06:48 AM