Remarks at press conference

Monday, March 1, 2010

I arrived at UIS eight years and eleven months ago, in April 2001.

That beautiful spring, the first dormitory at UIS was in the final phases of construction. Lincoln Residence Hall would open four months later and become the home of our first class of Capital Scholars, the first freshmen at UIS, just a little more than one hundred of them. It seems strange to recall now that we first admitted freshman honors students to UIS only eight years ago. Before that, UIS had only juniors, seniors and graduate students.

We have done so much to make the transition from an upper-division university to a full-fledged four-year public university. In the fall of 2006, we expanded our freshman class to include more than just honors students, and now we have more than three hundred freshmen every year.

Meanwhile, we continued to welcome transfer students and graduate students in record numbers, and our online programs have garnered national praise. Newcomers to Springfield might take it for granted that we have a four-year public university here in the capital city. A lot of local people still don’t know that we have more than eleven hundred residential students living in our residence halls and apartments. It literally took four decades to get to this place in our history.

What an honor it has been for me, in the past nine years, to build on the great work begun by my predecessor, Dr. Naomi Lynn, and the three presidents before her. I am only the fifth chief executive of this university. It was called Sangamon State University for twenty-five years and has been part of the University of Illinois since 1995.

Today, I announced in a note to the UIS community that I plan to retire from my position as chancellor, and my last day will be October 31, pending the approval of the University Of Illinois Board Of Trustees. I expect that to take place formally next week at its March 10 board meeting.

It will be difficult to leave a job I love, an institution I love, and the city that has become a wonderful home to Carolyn and me.

But every time we travel east to visit our two children and five grandchildren – maybe three times a year – we literally see them growing up too quickly. We want to be more a part of their lives, and our children want us to be there, too.

Why retire? It may sound like a cliché, but I just feel it’s the right time. I’ve heard others say that, and now it’s true for me as well. And I do this knowing I could stay longer.

There are several reasons that I plan to stay until mid-fall. In July we will begin what may well be our most difficult fiscal year in history, ‘though we have been through some pretty tough ones already. I believe it important to be here to get that budget year operating, establish our ability to deal with it and continue to move forward. Also, we will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of our institution this fall, including a mid-October celebration. To be here to get the new year started and then to celebrate the accomplishments of the past decade will be very special for all of us, together, because the development of UIS has never been about me, but about the work of all of us. A highlight of our 40th anniversary celebration will be an exciting kickoff to our final year of the “Brilliant Futures” private fundraising campaign. We must reach our 28 million dollar goal, and I want to do everything I can to get that final push off to a super start.

After I leave, UIS will be in good hands.

President Ikenberry intends to start consultation soon with the campus community and the Board of Trustees to begin a search.

Between now and the time I leave, I will remain fully engaged in the important work now going on at UIS. Now is not the time for me to sit back, reflect, and relax.

But I do want to say just a couple of things about the progress we have made since I arrived.

In my first convocation speech, in August of 2001, I mentioned why President James Stukel and the Board of Trustees asked me to be the chancellor. I observed then that UIS seemed ready to take the next big step in its development. UIS had been part of the U of I system for only six years.

I said then that we were poised to stand on the shoulders of my predecessors and become a new kind of public liberal arts university – the kind of small, public liberal arts university that Illinois did not have.

Well, it does now.

We have a strategic plan with a bold vision – to become one of the top five small public liberal arts universities in the nation. The UIS community has embraced the strategic plan and the vision, and we’re pursuing it vigorously.

In each of the last two years, U.S. News and World Report ranked UIS 4th best in the Midwest among public master's-level institutions. AND, we were unanimously invited last year to become the Illinois member of COPLAC - the esteemed Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. We aspired to be a member, and now this national organization recognizes UIS as Illinois' public liberal arts university.

Overall, we’re making great progress. We have built new buildings, developed the fine arts, added to student life with athletics and scores of student organizations, all to further that very important goal of being one of the top small public universities anywhere.

I am sure that we’ll be doing more reminiscing in greater detail sometime this fall.

Today, all I really want to say is that I am absolutely confident that UIS has a great future. We have great leadership in our colleges. We have recruited and retained outstanding faculty, and we have an increasingly diverse student body that expects and receives highly personalized attention from our faculty and staff.

It is an honor for me to be the chancellor here.

I will forever be grateful to former President James J. Stukel, who persuaded me to come to Springfield and helped envision what we might all do here together.

I am grateful, too, to Presidents B. Joseph White and Stanley O. Ikenberry, both of whom have been totally supportive of UIS, its mission and Carolyn and me. Thinking about our own campus, I could go on and on about the great people here. I especially want to acknowledge Provost Harry Berman; my right hand person, Ed Wojcicki; and the deans; Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Tim Barnett and his predecessor, Chris Miller; and the chair of the Campus Senate, Tih-Fen Ting. With all of us keeping our sights on our bold and exciting vision, I know that I will leave UIS in very capable hands.

I am grateful, also, to the many Springfield leaders with whom I worked – people like Mayors Karen Hasara and Tim Davlin. Also, to our legislators, Representatives Brauer and Poe, and Senators Bomke and Demuzio; and to our congressmen and U.S. senators, all of whom know our campus from first-hand experience and support us in the state capital and in Washington.

Also, a special thank you to Lincoln Land Community College, our great neighbor to the south, and to its president, Dr. Charlotte Warren. There is more cooperation between our two institutions than I could begin to describe.

Besides our neighbors, UIS has many friends in this community and throughout the state of Illinois. They serve on our advisory boards, they are alumni, they come to the auditorium and listen to WUIS, and they support our students and events with their presence, energy and money. I marvel at the community they have created.

Before I take questions, let me give you just a few numbers. An institution like a university has many facets, but we never lose sight of our most important work – educating students. “Students first” is a phrase we use all the time. We want them to be successful, and they are.

Since I arrived, UIS has awarded just sixteen short of 10,000 degrees – a lot of hands shaken at commencement!

  • 5,702 undergraduate degrees
  • 4,266 master’s degrees
  • 16 doctoral degrees

  • A total of 9,984 degrees

I provide those numbers not because I am personally responsible for them. I certainly am not. The credit goes to our faculty, to our dedicated staff, and to the students themselves for creating a wonderful university community.

I commend all of them for their dedication and accomplishments. On their accomplishments are centered my belief that UIS will continue to thrive.

Although I will leave, their work will continue, and the vision lives.

I would be happy to take your questions.