Board of Trustees Remarks, May 2020

Thursday, May 21, 2020

[via Zoom]

CHANCELLOR KOCH’s WELCOME

Chairman Edwards, members of the Board, President Killeen, colleagues and guests:

As you know, in pre-COVID-19 times, this May BOT meeting was scheduled to be held on your UIS campus and, just a few months ago, I expected to be saying to you today:

Welcome to the University of Illinois at Springfield!

Instead, we’re meeting via Zoom – but I still appreciate the opportunity to offer some brief remarks.

First, I must tell you, if we were meeting today at UIS, you would see a campus- literally – in full bloom!

The pink and white dogwood trees are in glorious flower near the campus pond, the bearded iris are in beautiful bloom and the false indigo (a native to Illinois) are in full glory with yellow, blue, red and purple blossoms.

The koi fish we rescued from the Governor’s mansion a couple of years ago have come out of hibernation to beg for Cheerios and, when I stopped by the new Field Station at Lake Springfield yesterday, it was obvious the Canada goose population has also blossomed this Spring.

If you looked out the windows of the Student Union today you would see a huge crane hovering over the Health Sciences Building! It’s delivering new chillers and air handling units to the roof which will enable us to modernize the heating and cooling systems – a much needed project.

Reconstruction of the UIS Observatory (on top of Brookens Library) is visibly underway and will accommodate the increasing number of visitors who enjoy evening Star Parties with astronomy faculty.

Improvements also are underway at the baseball complex to enhance the game day experience for fans of the Prairie Stars.

I’m pleased to report today that we’ve continued to make substantial progress at UIS this past year despite the challenges of COVID-19:

  • UIS was ranked by U.S. News last Fall as the top regional public university in Illinois.
  • Thanks in part to several new academic programs, we also enrolled the largest freshman class ever this year.
  • Our second UI Distinguished Scholar, Graham Peck, joined the faculty this past August and is already establishing his place as an important leader for the new Center for Lincoln Studies that will open in the coming Fall.
  • We launched “The Sangamon Experience” in January – a new research and exhibition project with a focus on the history of the Sangamon Valley – the result of a $3.8 million gift and an ideal fit for our university.
  • UIS faculty and staff contributions to the Discovery Partners Institute and the Illinois Innovation Network are growing – with Innovate Springfield more than doubling its economic development activities in downtown Springfield during the last 12 months.
  • Our young Division II Athletics program continues to excel in many ways. Taryn Christy, a member of the Cross Country team for example, became the university’s first-in-history All American at the NCAA National Championships last spring and continued to break records throughout this year.

Not to be outdone, UIS Head Cross Country Coach, Tyler Pence, competed in the U.S. Olympic marathon trials in February – quite a role model!

When it comes to Athletics, I’m most proud of our students’ performance in the classroom. This Spring, UIS student-athletes achieved a collective 3.52 department grade point average – a record-setting performance!

  • Finally, this has been another successful fund-raising year. With the leadership of Vice Chancellor for Advancement Jeff Lorber, we’ve raised more than $35.5 million of our $40 million goal for the Reaching Stellar Campaign.

We have created a place where “people want to be involved” and I’m very grateful to all the donors and alums who believe in UIS and its future.

And speaking of the future, in the coming year UIS will celebrate its 50th anniversary and I’m confident that, despite the challenges ahead, the university will continue to achieve its vision to be a pathway of opportunity for students and a vibrant and important part of the University of Illinois System.

There were two factors that convinced me nine years ago to accept the offer to become Chancellor at the University of Illinois Springfield.

  • The first was the opportunity to serve, learn and grow as part of the leadership team of the University of Illinois, one of the finest institutions of higher education in the country.
  • The second was the obvious potential of UIS – a very young institution that clearly could do more and be morefor students and for the public good in Illinois and beyond.

I’ve never regretted my decision.

I sincerely thank all the members of the Board, past and present, who have supported me and supported UIS. Thank you so much!

I also want to thank President Killeen for his support, advice and encouragement – I have greatly appreciated it. 

And I thank all the members of the UI community, especially my talented colleagues at UIS, Dr. Wilson, Dr. Ghosh, and my fellow Chancellors, Dr. Jones and Dr. Amiridis, with whom I’ve had the great good fortune to work.

My husband, Dennis, and I are really looking forward to the next stage of our lives, but we’ll always be supporters of the University of Illinois.

Thank you, again.

 

Chancellor Susan J. Koch