It is a pleasure to welcome you to University Day, a time when we celebrate OSU’s remarkable faculty and staff.
Today I want to talk briefly about attaining excellence.
In one form or another, this has been my topic at previous University Days. Of course, it is also the theme of this entire day.
In my time as president, I have come to realize that the OSU community is blessed with many extraordinary people who are successful at the highest possible level because they have the drive, resilience, character and talent to succeed where others would not even attempt to compete.
I tell audiences that our graduates are the most important contribution we make to the future and that we prepare them to compete with anyone, anywhere. We also strive to encourage a spirit of serving others when and where it is most dearly needed.
As I shared stories about our students’ and our graduates’ outstanding accomplishments, I have tried to convey that you – and your colleagues who cannot be with us here today – are the driving force behind this success.
We have had another very public demonstration of success this year, OSU’s second consecutive NCAA Baseball Championship.
Last year, our baseball team won the PAC -10, then battled through six elimination games to capture the NCAA College Baseball World Series. Some called it a miracle season.
At the start of this season, the Oregonian and others speculated the baseball team would be challenged to do well after losing its two top starting pitchers and star closer. And although the season opener in Hawaii saw the first no hitter for the Beavers in more than forty years, the team struggled to a 10-14 record and a sixth place finish in the Pac-10. They barely made it to the 64 team play-off.
Then they won 10 games in a row to claim a second consecutive NCAA title.
I talk to audiences about our two champion baseball teams because their achievements have brought great renown and acclaim to Oregon State, drawn us thousands of new fans, and made our alumni and friends – and our state – very proud.
I talk about the baseball teams for another, even more important reason – because I believe they are an exemplar of the character, determination, resilience and talent that is the essence of OSU.
I tell people that these teams – like so many of our athletic teams, and so many of our programs – may be a distillation of these qualities, but they are not an aberration.
The evidence for this claim is not only in the two championships.
It is also evident in other extraordinary OSU teams, our faculty and staff.
And, as it turns out, our alumni and friends.
Despite our challenges as an institution, it is irrefutably true that your excellence is being noticed and applauded.
The values that make you and others here so exceptional are being instilled in our students, and these students are carrying these values into the workplace and society.
Our graduates are not simply our most important contribution to the future, they are an extraordinary contribution to the future.
Everyone we celebrate today is a champion and an example for the rest of us.
Let me touch very briefly on three important indicators that others are beginning to understand how amazing OSU is, and how many extraordinary individuals make up this community.
The first is the past legislative session.
I am not going to tell you we are out of the woods.
I can tell you that the state, and more importantly the state’s citizens, finally recognized that state support for higher education was heading in the wrong direction.
The legislature took several key steps, for which we are very grateful.
- There was an 18.2% increase in overall OUS funding, the first increase in many years. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Governor Kulongoski for his leadership on this, and to the many legislators and supporters who worked hard to begin a process of reinvestment in higher education.
- Funds were made available to increase faculty salaries and expand enrollment.
- We received almost the entire budget request for ETIC and new funding for the statewide service programs, and additional funds earmarked for the Cascades Campus in Bend.
Most noteworthy, I believe, is the growing recognition – articulated by citizens, leaders, legislators, and the media – that higher education is critical to this state’s future.
I think this recognition remains particularly invaluable for OSU as a powerful research and educational engine for economic development and social progress.
We heard a lot less this past year about higher education as an expense and a lot more about its value as an investment in our collective future.
This is a huge change. We need to appreciate it; we need to nurture it; and most of all we need to meet its expectations as fully as we can.
Second is our continued ability to attract and retain excellent teachers and scholars – the people in this room, and your colleagues.
Faculty and staff are not coming here or staying here because of OUS’ pay scales; or to hear me talk; or even because we have back-to-back national baseball championships.
Nor does the National Science Board fly to OSU for their one ”outside the beltway” meeting a year because they want a trans-continental flight experience.
They come to OSU in order to work and partner with you and your colleagues, because they see excellence in learning, scholarship and outreach and engagement on every level throughout this university.
We say our goal is to make a difference for Oregon, for the nation, and for the world.
It is irrefutably true we are doing this. Just look at the impact of our programs and the discoveries we have reported in the past few months.
If you examine the media tracking we do, you will see this impact is being recognized widely.
Through your efforts, you have doubled the number of citations OSU is getting in the national media over the last few years.
And the prominence of the outlets carrying OSU news has also increased significantly.
The long-term benefits will be substantial.
Last but hardly least is the progress of our capital campaign, which we will kick off publicly on October 26th at 4 p.m. in LaSells Stewart Center.
Without stealing thunder from what will be a great event, I will tell you we are over $300 million dollars, we have more than 50 commitments of a million dollars or more, we are reaching critical targets in terms of infrastructure, and we are seeing great support.
People – friends, alumni, corporations and foundations – want to be a part of the OSU team.
And they want, literally, to help push us to the "national championship" level in all we do.
I realize, as I always have, that for many of you this sounds like a stretch, given what we have been facing.
In response, and in closing, I would remind you that northern teams do not win college baseball national championships. All the experts are certain of this.
And, given the parity in talent across the nation, it is nearly impossible for any team to win back-to-back baseball championships these days.
And certainly no team is going to so thoroughly dominate the World Series that they go undefeated, trailing for only one inning throughout the entire event.
It should not be possible, but it was done.
Extraordinary things happen when good people commit, and count on each other, and focus on the goal.
We have a model for excellence in the baseball teams that were shaped by this special community.
We have hundreds of other models for excellence across the university in our faculty and staff and our programs.
We honor some of our heroes today.
The most important thing to remember, as we honor these worthy colleagues, is that you are all on a great team, and we are at the beginning of a great run. As I have said on other occasions, I truly believe that the very best is yet to come for this wonderful university and this amazing place.
Thank you for all you do to promote excellence and success at Oregon State University.