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Woodburn Circle Society


Prepared Remarks
June 6, 2014

I am honored to be here with you tonight, and I want to thank each and every one of you.

Many deserving causes could benefit from your generosity, and I am deeply grateful that you have chosen to invest in West Virginia University.

Because I am the only thing standing between you and your dinner, I will express my gratitude concisely.

Returning here after a 30-year absence, I have marveled at how far the University has advanced on every front. As someone who has led about half the universities in this country, I know that kind of advancement does not happen by itself. It only happens when people believe in your University and invest in your University.

That is especially true these days, as state funding for higher education dwindles.

Amid turmoil of a civil war, Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, which transformed the promise of higher education in this country.

As a land-grant university, we have a calling: To use knowledge to solve problems for our local community, our state, and our world.

West Virginia University is on a journey from excellence to eminence. And, because you have invested in that journey, I want to share my road map with you.

When it comes to leadership, Steve Jobs’ mantra was simplicity and focus.

He said: “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

I carry with me a laminated card listing six goals I have for the University.

If you cannot run a university or a corporation on a wallet-sized card, then you are failing as a leader.

My goals are:

1. Forge ONE West Virginia University.

I firmly believe that the Mountaineer community must strive to be a chorus, not a cacophony.

2. Put students first.

Universities exist to educate. We are in the thinking business. We do not exist to create cars or make widgets or even to engage in just fundamental research functions.

A great land-grant university takes ideas and students, puts them together, and nurtures their growth.

3. Focus on faculty and staff success

We need to move aggressively to make sure we are rewarding and recognizing and developing pathways to success for our 20,000 faculty and staff.

If we have a one-size-fits-all mentality, we get a one-size-fits-all result, which is mediocrity.

4. Advance our research agenda

Our faculty members work on projects that advance humankind, from the Green Bank Telescope, to our academic investments in energy, to our nationally acclaimed forensics program.

5. Commit to our communities.

On my first day back, I said that our ultimate mission is for the 1.8 million West Virginians to believe in their hearts and minds that West Virginia University is their University.

6. Simplify University systems and structures.

Simpler is better and smarter.

These goals represent my vision for West Virginia University — and you are the partners who are helping us achieve this vision.

Thanks to you, private support for our University has reached the highest level in our history.

This funding is helping us to recruit the best and brightest faculty, staff, and students and to create a world-class learning environment.

In the classroom and in the community, our students are accomplishing amazing things.

Just this past spring we had 16 national scholar award recipients, including 3 Fulbright and 3 Goldwater Scholars.

These national awards reflect the quality of our students and the faculty members who teach them.

Our faculty members also are conducting important research on everything from cancer prevention and childhood diabetes, to protecting West Virginia’s water supply, to improving STEM education.

Our hospital system is treating more patients than ever before, giving West Virginians cutting-edge health care, close to home.

And our athletic programs continue to bring incredible pride to the Mountaineer nation.

Everywhere I go, from 4-H camps to health clinics to local business, I see West Virginia University — and our investors — making a difference.

With you as our partners, we have come a long way in the past 30 years.

And I know we can go even farther.

So let us continue to work together to create success for our students, prosperity for West Virginia, and an increased stature for West Virginia University.