(Investiture remarks delivered September 19, 2000)
The Honorable Governor Glendening, Chancellor Langenberg, Chairman of the Board of Regents Chapman and other members of the Board of Regents, Members of the Salisbury University Foundation Board and Board of Visitors, my colleague presidents from the public and private colleges and universities of the State of Maryland, past presidents of Salisbury University Drs. Smith, Butler, Page, and Crawford, Members of the Salisbury City Council and the Wicomico County Council, honored members of the Maryland State Legislature, distinguished visiting delegates and guests, esteemed faculty and emeriti faculty, dedicated staff and students of Salisbury University, alumni, friends and family, welcome.
A very, very special welcome to members of the class of 2004. Like you, I'm a first-year passenger on the good ship S.S. University. I'm probably here for some of the same reasons you're here: Salisbury University is a hot school with a rapidly-rising reputation; the people who work here, both faculty and staff, are genuine and really care about this place and you; and, yes, it's close to the beach! The next four or five years at Salisbury will likely be among the most memorable voyages of your life. You'll be challenged academically, you will make new and lifelong friends, you will be asked to evaluate your civic and service commitment, you will be introduced to new cultures, you will feel both Robinson Crusoe's solitary angst and his exuberance for life. I'm enthusiastic about joining you and the rest of the crew and look forward to a bountiful trip. Hopefully the seas will mostly be smooth with a slight wind at your backs. But when the seas do get rough, persevere. Have high expectations for yourself, make your education your top priority, work hard, manage your time and your expectations, and you'll generally find smooth sailing.
I am humbled and honored to be vested today as Salisbury University's eighth president. I accept the presidency of the University while acknowledging the many challenges and opportunities the position presents. As I officially receive this honor and privilege, I thank all of you for being here to share in this ceremony, and for your support for Salisbury University. No president can succeed without the support of many others. As I accept the responsibility for this University, I embrace its rich past and commit to putting my energies and expertise forward on its behalf in the coming years.
In a world that is growing ever smaller and becoming increasingly integrated through technology, my plans for Salisbury University include a renewed commitment to the liberal arts and sciences, and greater emphasis on globalization and diversity issues. The cornerstones of my presidency will be high standards, a strong focus on student learning and student success, and a commitment to serving the region and the State of Maryland.
We have assembled here to celebrate this outstanding institution's past, present and above all, its future. For the fourth consecutive year, Salisbury University has been ranked among the top ten public regional universities in the North region by U.S. News and World Report. We have also been recognized in The Princeton Review and Kiplinger's Magazine. I would like to thank Governor Glendening for his strong leadership; he has set the tone for the higher education agenda statewide and, along with other key leaders, has played an important role in Salisbury University's growing national reputation. Today we celebrate our splendid tradition, and give thanks for the efforts of dedicated former presidents, talented faculties, supportive Boards, legislative leadership, loyal alumni and generous patrons, all of whom have helped mold this University over the past 75 years. We measure our success as an institution in terms of the success of our students.
Who are the students of Salisbury University? There currently are students here from 29 different nations, from Tanzania to Denmark to the Cayman Islands. We have a new student from Guyana. In order to graduate from high school, students from her region must pass a very rigorous academic exam, the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations. Rochele Clarke has the distinction of scoring the highest of any student in the history of the CAPE examination. Also on our campus are many student-athletes. Among SU students is Gina Dean, an all-American field hockey player who has been named the 2000 NCAA Woman of the Year for the state of Maryland. Ours is an exceptional student body. Today, as we celebrate Salisbury University's past, present, and future, I salute the many achievements of our students.
In our institution's early days, students were lucky to arrive on campus with a radio. In my day, I brought a record player. A decade or so ago, students began moving into their dorm rooms with tvs and vcrs; today they bring computers with CD burners and cellphones. In the Sept/Oct 2000 issue of Educause, Jason Frand writes that "During 1998, for the first time since television was introduced fifty years ago, the number of hours young people spent watching TV decreased. This time was transferred to the computer, with its Internet connectivity." We have been drawn from one tube to another.
hotfuture.com: We might speak of a "hot future" for both the University and our students, a future full of opportunities and promise. After choosing this title, I read how marketing experts are predicting that dot com names for businesses are soon to become passé. This points to the inevitability of change, and the rapid pace at which change is occurring today, changes we are seeing in demographics, technology, globalization. As we look ahead to the hot careers in high demand, technology-related job areas dominate. Yet the new wave of Webmasters will not need to be techkies; there is plenty of software around to design a Web site without being fluent in html language. The most important skill for a new age Webmaster will be the ability to write well. In other words, the age-old skills of writing, listening, and critical thinking are perhaps more than ever in demand in the workplace. Most jobs that existed five years ago have been reengineered. Writes Frand: "…in the past, the half-life of information was measured in decades and centuries, certainly longer than most individuals' life span. College and university students could learn skills and gain knowledge that would carry them through their careers… But today…the half-life of information is measured in months and years…As our students enter the workforce, the ability to deal with complex and often ambiguous information will be more important than simply knowing a lot of facts or having an accumulation of knowledge."
Although much is written today about the pervasiveness of technology, we should be reminded that in the workplace technology is but a tool that enables us to access information, and to do our jobs more efficiently. Technology only very indirectly relates to a student's ability to lead a productive, successful, satisfying life. New students, how you spend your time here at Salisbury University, how seriously you take the opportunities you are provided here, and the choices you make will determine in important ways what type of future you will have. The type of job you end up in years from now may be beyond your wildest imagination.
If someone had told me fifteen years ago that I'd leave my full-time faculty post teaching Spanish and Latin American literature to become an administrator, let alone a president, I would have gotten a thermometer to check their temperature or thought they were crazy. I am reminded of words once spoken by Agnes de Mille: "No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made." To be a university president is, at times, a daunting, heady, and yet humbling experience. In the past few days in gathering my thoughts for today's ceremony, I have taken the advice of an SU faculty member who, in a very kind, hand-written note urged me to find some time for contemplation. I have taken his advice, and taken the opportunity to reflect upon where I have been in my life, and how I came to be president of Salisbury University.
First and foremost, I have my parents to thank. My mother and father, now 83 years young, are both here today. Throughout my childhood, they taught me the importance of integrity, of working hard, and never settling for anything but the best I could be. From high school through my graduate studies, I have been extremely fortunate to have had wonderful mentors and role models. Several of them are here today. Many years before members of the class of 2004 were born, I sat in a high school Spanish class with a teacher who had extremely high standards, gave way too much homework, and who instilled in me a love for the Spanish language, and for Latin American literature and culture. That demanding Spanish teacher, Mr. Pat McClary, with whom I had lost contact for nearly 30 years, is in the audience today.
I continued the study of Spanish when I went on to college. There I was also fortunate to have a mentor and role model, Dr. Russell Salmon. Now, 26 years after I have completed my undergraduate studies, Russ has made the trip from Indiana to be here today.
Students, throughout your years here your lives will be touched by many dedicated faculty. You will be frustrated by some, inspired by many, and Salisbury University is the type of learning community where you will find role models and mentors whom you will remember and respect for the rest of your lives. William Butler Yeats once said: "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Many of your faculty will spark you to see new perspectives, seek new horizons, and reach to high levels of performance you never thought possible.
My parents were somewhat concerned when I went on to major in Spanish at Indiana University. At the time, unlike today, there was little demand for Spanish teachers; what would I do with my Spanish major? How would I earn a decent living? I tell this story to the new students attending today's Convocation, because I think the best advice I can give you is for you to follow your heart. Be open-minded, experiment with courses in academic disciplines you may today know little about, but, above all, study those subject areas for which you feel the greatest affinity and passion.
I also urge you to have great perseverance. One of SU's most successful alumni, the person who has made possible our new Scarborough Leadership Center, shared with me that when he came to Salisbury University he barely had enough money for tuition, let alone food. Mike Scarborough recently said to me (paraphrased): "Outcomes in life are often the result of a personal decision to accept only the best, not a mediocre performance of yourself." Place high value on intellectual honesty, personal integrity, and tolerance for those who hold beliefs different from your own. Give your very best, and the very best will come back to you. Be thankful for your faculty, who will help you build bridges between the intellectual concerns of the courses you take in history, literature, philosophy, and the decisions you make and challenges you will face in your future. Be grateful for your family, those who have made your being here possible.
Today and everyday I am thankful for my children, Joe and Caroline, for their unconditional love, much laughter, and the strength they give me each day. Above all others, my strongest advocate, chief presidential morale officer, and confidant is my husband. Without Joe I would not be here today.
Much is expected of those to whom much has been given. Consider the following: If we could, at this time, shrink the Earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look like this: There would be 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western Hemisphere (North and South), and 8 Africans. 70 would be non-white, 30 would be white. 50% of the entire world's wealth would be in the hands of only six people, and all six would be citizens of the United States. 70 would be unable to read; 50 would live in sub-standard housing. And only one would have a college education. If you remember one thing from my remarks today, new students, remember this: Much is expected of those to whom much has been given. All of us here today should give thanks for our good fortune.
As our University historian Sylvia Bradley said earlier, this ceremony marks a beginning. Convocation is meant to inspire you and promote a sense that our campus is a community and that we share a unified purpose. I look forward to our putting our collective energies towards promoting scholarship, learning, and the values of good citizenship. As the eighth president of Salisbury University, I pledge myself to you my very best efforts to reach these ends. In its 75th anniversary year, Salisbury University celebrates its singular quality and maturity of purpose. Together we will build an even stronger University, one that cares deeply about quality, and that stands ready to meet the needs our changing society.