January 14, 2008

President Snyder Ushers in Spring Semester

Barbara Snyder

To the Case Western Reserve University Community:

As a new semester begins, it is my pleasure to welcome students back to campus. I hope you all had a restful and refreshing break. For those who didn't hear before they left, the Cleveland Foundation helped us finish the year on a most positive note: It awarded us a $3.6 million grant to our Great Lakes Institute for Energy Innovation. This effort, led by Dean Norman Tien and Professor of Engineering Iwan Alexander, offers enormous potential for our region; we have already signed an agreement with the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners to explore the feasibility of a wind power demonstration project on Lake Erie, and have applied for significant state funding for other energy initiatives through the new Ohio Research Scholars Program. The institute builds on existing strengths like the Wright Fuel Cell Center, and can play a key role in making our state a leader in a rapidly growing field.

I spoke about our energy initiatives as part of my first City Club address Friday. My remarks there focused on what I consider the mission of the modern research university: To solve society's greatest challenges. Case Western Reserve University has a proud history of fulfilling that mission by leading learning and discovery. Back in 1887 Albert Michelson and Edward Morley performed an experiment that laid the foundation for Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. In 1954 Dr. Frederick Robbins won a share of the Nobel Prize for work that contributed to Dr. Jonas Salk's development of a vaccine for polio. Today scholars across our campus conduct groundbreaking research with the potential to help the blind see, rebuild damaged cartilage and muscles and dramatically improve our ability to treat and cure cancer.

Our faculty does more than discover new knowledge; we also help increase understanding. Richard Boyatzis at the Weatherhead School of Management is internationally recognized for his work on emotional intelligence. Ted Steinberg in the College of Arts and Sciences is one of our nation's most accomplished environmental historians. And Michael Scharf in the School of Law is a tireless leader in the battle against genocide and war crimes.

Our students are blessed to be part of this community of scholars, and we know that many make the most of the opportunity. Consider, as just one recent example, Paul Buchheit, one of Google's first employees and an inventor of gmail. Teaching and mentoring is an essential part of our work, for they help prepare future generations for their own achievements and innovations.

As many of you know, today we are amid a major strategic planning effort designed to help our institution reach even more of its potential. Interim Provost Jerry Goldberg is leading a university-wide task force, and every school and college also has a planning group of its own. At this, the midpoint of our academic year, that work is picking up in intensity and specificity; I encourage everyone - students, staff, faculty, alumni, friends and other supporters—to participate in the process. We need your ideas, insights and responses to proposals; please watch for additional information about the effort from Dr. Goldberg this week, and also visit

Thank you, and welcome to a new year.


Barbara R. Snyder