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October 2, 2009

State of the University

Address to Faculty and Staff

Barbara Snyder

Good afternoon.

Before we begin, I have some sad news. Herman Stein, a pioneer in the profession of social work and a longtime leader in our community, passed away this morning. Professor Stein served as our provost and as dean of the School of Applied Social Sciences. He received the Hovorka Prize in 2002, and the University Medal in 1994. Working on the global stage, he also played a pivotal role in advancing the well-being of children through UNICEF and the United Nations. At this time, I ask that we observe a moment of silence in his honor.

Thank you.

Now, I want to tell you all how much I appreciate your coming to this year’s State of the University address, especially given today’s weather.

This marks our first of these addresses with faculty and staff together.

I want to thank the Faculty Senate for approving the rule change to allow this joint session, and the Staff Advisory Council for agreeing to this arrangement as well.

To me, this way is so much better.

First, of course, it means I only have to give one speech.

But second, and actually more important, I like the symbolism of the change.

We are one institution. Our success depends on collaboration: among schools, among departments, between faculty and staff.

You all should hear the same message, at the same time. You all should hear the same questions, and the same answers.

The reason is simple: You all are part of the same, single community – the community that is Case Western Reserve University.

When I gave this address a year ago, we had much to be proud of. We had:

• completed the strategic plan;
• set a new record for our third-highest fundraising total in history;
• Improved the academic credentials of the entering class; and
• Received some nice coverage of research breakthroughs such as Richard Hansen’s “Mighty Mouse” and the new material that emulated the sea cucumber.

But then came the global economic crisis. All of our budding enthusiasm ran smack into pervasive economic uncertainty.

Places like Harvard and Yale laid off workers. Other universities enacted hiring freezes and furloughs. At Case Western Reserve, fortunately, we never relied as much on endowment returns to support the operating budget. As a result, we have been able to avoid such dramatic cuts.

That said, the raise pool was much smaller than I would have liked, even after we eliminated raises for senior leaders like me, the provost, vice presidents and deans.

Most worrisome, we didn’t know what the financial collapse might mean for our fundraising. Some foundations stopped accepting proposals altogether. Others warned of steep reductions in grants.

We had worked so hard to establish momentum. Last fall it appeared likely - even very likely - that external forces might stop us in our tracks.

Instead, as many of you know, this summer we learned such grim forecasts had been mistaken. Our fundraising didn’t just stay even – it grew by more than $5 million, to $108.7 million. We set a new record for the second-highest gift total in our history. And we also set a new record for the annual fund, at $7.6 million.

How did we do it?

First and foremost, people kept believing in us:

• Former board chair Frank Linsalata and his wife, Jocelyne made a $3 million gift in October of last year, a time when the financial outlook was at its most murky.

• In February, Trustee Chuck Fowler and his wife, Char, invested $7.5 million in the work of Professor David Cooperrider and the idea of sustainable value.

• And in June, Board Chair Bud Koch, and his wife, Katie, announced $5 million toward a student-centered project.

These generous gifts sent a powerful signal to others:
Our trustees, the people who know us best, wanted to donate now. Yes, in this climate, it would be easier - and certainly more understandable - to wait. But our trustees considered the work of the university – your work – too important to delay.

It wasn’t only donors who believed. In the spring, Congress approved a stimulus package that included millions of new dollars for research. You didn’t simply respond to this opportunity – you seized it with both hands.

Our faculty submitted nearly 700 proposals. Staff in schools and our central research administration office toiled dozens and dozens of extra hours to process these applications.

To date we have secured 94 awards, totaling more than $40 million.

Congratulations on your great success.

It wasn’t only the donors and faculty and staff who believed: it was high school seniors, too.

In 2008-2009, our university set a new record for total applications. We tripled the number of international students who enrolled, and dramatically increased the percentage of students who came from outside Ohio. In addition, we raised the average SAT of the entering class by 19 points.

Those gains don’t happen by accident. They emerge from improved strategy and an awful lot of hard work in admissions, financial aid, and by individuals across the university.

Now, as you all know, global economic uncertainty is far from over.

It is way too soon to say how our fundraising will fare in 2009-2010.

For now, I can tell you this. I have no doubt of how hard Bruce Loessin and his team will work on development, just as I have every confidence in the team from enrollment management, and in all of our other university organizations. And, I am just as confident in the talent and dedication of the faculty and staff of every school across this university.

You – all of you - have proved your talent and commitment.

Whatever obstacles we may encounter in the short term, the future of this institution is bright.

Certainly the data give reason for optimism. But so do individuals.
Over the past year we have added several remarkable individuals to our team. First among them is Bud Baeslack, our provost. Bud is unable to be here today because his daughter is getting married in Columbus. But I cannot let today pass without telling all of you how much I have appreciated his tireless work, his collaborative nature, and his dedication to advancing our strategic plan. As many of you know, his office will be awarding a number of competitive grants to interdisciplinary alliance groups this semester as part of those efforts. Bud is a great partner, and I am so glad he is part of Case Western Reserve.

In addition, last spring he appointed David Fleshler as our first-ever associate provost for International Affairs. David has done a wonderful job learning about the programs we have already, and looking at ways we can enhance coordination, and in turn develop new programs as well.

Another priority of the strategic plan is diversity – in fact, we identified it as a core value. Because this issue is so very important, we created a Cabinet-level position of Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity at the university. After an intense search ably led by Professor Rhonda Williams, we appointed Marilyn Sanders Mobley to this crucial role. Marilyn earned her doctorate here at Case Western Reserve, and so has called the move a homecoming. Over the past several months Marilyn has become re-acquainted with the university. She is identifying opportunities to improve and expand our diversity efforts involving faculty, staff and students.

Finally, we named John Sideras as our permanent Chief Financial Officer. John brings tremendous professionalism, accountability and strategic thinking to our operations. He and his team, including Treasurer Bob Brown and Chief Investment Officer Sally Staley, have been at the forefront of managing our financial challenges this year, and they have truly excelled. I am grateful to all of them.

Also in the finance area, I am pleased to note, as of yesterday, we have filled the position of Vice President for Financial Planning. Donald Stewart comes from Brown University, and we are delighted to have him with us.

Now, as some of you know, over the past academic year our marketing and communications team has been working on what they call “Brand Positioning” – that is, meeting with faculty, staff and students and looking at ways that our university is distinctive.

They have sought answers to these questions:
• What is special about Case Western Reserve?
• What is most appealing about it?
• How do we best tell our story?

Eventually, after lots of brainstorming and feedback, the group came upon a new tagline for the university:

Think Beyond the Possible.

I ask you, what does this phrase mean?

Think about this university, and all that takes place here every day. Our people cure cancer. They create cars that can drive themselves. They train participants in the trial of Saddam Hussein. Every one of them, and many, many more think beyond the possible in all that they do, and all they aspire to be.

Once we had the tagline, Glenn Bieler and his team set to work on a video to give life to those words.

I am going to show the final result to you in a moment, but first I want to talk about some of the people you’ll see on the screen:

• Chris Butler came to Case Western Reserve as an undergraduate 30 years ago. He stayed on for a master’s degree, and during his graduate studies discovered a love for teaching. Butler is known for the catchphrase “Math is Easy, Math is Fun” and something called the “Inverted Vector Dance.” (You’ll have to ask him about that one).

Chris has won multiple university awards for teaching and mentoring, and also helped lead efforts to honor his late friend and colleague, Professor Ignacio Ocasio, also known as Doc Oc.

• Cynthia Beall is a professor of anthropology who is fascinated by the way people adjust to their environments – in particular, the high altitudes of places like the Andes and Tibet. She is co-director of the university’s Center for Research on Tibet, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

• Renee Sentilles is a professor of history. Her most recent book centered on a Civil War entertainer who was one of the first women to realize that even scandalous publicity has its benefits – in fact, Sentilles calls her a 19th-century version of Madonna!

• Chris Manacci (Man-ah-chee) founded and directs the Flight Nursing program at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. In 2007 he received a national award recognizing his leadership in research and education for the air medical field. And in 2008 he led Case Western Reserve’s efforts to launch a program with a university in Japan to create the first flight nursing program in Asia.

• Gilbert Doho is a professor of modern languages and literature, and the founding director of our ethnic studies program. He believes passionately in the power of theater to promote positive social change, and is the author of several plays, among them The Lily Lake and Wedlock of Ashes.

• Mark Singer is a professor in the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences whose work focuses largely on the impact of violence on children. More recently he has worked with the City of Cleveland on an ambitious effort to help its police officers deal with the stress of their dangerous jobs.

• Idit Zehavi is a professor of astronomy and physics. She is participating in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the largest ever mapping effort of the galaxy. The effort has provided insight into the ways of dark matter and led to new discoveries about the nature of the Milky Way.

These are just a few of the people highlighted in this roughly three-minute video. Pause and think about them for a minute. Think about the diversity of academic fields reflected among just this handful of individuals. More, think of their passion, curiosity and enthusiasm for teaching, learning and exploring. And then, finally, think about the notion that these people represent a tiny fraction of our community. We have so many more amazing, accomplished and dedicated people here.

It’s awe-inspiring isn’t it? This is what we mean when we say that, at Case Western Reserve, we Think Beyond the Possible.

Teaching and learning are intellectual exercises, to be sure. But their impact increases exponentially when emotion is brought to the equation. Emotion is what makes a person like Chris Manacci climb into a tiny flying egg – also known as a helicopter - to rescue someone he doesn’t even know.

It is what drives Chris Butler to hold hours-long “Math Galas” to help students prepare for finals.

It is what sends Cynthia Beall to frigid mountaintops again and again to interview indigenous people there.

That combination – of head and heart - is what we tried to do with this video. You’ll let us know how we fared, but first, let me emphasize again: This is an in-house production. No models. No expensive ad agencies. This … is Case Western Reserve.

Roll Video.

And now I would like to ask the individuals featured in the video to please stand. (Applause). Thank you, so much.

I also want to acknowledge Mary Gerity, the video producer whose vision is reflected in every frame of this remarkable effort. Thanks also to Lara Kalafatis in University Relations and Glenn Bieler and his team in Marketing and Communications, and Mike Kubit, Steve Kupchik and Peter Bman from Mediavision for their efforts on this project. Would all of you please stand? Applause.

And now that the credits are complete, let me just say again how honored I am to be with all of you here on this campus. It is a remarkable place, made even more so because of all of you.

I am grateful for all that you have done, and will do to continue to help us make this institution everything we know it can be. Thank you for your dedication, and your aspirations. Thank you for being part of Case Western Reserve University.

I would be happy to answer any questions.