October 15, 2010

State of the University

Address to Faculty and Staff


Thank you, Professor Levine.

And thanks to all of you for being here with us today.

I have to tell you, when I first gave the annual State of the University address back in 2007, I was actually pretty nervous.

I had been here only a few months. It was far too early for me to give a fully informed answer as to how just how this university was doing.  In fact, in those early days, the more I learned, the less that I felt I knew.  

But the calendar said that I was supposed to speak to you in the fall, so I was in a spot. What could I say that was factual, yet inspiring? How could I build confidence among a group that had suffered so many dashed hopes?

Somehow, I just didn’t think “trust me” would do the trick.

But then I recalled everyone I had met since coming to Case Western Reserve.  The faculty….  The staff... The students…. Our graduates... Our other supporters.

To a person, you had welcomed me with enthusiasm. You had spoken of this place with such passion. You had impressed me with your intellect, your energy, and your dedication to the work of this institution.

As important as physical structures are, the true success of an organization depends on individuals. Their character…. Their competence... Their commitment to one another and to our larger mission.

When I thought of the people of Case Western Reserve, my anxiety evaporated. Sure, we had challenges. But I had no doubts about the ability of this community to come together around common goals.

Today marks my fourth State of the University address. Much has changed since 2007, and I look forward to reviewing some of the details in a moment.

But first, I must say this: Back then, I thought you were an amazing community.  Now I knowit. You have exceeded every expectation - and then some.
To everyone in our university community, thank you for believing that we could be so much more. We are well on our way.

Consider how far we have come.

In 2006- 2007, you will recall, the university reported a deficit of nearly $20 million. At the time of that first State of the University address, we promised to cut that amount in half within the year. We did so with some trepidation – could we actually make that goal?

Yes, we could. In fact, we eliminated it completely. In just one year.  That wasn’t simply thinking beyond the possible – it was doing beyond the possible. This result represented an enormous step forward in our credibility as an institution.
 It gave others confidence to invest in us. And, as I’ll get to in a moment, invest they did.

But, back to the budget. I am pleased to report that June 30, 2010 marked the third straight year of a budget surplus – this one, just over $2 million. Our financial stability is the result of hard work by people across this campus…  people in every office and laboratory… classroom and cubicle. Your discipline and restraint are making a difference. Thank you.

Since people are our greatest asset, we must work to compensate them appropriately for their efforts. When other universities instituted wage cuts and furloughs two years ago, we worked to preserve at least a modest raise pool.

 In this current academic year, when statistics show many of our peer institutions continuing wage freezes, we were able to increase that pool to just over 3 percent. We still are not nearly as competitive as I want to be, but know that it continues to be an ongoing priority.

Another priority, of course, is safety. In fact, it is the number one priority of our administration and our Board of Trustees. Nothing is more important than the health and welfare of our community.

To that end, the university created its own police force in 2006. Today we have 21 sworn officers, and 15 additional security personnel. We also continue to provide significant financial resources to University Circle for its force, and coordinate extensively with the Cleveland police.

In 2009, after a handful of serious crimes close to campus, we expanded our patrols to include areas adjacent to us. We also launched a Safe Ride program, which recorded more than 7,500 transports that year.

These efforts have had an impact. Since 2006, on-campus property crimes have dropped 40 percent; on- and off-campus crimes against persons, meanwhile, have dropped 60 percent.

As promising as these statistics are, however, they are little comfort to the individual who becomes a victim. We knowthat we must do better. Just look at the last week:

We had three bank robberies, and we had two instances where suspects confronted our students and demanded money and valuables.

Our own police arrested one of the alleged bank robbers and two of the other suspects in the robberies of our students. I am grateful for our officers’ quick response, and commend them for the apprehensions.

Still, as I imagine the fear each of these victims must have felt, I know we must do more. As a first step, we have increased foot and scooter patrols in the heart of campus. I will continue to update you on our other efforts.

Now, I would like to turn to a more positive topic – at least for us -  fundraising. As most of you know, we finished 2010 with the second-highest philanthropy total in our history, at $115.5 million. This marks our third straight year above $100 million, and our best-ever result for the annual fund, at $7.99 million.

Think about what those numbers mean.

 In 2006-2007 our attainment was $68.8 million. This year’s total is  $46.7 million higher, or an increase of SIXTY-EIGHT percent. That is not just a step forward. It is a giant leap. And it happened because others appreciate the extraordinary work that you do every … single…  day.

Most of you are familiar with the larger gifts we announced over the past year. There was the $12 million pledge from the Milton and Tamar Maltz Family Foundation. That commitment is designed to catalyze fundraising for The Temple – Tifereth Israel project. Our hope is to turn that historic structure into a dynamic new home for our performing arts programs, while at the same time preserving its use by the congregation during High Holy days and other significant events.

Later in the spring we announced the $20 million naming gift for our university center. This project, discussed for at least the last 25 years, now will become a reality thanks to the generosity of Tink Veale, a 1937 graduate in mechanical engineering.

Then there was trustee Jim Wyant, whose $4 million commitment has put us on our way to funding a new field house for the Village at 115, and finally completing that landmark project for students.

Those are some of the more noteworthy gifts of the past year, but they do not tell the entire picture of the gains we have made.

Consider, for example, endowed chairs. As many of you know, an endowed professorship represents one of the highest honors a faculty member can receive. It is a sign of substantial accomplishment, and traditionally brings with it additional resources that the professor can invest in his or her work. These positions are important tools for keeping our best scholars – and for recruiting extraordinary new ones.

In the three years before I arrived, the university added six endowed chairs to our ranks. Since the summer of 2007, donors have brought us SEVENTEEN new chairs.

Here’s another comparison. In the three years before I arrived we raised $27 million for scholarships. Over the past three years, that figure was nearly $FIFTY-ONE million.

How do we achieve those kinds of gains? Look at the people around you. Look in the mirror.

Yes, Bruce Loessin and his development team work incredibly hard to identify and help secure opportunities. But unless we have a strong story to tell, donors will not even begin to listen. Because of all of you, our stories aren’t just strong, they are compelling page-turners. They are precisely the kinds of tales that people want to hear more of… the ones people want to invest in… because they just cannot wait to see the remarkable results of your efforts.

One of our biggest philanthropic successes last year involved scholarships, specifically the pledge of $10 to $12 million from the Joan C. Edwards Foundation.

As some of you know, this organization wanted to invest in a “physician-pipeline” program involving students from urban high schools.  Its leaders could have launched the initiative anywhere in the country, but they chose Case Western Reserve for one reason: We already had a history of engagement with the Cleveland schools.

In fact, our medical faculty had been involved in developing the curriculum for the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine at John Hay High School. Professor Bob Haynie was involved from the beginning, and he is here with us today. Please stand, Professor Haynie.

They continued to provide workshops once the school opened. Our medical students offered their own after-school academic programs, and undergraduates also volunteered with tutoring and college advice.

The Joan C. Edwards Foundation saw our authentic engagement, and could think of no better place to invest.
One of our trustees, Chuck Fowler, talks about a business philosophy of doing well by doing good. This example proves the truth of that maxim!

The grant from the Joan C. Edwards Foundation will provide one student a full, four-year undergraduate scholarship followed by a four-year scholarship to our medical school. The first students will be selected this spring.  And yet, already this year we have enrolled five freshmen from the school’s first graduating class.

Our first-year students are impressive in other ways as well. Their average SAT, for example, is 1345. That figure is 44 points higher than three years ago, and the highest average ever in two decades.

At the same time, we increased substantially our number of underrepresented minority students from last year. The number, 101, represents a 58 percent increase over the previous year.

This progress is a credit to the entire enrollment management team and Vice President Rick Bischoff. But they cannot achieve this success without great deal of help – in particular, from faculty and students who make telephone calls and send emails to potential students. I want to thank everyone who takes time to reach out to these young people – every single contact does make a difference.

Once potential students have a sense of our dynamic faculty … the renowned experts on everything from health care to art history to biomedical engineering to house foreclosures… they realize just what an opportunity it is to come here. It is largely a matter of telling our story…

Cue video.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Watching that last piece, in Dr. Markowitz’s lab, you get a palpable sense of all of the people working together to find a cure. But you know, teamwork can be found all over this campus.

I promise that we will have time for questions, but I couldn’t let today pass without sharing one last story that, to my mind, embodies much of what is best about Case Western Reserve University – and why we all work to make it even better.

Four years ago a high school senior from Illinois visited our campus. She was an avid soccer player who wanted to be an engineer. As she toured the athletic facilities, she met the men’s soccer coach, Dan Palmer. Although they spoke for only a few moments, Coach Palmer quickly sought out women’s coach Tiffany Crooks.

“You should recruit that girl,” Palmer said. “There’s something special about her.”

Coach Crooks listened to her counterpart. Anna Kennedy enrolled at our university, began majoring in civil engineering, and became a key member of the team.

But then, on June 9, Anna’s well-laid plans went haywire. A small lump on her throat turned out to be Stage II Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The doctors had caught it early, so the chances of survival were high. Still, it was cancer. Anna was just 20 years old.

Her mom called Coach Crooks. Anna herself told her best friends, then sent an email to the team. She made clear that she wouldn’t accept pity.   Fighting cancer represented just one more contest that she intended to win.

Anna began chemotherapy back home in Evanston. She had two primary goals. One: Beat the cancer. Two: Play soccer this fall. 

The Illinois doctors worked with her family to create a transition plan for her return to Cleveland. Then they reached out to colleagues at University Hospitals.

When Anna arrived in August, however, she found she wasn’t going to meet with just any physician. Dr. Stan Gerson, director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, had heard that one of our undergraduates needed treatment. He decided to handle her case himself.

When they first met, Anna offered her story ... and one unambiguous statement.  “I am playing goalie this year.”

As Anna recalls it, Dr. Gerson paused, raised his eyebrows, and then said simply, “Well, then, we better make sure to protect your treatment port.”

Even though chemo weakened her, Anna participated in preseason practices. One of her closest friends on the team shaved her head in solidarity. And when it came time for her treatment sessions in Cleveland, Anna found herself surrounded by teammates in the room.

“Hi Dr. Gerson!!!” they all would call out when he stopped by to see Anna. I am told it may have been one of the few times the illustrious cancer doctor was actually taken aback in his own hospital!

Anna finished her final round of chemo on September 30. She had to miss the team’s first major out-of-town trip while dealing with the side effects. To cheer her up, the players made a video for her to watch while they were away. It is now posted on the varsity athletics webpage. Go to the link - you cannot  watch it without smiling.

Today, Anna’s tests indicate she is cancer-free. She will continue to be checked regularly for recurrences, but for now she is delighted to focus squarely on the sport and team she loves. In her last game, Anna played all 90 minutes, and recorded six saves. NYU couldn’t score a single goal on her.

“Anna’s tough as nails,” Coach Crooks said.

Anna is also profoundly grateful to everyone involved in such life-saving work.

“You used to die from this,” Anna says of Hodgkin’s. Now, it is among the most treatable forms of the disease. “I really think research is what caused that happen … I hope the other forms of cancer will be like that someday.”

Anna Kennedy is with us today, along with Dr. Gerson, Coach Crooks, and her teammates. Would all of you please stand?

Anna, thank you for teaching all of us the power of perseverance and perspective. Dr. Gerson, thank you for caring for this remarkable young woman. Coach Crooks, Case Women’s soccer… we talk a lot about building community at Case Western Reserve. Your support of Anna provides a lesson for us all. Thank you. I know some of you have classes, so you are dismissed.

Thank you all for coming today and for your support all year long.