2016 State of the University Address

 

Introduction

I’m grateful to you all for joining me on this rainy September morning to talk about the state of our university. It’s hard to believe we’re already one month into the school year. And it’s even harder for me to believe I’m more than 40 wonderful years into a career at Temple University.

When I arrived here in 1976, this city was celebrating the nation’s Bicentennial. Across the country, people used the Bicentennial to reflect on how our nation—our experiment in democracy—had changed the world without sacrificing its core values of liberty, equality and opportunity.

When I now look back over Temple’s history, I can just see how much our university—our experiment in delivering an affordable, high-quality higher education to middle- and working-class families—has grown stronger while staying true to our founding principles of access, affordability, diversity, excellence and financial responsibility.

There is no other university in America quite like ours. No other university provides the quality of education we provide to the students we serve. No other university has such a wonderful community and such an incredible city as we do. We can all take a great deal of pride in our dedication to our mission.

I can tell you this: In my four decades here, I have had the great honor of serving in 16 different roles and viewing the greatness of Temple and its people from 16 different vantage points. I’ve seen its greatness; I’ve seen its people. I recognize the faces of people who I worked with over the years.

I can categorically say that there has never been a better time to be at Temple University.

This morning, I’d like to tell you why that is.

The past summer

First, let me address the events of this past summer.

The summer was dramatic for many of us. But I feel strongly that our great university has responded well to the challenges we’ve faced. I say this for two main reasons.

First is the appointment of JoAnne Epps, as Provost. She is a longtime, respected member of the Temple family and a valued friend.

The word “family” is sometimes used too casually in higher education. But in JoAnne’s case, it really is appropriate. Her mother worked here. And JoAnne got her first job at Temple as a cashier in the bookstore at age 16. Since then, she’s gone on to do amazing things, like:

  • leading our law school into the top tiers of national rankings;

  • creating a wonderful center for social justice;

  • and earning well-deserved recognition here in Philadelphia, on the floor of the U.S. Senate in Washington D.C. and around the country and around the world.

Now, JoAnne is our provost. She’s only been on the job a few months, and we all have already been touched by her love for Temple, her deep respect for our mission, her compassion and her focus on student welfare, faculty and academic excellence. She has already shown herself to be a great provost.

JoAnne is with us this morning. JoAnne, will you please stand and be recognized?

The second effort we’ve undertaken is a revision of our merit scholarship program. I know that news of our budget overrun was a cause of concern for some. Let me tell you what steps we’ve taken to address the matter in a way that is both supportive of our students and sustainable for our finances.

The scholarship program was intended to attract top students to Temple. Every student who met the criteria was automatically provided a scholarship. There was no cap on the number. This year, the number of new freshmen with high school GPAs over 3.6 increased 17 percent. The number of freshmen with SAT scores over 1300 jumped 29 percent.

The challenge was that many more students came than were expected, thereby exceeding the budgeted scholarship dollars by a large margin, a total of $22 million when fully costed.

This created a budget shortfall that needed to be addressed in a sustainable manner. We closed the deficit through reallocations and cuts, including cuts across administrative units. We have now placed limits on the merit scholarship program, capping the number of scholarship guarantees we provide in the future.

We were able to take these steps because the university’s overall fiscal health is very strong.

We did not raise student tuition to cover the budget gap. Nor did we withdraw a scholarship from any student who was promised one.

Going forward, we have the challenge of continuing to attract outstanding students, maintaining our focus on rich diversity and working within reasonable budget limits. We will continue to implement our Fly in 4 and Temple Option initiatives and review them to make sure they continue to achieve their goals. At the same time, in the spring, we will review our decentralized budgeting system to see whether it needs any adjustments.

The test always is how well do all of our initiatives serve our historic, core academic mission, including providing an excellent education for our undergraduate, graduate and professional students.

At Temple, we’re committed to our students. We’re dedicated to giving them access to an affordable, high-quality degree. As much as our institution has changed over the years, our mission has stayed true.

That’s why outstanding students, teachers, researchers and staff members choose Temple University, and choose to stay at Temple University. And it’s why we’ve persevered through every challenge we’ve faced, and always will. As we say at this university, perseverance conquers. This is our motto.

Momentum

There’s one word we use to describe what Temple continues to have: momentum. Let me tell you what I believe that means.

Momentum is record-breaking admissions, like 34,512 new freshman applications this year―a phenomenal increase of 15 percent over last year.

Momentum is rising rankings, like moving into the top 100 research universities and being ranked No. 18 in the world in Google Scholar Citations.

Momentum is brand-new buildings, like the upcoming state-of-the-art library and the building that has tentatively been named the Student Health and Wellness Center.

And momentum is the careful, thoughtful, attentive way that we are continuing to consider the feasibility and desirability of a stadium on campus, working closely with architects and community and political leaders.

Momentum is healthcare and research that makes life better for the residents of North Philadelphia.

Momentum is the burgeoning national and international prominence of our community of scholars.

Most of all, momentum is people.

  • Momentum is Douglas Webber in economics, who published an essay for the highly influential news site FiveThirtyEight about the surprising reason why college costs keep rising.

  • Momentum is Kamel Khalili in neuroscience, who led the team that eliminated HIV from the genome of human T-cells using a specialized gene editing system they designed.

  • Momentum is Min-Seok Pang and Paul Pavlou in business, who investigated how technology affects police performance and practice.

  • Momentum is Kathleen Reeves and Ellen Unterwald in medicine, who testified before a bipartisan delegation of state legislators about the best ways to address opioid abuse and addiction.

  • Momentum is Benjamin Seibold in mathematics, whose research on the cause of frustrating “phantom traffic jams” was recently on National Public Radio.

  • Momentum is Kathryn Hirsch-Pasek, the Stanley and Debra Lefkowitz Distinguished Faculty Fellow in psychology, who continues her lifetime of excellent research with a new book, Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children.

  • Momentum is Karen Turner, who has established the Legacy Award in her Department of Journalism as a means of encouraging meaningful discussions among students about diversity and today’s society.

  • Momentum is Jeremy Jordan and Daniel Funk in sport, tourism and hospitality management, who analyzed all major NCAA infractions cases over a 61-year period.

  • Momentum is Bryan Monroe in media and communication, who led students through the rapid-paced world of covering political conventions.

These are the faces of Temple’s momentum.

But let me also be clear about what momentum is not.

Momentum is not the work of one person or one position. Temple’s great momentum is the result of numerous tireless people all across the Temple community.

I candidly acknowledge that it’s not the president who creates and sustains momentum. You do.

You’re the ones who make Temple great. You’re the reason why the state of this university is excellent.

I can’t fully express in words just how much I appreciate all you do. My job is to encourage, support and empower you to continue the momentum that only you can generate and really sustain over a long period of time.

This morning, I’d like to talk about roles you play in this effort. And I want to ask you to join me in recommitting to our one-of-a-kind mission.

Rankings

A moment ago, I mentioned our rankings. I want to spend a few moments breaking down for you what our rise in rankings means, and the role you can play in keeping our rankings momentum alive.

The good news is that our rankings continue to increase.

On face value, our ranking in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges list appeared to have plateaued. Last year we were 115, and this year 118.

But the nuances here are important, and the true picture continues to be very positive. Our total combined score, upon which the rankings are based, actually went up from 40 last year to 44 this year. A great achievement.

But some institutions were added to the rankings that weren’t included last year. Plus, there were multiple ties that skew the results. For example, there were seven institutions tied for No. 111. That meant there was no 115 this year, only 111 and then 118. Had we had a score of 45 rather than 44, we’d be ranked 111. Had we had a total score of 48, we’d have been in the top 100.

The very good news is that not only did our score go up, but we continued to have improvement in many of the rankings factors that most affect students, including

  • 70 percent graduation rates

  • and 90 percent freshman retention rates.

We are ranked No. 20 in the country in graduation rate performance, which measures how much we exceeded what our graduation rate was expected to be based on the demographics of our student body. It is also noteworthy that our U.S. News ranking has climbed 14 spots in just five years. This is a tremendous accomplishment.

First and foremost, our standing and momentum in the rankings are dependent upon the excellent teaching, state-of-the art scholarship, research and model service delivery by our outstanding faculty, physicians, students and everyone who supports our core academic mission.

We need you to continue to excel in all areas and to continue to attract outstanding people who can add to our excellence. That is the best way to ensure that our graduation rates and reputation and other key indicators of success continue to soar.

But there are still other aspects of the rankings that we need to pay attention to.

For example, one of the factors that the U.S. News ranking takes into account is the alumni participation rate, which is the percentage of alums who give a gift to the university. That gift can be of any size. The more alumni who give any gift, the higher our participation rate. And a higher participation rate can result in a higher ranking.

Currently, we rank No. 202 in the country with an undergraduate alumni giving rate of 5.5 percent.

We can do better. Our goal is to move that rate to 10 percent, which I feel is an achievable goal if we all do our part. We need your help to encourage alumni of Temple University who have not participated to begin giving some level of gift.

We need your help to get them engaged in their alma mater. We have 319,000 alumni. Think of the power of having 10 percent or more of them giving back to the university and fully engaged. Their gifts alone would be transformational to support our students and the teaching, scholarship and service of our faculty and physicians.

You have great contacts with alumni. Help us to ask alumni to help our university.

Rankings like those of the U.S. News provide recognition for the great work we do here.

Temple will never change its mission to simply improve our place in the rankings. But we will work to ensure that the indicators of success that many rankings use will continue to rise, because such improvements benefit the entire university.

We will continue to focus on retention rates, graduation rates and research that changes lives and alumni engagement. Then the rankings will take care of themselves.

Faculty

Let me turn now to our tremendous faculty. You are our most precious resource. Your teaching and research and service are the backbone of this university. Every day, faculty like you challenge and inspire our students.

Just think of all the lives you’ve changed: the student you encouraged to try a new career path; the alumna you helped get into a top grad program; the struggling young person you counseled and guided. It’s these interactions that make our jobs so worthwhile.

When we hire new faculty, we make sure they too are committed to our mission. I’m proud to say this year, Temple hired 176 new full-time faculty to join our university.

For example, Jamie Payton and Richard Souvenir, a married couple, both in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. Payton focuses on the design of pervasive and wearable computing systems; Souvenir works on computer vision, machine learning, and biomedical image and human motion.

Our new faculty come from some of the best schools around the world. And they take their place among our outstanding long-term faculty.

Our outstanding faculty include faculty members like the ones I named earlier who contribute to the great momentum of our university. Our outstanding faculty include our excellent teachers, who also contribute to our momentum.

Every year, Temple recognizes standout faculty members with the Great Teacher Awards.

Last year’s winners were Rebecca Alpert from the College of Liberal Arts and Elizabeth Bolman from the Tyler School of Art. They are a model for us all.

Unfortunately, Betsy is not available today, but Rebecca, will you please stand and be acknowledged?

If there are any other Great Teacher Award or Lindback Award or other Teaching Award winners here today, would you please stand and be recognized?

I also want to acknowledge Steve Houser of our School of Medicine, who was recently inducted into the alumni Gallery of Success, in recognition of his superlative career achievements. Steve is one of our superb faculty members who is also an alumnus of Temple. That makes him a Temple Owl twice over. Steve couldn’t be here today, but I know you will join me in sending him our hearty congratulations.

Our new provost and I are eager to work with all of Temple’s amazing faculty. We have the utmost respect for your energy, dedication and enormous talent.

We also appreciate your wise counsel. Both our provost and I have pledged to collaborate with you and listen to your innovative ideas and your thoughtful concerns. To that end, I would be delighted to visit with any collegial assembly that invites me to attend one of its meetings.

I have already met with our faculty in a full Faculty Senate meeting earlier this semester and with the Faculty Senate Steering Committee. I very much appreciate the energy, insights and dedication of our faculty and its leadership.

I am also delighted to be working with the leader of the Faculty Senate, Michael Sachs. Michael is dedicated to ensuring that our faculty's voices are heard and their needs are made known. He made an appearance at a Board of Trustees meeting earlier this year and did a superb job explaining the importance of a faculty role in shared governance. He is at a conference this week, but I thank him for his incredible service and leadership.

Would members of the Faculty Senate Steering Committee and officers of Collegial Assemblies please stand and be recognized?

Staff

Not only do we have dedicated faculty, we also have a dedicated staff who are wonderful partners in everything we collectively accomplish. Excellence in higher education is always a team sport, and our administrative staff members are critical elements of the Temple team.

They include admissions counselors who keep Temple accessible; academic advisors who keep our students on track; coaches who guide our student-athletes; the medical professionals who heal our community's residents; the facilities teams who maintain our grounds and buildings; all the people across the university who promote Temple’s excellence; police officers who keep us safe; administrators at all levels of the institution; and many, many others.

Any organization is only as good as its people. And we have thousands of great people. People such as Captain Jeff Chapman of campus safety; Rodney Timmons in facilities; Kathleen Richards in student financial aid; Martyn Miller in international programs; Ruth Ost in the honors program; Coach Bonnie Rosen for women’s lacrosse. I could go on and on and on. Let me just say that our administrative support people are the best.

Temple is great because of the people who choose to work here. As president, I thank you all for your tremendous service. And on behalf of our Board of Trustees, I want to extend the university’s great appreciation for your hard work and dedication. We value all of you; you have a key role in helping to make Temple great.

Before I move on, I want to introduce you to three outstanding new Temple leaders.

First is our new chief information officer and vice president for computer services.She comes to us after 14 years of leadership at the University of Michigan. As CIO, she oversees key IT units and ensures the delivery of phenomenal services across the university. Please join me in welcoming Cindy Leavitt.

The next person is not a newcomer; he’s a veteran of Temple University. He’s been here since 1991. He is an internationally acclaimed scholar, and he has a record of stellar service in administrative roles. And as the new dean of the College of Liberal Arts, he’ll lead that college into the future. As I ask him to stand, everyone, please join me in congratulating Dean Richard Deeg.

I also want to recognize a third leader who has stepped into some very big shoes at the Beasley School of Law. Gregory Mandel has been a highly regarded scholar, teacher and key member of the leadership team at Temple Law School. He has strong relationships throughout the school, the University and the broader legal community. We are delighted to have him at the helm as we search for a permanent dean. Greg, would you please stand?

These terrific administrative leaders will help drive Temple’s momentum forward.

Alumni and donors

Our momentum will also be led by our incredible alumni. Simply put, Temple graduates are an unstoppable force, more than 316,000 strong. They live in all 50 states and 147 countries around the globe.

We sometimes forget how many people work here who also have a degree from our university. I would like to invite anyone who has a Temple degree, or is working on a Temple degree, to stand and be recognized. Your pride in Temple is obvious.

We have outstanding alumni. Just last week as part of homecoming we inducted a new class as part of our Gallery of Success. Take a few minutes sometime and view the pictures and profiles of the inductees downstairs in the hall on the way to the Diamond Club. They make us all so proud.

We value our great alumni. They are some of our greatest ambassadors, invaluable members of the Temple family. Our surveys show alumni everywhere increasingly value the education they received here. More and more, our alumni tell us they cannot imagine what their world would have been like without Temple. Their growing regard for our university means they want to give back.

Last year, more than 20,000 alumni donated to Temple, or about 7 percent of our total undergraduate, graduate and professional alumni base. That number is an increase over the previous year’s total. That’s why I feel confident we can raise our goal to 10 percent, as I said earlier. But we need the help of everyone in the university. We need you to reach out to alumni you know and ask them to re-engage with our university.

Overall, last year we had our second largest fundraising year ever. More than $79 million came in, more than 41,000 donors gave—alumni as well as friends of Temple who didn’t attend our university, but who still support our mission.

Temple donors made possible the Steve Charles Chair in Media, Cities and Solutions in the School of Media and Communication; the James B. Steele Chair in Journalism Innovation in the same school; and Howarth Field at the new Temple University Sports Complex.

But beneath these headlines are a few other numbers that, I think, tell a positive story. First, our gifts of $1 million or more increased dramatically. At the other end of the spectrum, student philanthropy skyrocketed, with the senior class gift participation rate more than quadrupling. And first-time participants made up 62 percent of attendees at our Alumni Relations events over the past year.

As I said earlier, I believe this is just a beginning. We can work together to grow alumni engagement and giving. Each of you can help in this effort. Thanks to the dedicated work of our fundraising and Alumni Relations staffs, it’s clear we’re laying the groundwork of strong support for years to come. I don’t need to tell you how critical that work is in this new higher education environment. Funding from the Commonwealth has declined, as it continues to do in many states, so we need our alumni and friends of Temple to step up and show their support.

Board of Trustees

Of course, much of our fundraising is driven by our Board of Trustees, and they have also played a significant role in our momentum. Fourteen of our trustees have given more than $1,000,000 each over their lifetimes. That is a magnificent demonstration of their commitment to Temple. They are models for all of us and our supporters.

I want to acknowledge our deep gratitude to our dedicated board.

I mentioned that we just completed our second largest fundraising year ever. That’s because the year before we had the largest fundraising total due to our late, great trustee, Lewis Katz, who gave Temple its largest-ever gift of $25 million. Our great School of Medicine now proudly bears his name. And just two days ago, we had a beautiful event at our school of medicine for the investiture of Dr. Larry Kaiser as the Lewis Katz Dean. This is the first named deanship in our university.

This year, Trustee Leonard Barrack and his wonderful wife, Lynne, donated $5 million to the university. In recognition of their support, the Barrack Scholars in Law program at the Beasley School of Law is currently being developed.

It is noteworthy that our trustees are unpaid public servants who devote enormous amounts of their time, their wisdom, their personal financial resources and their unwavering support to our great university.

Our trustees are led by Chairman Patrick J. O’Connor, whose commitment to this university is visible every day through his hard work, his philanthropy and his many, many hours of dedicated service to Temple.

I would like to mention that we have had some new appointments to the board. Recently, Michael H. Reed was elected as a trustee. He’s a 1969 graduate of our College of Liberal Arts, and he was the first person of color to lead the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

And last year, the board added Tamron Hall, the outstanding MSNBC broadcaster and graduate of our School of Media and Communication. These great new trustees bring a fresh perspective and insight to the Board.

I am very grateful for the work Chairman O’Connor and all our trustees do, and I very much enjoy working with them to keep our momentum going.

City and state leaders

Trustees help us to move forward in our partnerships with leaders across the community. Right now, Temple is continuing to forge strong relationships with officials locally, in Washington,

D. C. and, very importantly, in Harrisburg.

If you were at Temple last fall, I’m sure you remember the long journey we underwent with our state appropriation. The Commonwealth did not pass a budget until March, meaning our funding was delayed for nine months.

This year, I’m glad to say the state approved its budget in July. I'm pleased to say we received a 2.5 percent increase. We are most grateful for the Commonwealth’s funding. The state and Temple have a solid and long-standing partnership.

But we still have work to do to build Commonwealth support.

There’s no question the Commonwealth’s return on investment is worth it. Not only did Temple enroll new freshmen and transfer students from 59 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties this year, but we continue to benefit the state through our research, healthcare and public service. We generate $6.2 billion every year for the state economy and $4 billion for the city economy.

Temple’s Health System provides over $50 million in unreimbursed and under-reimbursed care every year. So the funding of our health system will continue to be a matter of focus for us. And Temple offers hundreds of programs for the residents of our community. We are Philadelphia's public university.

As we continue to evolve, we’ll continue to work closely with our neighbors in the surrounding area. And we’ll remain a resource to the city and the Commonwealth, doing our part to make the lives of local residents healthier, happier and more rewarding.

Students

Our momentum is also driven by our students. Let me give you a vivid example.

Treehouse Books is one clear illustration of Temple’s positive impact on the city. Located nearby on Susquehanna Avenue, it has a Temple alumna as its program director, and several Temple student volunteers.

A little more than a decade ago, one young girl who grew up just a few blocks from Diamond Street, spotted Treehouse on the way to Rite Aid with her mom. She begged her mom to let her go there while her mom went ahead to the store. Soon enough, this young girl was in Treehouse every weeknight while her mom was at work. A self-professed “book worm” who loved drama and science fiction, she couldn’t find new reading materials anywhere else in her neighborhood.

And eventually, she decided she wanted to come to Temple, the school that helped make Treehouse possible. Today, that young woman, Kiana Bland, is a senior in our College of Liberal Arts. And now she’s applying to return to Temple as a grad student next year. I am very proud to say that Kiana is in this room today. Kiana, will you please stand and be recognized?

Kiana, you and your fellow students are why we love coming to work every day. We can’t wait to see you go out and take on the world.

Speaking of students, I want to take a moment and recognize the hard-working students who represent their peers as part of Temple Student Government.

Aron Cowen is the TSG president, and besides working hard for his fellow students, he is also committed to his classwork. I know this because Aron told me he had a test coming up and could not join us. Even though Aron is not here, I do have the following message for him: Aron, I know what it’s like to represent a broad group of people, and I want you to know how impressed I’ve been with your thoughtfulness and energy in these first few months of the year.

Two TSG vice presidents are able to be here today. Kelly Dawson and Jai Singletary, could you stand and be recognized? I wish you the best and look forward to working with you to build Temple’s momentum as the year goes on.

Conclusion

I came to Temple 40 years ago to work with amazing students like Kiana and Aron, Kelly and Jai. Students like them are why I’m asking all of you to stay dedicated to this university.

This year, we had a record-breaking class of 5,100 freshmen who set new high marks for average high school GPA and average SAT scores. Their arrival is proof of Temple’s momentum, but it’s also a call to continue our efforts.

I said earlier that Temple’s mission is one of a kind. Our success in delivering on that mission is because of the people who work, study and live here.

It’s because of all of you.

Temple Owls have an uncommon drive. Temple people don’t just try to find their place in the world. They make the world a better place.

It’s impossible to imagine a world without our university. That’s why we created the impact campaign, to showcase the contributions we make, whether it’s fighting to eliminate AIDS, giving voice to the Philadelphia Phillies or striving to end gun violence. You can learn more on the impact.temple.edu website. But for now, here’s a brief video that will show you exactly what I mean.

I think that video makes clear how just special our institution is and the impact Temple Owls are having around the world.

Let me end with a personal anecdote. More than 30 years ago, I was sitting in a cabinet meeting with then-President Peter Liacouras. He brought in a professor and a group of students from our Tyler School of Art who had designed a number of different types of logos. The students were very creative and presented a number of different designs. Finally, after much discussion, one logo was considered to be the best.

That final design was the Temple “T,” which quickly became what is now universally recognized as an iconic symbol of Temple University.

Every time I see it now, I swell with pride. When I see it, I see greatness and excellence and creativity and innovation. Knowing that it was designed by Temple students under the guidance of a Temple professor in a Temple academic classroom in Temple’s nationally renowned art school makes it all the more special.

I see Temple people in our Temple “T.” You and all of our wonderful colleagues are the ones who create and continue Temple’s momentum.

It’s the Temple people who make Temple great. Moving forward, we need you to continue being you and to continue doing what you do.

Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do on behalf of our students and university.

And thank you for being here today.

Now that this program has concluded, you may want to look to the screen to see the faces of more Temple people. Have a great semester!