“Promises to Keep”
State of the University Address
The Reverend Brian F. Linnane, S.J.
September 29, 2010
Good afternoon. It’s good to see you, and I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules in order to be here today. My remarks today will be a little more formal than those I normally deliver at this annual event.
I am very much aware that you have not been immune to the economic turbulence that has shaken the nation and unleashed so much anxiety. These are uncomfortable times. They are psychologically discomforting. And so today, in addition to giving you my assessment of the state of the university, I want to convey to all of you my gratitude and my admiration for your strength — your fortitude — over the past 24 months. I am deeply aware of the sacrifices you have made. And I’m deeply appreciative of the good will and good humor you have maintained during this time of economic adversity.
Never before in my tenure as president has more been asked of us. In fact, there are few times in Loyola’s history when so much has been asked of our community. Others may have faltered. You have not. Others may have despaired. You have not.
Despite having our salaries frozen . . . despite having our operating budgets cut . . . despite a “soft” hiring freeze and a more rigorous authorization process. . . despite being asked to work in the dark and to ignore the thermostat . . . you have remained focused on our mission. I challenge anyone to find any evidence, anywhere, that the fiscal adversity of the last two years has diluted our commitment to our core values. That just has not happened. What I have seen is not a dilution of commitment but a deepening of commitment to our Jesuit values and ideals. And that is why I can say to you today that the state of the University has never been stronger. Loyola has never been stronger because you have never been stronger.
As I think about you, about the intellectual power and spiritual tenacity you continue to bring to your work, I am reminded of a remarkable event — an evening in 1962 when President Kennedy hosted a White House dinner for all living Nobel Prize winners. Think of that. All living Nobel Prize winners . . . . the best of the best in medicine and literature, in physics and economics. Facing this august gathering, President Kennedy opened his remarks with the statement: “This may be the greatest collection of intellect and talent ever gathered together in one place and at one time . . . . . . with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” We, too, have a remarkable collection of talent and intellect and commitment, all gathered together in one place and at one time.
During the last year, in the midst of the roughest economic period in at least seven decades . . .
- We launched our new School of Education.
- We inaugurated our first-ever minor in African & African American Studies.
- We are now offering a major in Statistics.
- Our faculty received acclaim for intellectual prowess in the form of prestigious grants totaling well over a million dollars.
- We expanded the reach and enlarged the scope of our Clinical Centers.
- The Sellinger School initiated two new programs: the Emerging Leaders MBA and an Accounting Certificate Program, while also gaining recognition, not merely as one of the nation’s but as one of the world’s premiere business schools.
- We celebrated the opening of the Ridley Athletic Complex.
- We received a record number of undergraduate applications, a 19 percent increase over the previous year.
- We enrolled a record number of students of color while continuing to increase significantly our proportion of faculty of color.
- We founded the Loyola University Maryland Graduate Student Organization, an organization that is already making a difference in our ability to attract and retain graduate students and is giving added intellectual firepower to our community, a fact that was very much in evidence at the first annual Emerging Scholars event last April.
- We prepared the self-study report for the Middle States reaccreditation process.
- We made real progress and gained real momentum in the implementation of our York Road initiative, with pilot projects jointly undertaken by the School of Education, Sellinger, and the Center for Community Service and Justice.
- Loyola is exploring the option of purchasing 208 E. Cold Spring Lane, which is directly adjacent to Armiger House in the Kernewood Community. We are currently working through some legal and title issues regarding the property. If acquired, we intend to use the property as a center for alumni relations activities. We should know more about this possible acquisition later in the fall.
- We maintained our policy of meeting the full demonstrated financial aid needs of all first-year undergraduate students, a policy that reflects our commitment to diversity and pluralism.
- Thanks to the energetic leadership of Marianne Ward, we fortified our Global Studies major.
- We developed a plan, still under revision, to institute a new Junior Faculty Sabbatical program, while also replacing all departing full-time faculty and meeting increases in undergraduate enrollment with new full-time, tenure-track positions.
- In Advancement, we intensified our conversion to a major gift culture, founded a new alumni chapter in Cleveland, strengthened other alumni chapters, and, in general, took the steps necessary to deepen the loyalty and intensify the commitment of our 56,000 living alumni. We also brought on a new vice president for advancement — Megan Gillick, whom I am confident, will bring new vibrancy to our fundraising initiatives.
- We broke ground on our Donnelly Science Center renovation and expansion
This is a partial list of our accomplishments — your accomplishments. But this list of accomplishments, even though it is abbreviated, attests to the progress we are making toward the goals set forth in our strategic plan. For fiscal reasons, this progress has been slowed. But it has not been stalled. In fact, there is not a single goal set forth in the strategic plan on which we have not made substantial progress. The strategic plan is — the plan remains — our guiding document. And the progress toward the goals our strategic plan enumerates leads to one conclusion: There is no arrogance in the assertion that we will become the leading Catholic comprehensive university in the nation. I have never been more certain of this. We have what it takes. You proved that — and are continuing to prove it. You have transformed adversity into opportunity.
The state of the University is strong because we have displayed abiding fidelity to our key priorities. We continued to offer our students academic excellence, spiritual nourishment, and preparation for professional leadership. We maintained the need-based scholarships necessary to promote diversity and expand access to the Loyola experience. We continued to build an environment conducive to study, research, and community service. We protected the health and safety of our students. We protected the job security of our employees. And at a time when other institutions were instituting furloughs, cutting staff, slashing programs, abolishing sabbaticals, and reducing tenure track positions . . . we did none of this.
The fact that we stood out from the crowd by standing on firm financial terrain is a tribute to our prudent stewardship of resources. This was possible only because of your understanding . . . and your contributions. Let me give you two very concrete examples:
- Your commitment to our energy conservation measures resulted in savings of more than $430,000. That figure is remarkable.
- Even after enduring a five percent reduction in your operating budgets, your prudent stewardship enabled us to come in $1.5 million under your allotted budgets. That is unheard of, and all I can say is, thank you.
I must also extend special thanks to John Palmucci, Tom Kingston, David Beaupre, their staffs, and our Board of Trustees. Our office of finance and our Board members charged with shepherding our funds never made risky investments and were never seduced by exotic financial instruments that promised glorious riches.
We never strayed from our commitment to fiduciary responsibility and fiscal prudence. Our history of tight budget controls served us well during these rough economic times. Yes, we suffered short-term setbacks, but they will not have long-term consequences.
We are on the upswing. Our endowment, which had dipped to $122 million in FY 09 is now up by $23 million, to $145 million. We’re not back to our high-water mark, but we’re fighting our way toward it. And while our Sellinger State grant was cut by $1.4 million in FY 10, we had planned for this development and were therefore able to make up for the shortfall through the use of contingency funds.
Standard and Poor’s Rating service has maintained its ”A” rating on our revenue bonds, a vote of confidence that many other institutions very much wanted — and did not receive. This is a tribute to our fiscal discipline: When it comes to financial stewardship, we will always do what is right for the long haul rather than do what is easy in the short run.
Some of you may question this assertion. After all, what’s up with the Donnelly renovation? With the renovation of the bookstore? And what about the new Starbucks? The answer is that we cannot keep our commitment to enhancing and enriching the natural sciences, one of the lynchpins of our strategic plan, without state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. But financially, the critical point is this: We are getting this renovation at a discount. More than a quarter of the cost of the Donnelly renovation — $3.25 million — is in the form of matching aid from the State of Maryland. In effect, we are getting a 30 percent cut on the Donnelly renovation.
And the bookstore and Starbucks? Not one penny came from our coffers. The cost was borne entirely by our corporate partners, Barnes & Noble and Sodexo. So next time you’re enjoying a Frappacino, I hope you’ll enjoy it more knowing that Sodexo put the Starbucks there. The same is true of other improvements in the Student Center dining facilities.
Whether in institutions or in families, financial matters often have the effect of turning small differences of opinion into major sources of division. That has not happened here, but it’s something we need to be vigilant about.
Let me give this point real emphasis by digressing for a moment and telling you one of my favorite stories about an economic clash.
Near the end of World War II, the main topic in the British parliament turned from the war to the economy. Prime Minister Churchill and the British parliament were not seeing eye-to-eye. And in the midst of one especially spirited exchange, a Member of Parliament, a woman, stood up, faced Churchill, and said, “Mr. Prime Minister, if I were your wife, I would put poison in your tea.” And Churchill responded, “Madam, if I were your husband, I would drink it.”
I’m very happy no one has talked of poisoning my tea — or my wine . . . that I know of. Then again, I’m also aware of the fact that Churchill was soon voted out of office. The serious point here is that even during a year when our salaries were frozen and our budgets cut, you put the common good above private concerns. Here at Loyola, people step up.
People like Susan Donovan, who took on two vice presidencies during our search for a new VP for advancement.
People like Louise Finn and her staff, who continue to charge forward with the effort to make Loyola a paperless university, an effort that will not only save us money, but will also move us to the forefront among our peer institutions.
People like the more than 20 faculty, staff, and administrator “listeners” who helped us move forward with our York Road Initiative by better understanding the needs and concerns of the residents there. On Oct. 6, we will have a forum exploring the information the listeners gathered, and discussing with our neighbors the next steps for partnerships between our University and their communities.
We have people like Katherine Brennan, Mike Puma, and their dedicated, creative committee members, who have worked hard to ensure that our Living and Learning Communities initiative, as it moves forward, will be directed by the experts — that is, by our faculty and student development professionals.
Our committees have created an architecture for the program that will require further creativity — and all involved are excited to see not only how the program takes shape, but how it does so in a way that is distinctive and precisely tailored to our Loyola culture. We are building on our successes with first-year programs and deepening our commitment to the principle of cura personalis that is so critical to our success.
I also want to give credit and thanks to people who took hold of their own professional development —
- Elizabeth Dahl received a $187,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for her chemistry research.
- Elliot King received a $48,000 grant for his communications project.
- Libby Kumin received a $172,000 grant for her work on transitions to the workplace among young adults with Down syndrome.
- Dawn Lawrie and David Binkley secured a grant of $309,000 for their research in computer science
- Maren Blohm and Elizabeth Dahl led a joint effort by the departments of biology and chemistry to secure a fourth National Science Foundation grant, a record for the number of NSF grants received in a single year.
- Kaye Whitehead received a National Endowment for the Humanities stipend for her work on Emilie Davis, an African-American woman who, in private diaries, chronicled developments during the Civil War.
I must stop this list, however much the praise is deserved. Because I know that I am leaving out others who are quietly and selflessly fueling our progress and driving us toward the day when the goal at the center of our strategic plan is not an aspiration but an achievement. Martin Luther King once said that, “The ultimate measure of a people is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience but where they stand in moments of challenge and controversy.” I believe that the report of the Middle States accreditation team will reflect the fact that in moments of challenge and controversy, we measured up. We delivered.
As I mentioned earlier, our initial self-study is now complete. And it is available online. It is the work of 10 working groups, and I thank all of you who worked on this project. Special thanks to Anne Young, Elissa Derrickson, and Terra Schehr for their leadership throughout this process.
I know this work has been difficult. I know it has been packed with pressure. But this self-examination will serve us well. Socrates said that, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I’ll paraphrase that: In time, the unexamined institution is not worth much. (Just ask some of our nation’s biggest banks.) Self-assessment is a prerequisite for growth and for vitality. And it is at the heart of discernment. So I welcome this examination. And I know the Middle States report will reflect much of what I have said today, while also helping us define future initiatives that will take us to new heights.
The process will affirm that Loyola University is strong — and will help us identify the route to greater strength. We are strong because we are faithful to our core values. We are strong, as our self-study states, because we are anchored by our mission and by the Jesuit values that have sustained us for 158 years. We are strong because of our twin commitment to high-quality teaching and high-quality scholarship that serve to elevate the human condition and ensure a brighter tomorrow.
I have just completed my fifth year as your president. And because of that five-year milestone, I have been asked several times recently what I view as my greatest accomplishment. And in response, I thought about the struggle to get our library renovated. I thought about the designation change and all that that means. And I thought about our policy of admitting all qualified undergraduate students regardless of economic status.
But then humility set in. Appropriate humility. There was something wrong with the question. What was wrong — what is wrong — is this: The last five years are not about my accomplishments. They are about your accomplishments. They are about your dedication to our students and your devotion to Loyola.
Those thoughts bring me back to where I began today. The State of Loyola University Maryland is strong because you are strong. And the State of the University is strong because here at Loyola, we remember that we have promises to keep. We know we have to keep the promises we made in our strategic plan. We have promises to keep to our students. We have promises to keep to our community. We have promises to keep to our heritage and to our Jesuit values. And, maybe most of all, we have promises to keep to each other.
I believe it is that conviction that has given us the remarkable strength to flourish in tough times, to sail successfully through rough waters. And, while this period of economic difficulty will one day pass, we will endure other, perhaps even greater, challenges ahead. But no matter what challenges we face, we will survive. We will thrive. And we know that together, only together, can we keep our promise to create the leading Catholic comprehensive university in the nation.
Ad majorem Dei Gloriam.