April 28, 2011
Wallace D. Loh
University of Maryland
Good morning! I want to thank each person who is here today for sharing with me this special moment. And I want to thank all of you who are watching by streaming video.
My wife Barbara and I are honored to join the University community. We are touched by how warmly you have embraced us. We are proud to be new Terps and thrilled to be residents of College Park.
Chairman Kendall and Chancellor Kirwan: I accept the honor and the responsibility to serve as the 33rd president of the University of Maryland. Your charge to me is not only for me to accept. It is for all members of our University community to accept together with me, because the University's future rests upon all of us. This is the symbolic significance of today's ceremony.
An inauguration is not only to install - and to flatter generously - a new president. It is also to celebrate the University - to recognize the achievements and to reaffirm the dedication of all members of the University of Maryland family: faculty; undergraduate and graduate students, staff, alumni, regents, trustees, friends and supporters. You are the University. You have made this University great. You will make it even greater tomorrow.
I assume this office with humility, because I stand on the shoulders of the giants who preceded me, Dan Mote and Brit Kirwan. They led the University in its remarkable rise in stature and impact. Thank you for your leadership.
Photo by Charlie DeBoyace
University President Wallace Loh addresses a crowd of more than 200 attendees during his inauguration yesterday.
To all the speakers this morning, I’m touched by your good wishes. I’m inspired by your words of support. To President Mason, my former boss and mentor, it means a lot to Barbara and me that you came all the way from Iowa to be here today. To all the guests and delegates present, you honor the University by your presence. Thank you.
To my wife Barbara, thank you for your love and support during our 27 years together. To our daughter Andrea, I know you are watching us over the internet. I know you wanted to be here. But, you did the right thing to stay in school and study for finals.
To my mother and father, I wish you could be here today. You live in my memory. You sacrificed to open a world of possibilities for me.
I first came to America at the age of 15, to a field of dreams called Iowa. I was born in China and raised in Peru, speaking Chinese at home and Spanish in school. I came alone, without friends or family, and with $300 in my pocket, the life-savings of my parents. But I was sustained - as generations of immigrants before and after me have been sustained - by an unwavering belief that this is the land of liberty and opportunity, that with hard work, scrappy determination, perseverance, and education, I could realize my dreams.
In the heartland of this country, I was welcomed and supported. My four years in college transformed me and set the stage for my life's journey. My personal story is of no consequence other than as a story of the importance of education and the promise of America.
It's a story for every young person who can grow up thinking, if he can make it, so can I. It's the story of our nation's evolution towards a more inclusive society that makes it possible for this Asian-Hispanic American to stand here today as the president of the University of Maryland. It's the enduring story of the American dream.
Nothing is achieved solely by dint of one's own efforts. I shall always be grateful to the trailblazers of earlier generations whose bittersweet struggles paved the way for me today.
An inauguration is also an occasion to take stock of how far we've come, and to look beyond the horizon - to imagine the future.
In 1856, a small group of planters and merchants, several of them members of the Maryland General Assembly, gathered on a rural hill to found a college. Led by Charles Benedict Calvert, a descendant of the first Lord Baltimore, they vowed to "build an institution superior to any other." Thus began the Maryland Agricultural College with 32 students and three faculty members.
If our founders were here today, they would be amazed and inspired. They would see a powerhouse University with 37,000 students and 9,000 faculty and staff. We have kept faith with our founders.
Kiplinger Magazine recently ranked the University of Maryland the 5th best value among all public colleges and universities in the country, based on quality and affordability. The entering freshmen are talented and diverse, with a median GPA of 3.9 and a median SAT score of 1300. About 38 percent are students of color.
If I were applying for admission today, I would not be accepted. Fortunately, the standards for hiring a president are not as high as for the admission of freshmen.
No public research university in the nation has risen as high and as fast over the past 15 years as the University of Maryland.
If there is one commitment I want to make to you today, it is this: We will stay the course in our rise in excellence. We will be relentless in our drive to greater prominence and impact in all that we do: in academics, in the arts, and in athletics.
We will continue our ascent by focusing on four strategic priorities:
- Student opportunity and achievement;
- Innovation and entrepreneurship;
- Service to the people of Maryland.
These priorities express the dreams, the hopes, and the goals that many of you have shared with me over the past six months. They build on our existing strengths and values. They are grounded in our strategic plan, Transforming Maryland: Higher Expectations.
- Student Opportunity and Achievement
Above all, my presidency will be dedicated to strengthening our educational excellence. Our high calling as educators is intergenerational improvement. As the poet Yeats said, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a flame." Our job is to light a flame in our students that will last a lifetime.
Our acclaimed living-learning communities; our new core curriculum, that revitalizes our liberal arts education; the myriad opportunities for research, internships, and service-learning; our dedicated faculty and student affairs staff - this is why the quality of a Maryland education is second to none.
The results of that education are seen in the achievement of our students. This year, we have over 80 recipients of nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships: Marshall, Fulbright, Beinecke, Churchill, Gilman, NSF, Boren, and Critical Language. Twenty of these students are here today - most of them are going to study all over the world. We are so proud of you!
We have come far, but we have more to do.
The State of Maryland is the second leading exporter of college talent. About one-fourth of the State's top students enroll on our campus. We will increase this number to over one-third. We want to keep our home-grown talent right here, in Maryland. Where one attends college influences where one ultimately lives and works.
Higher education is the key to success in the global knowledge economy. For years, the U.S. ranked #1 in the production of college graduates. Today, we rank #10 among industrialized nations. We rank even lower in the production of graduates in STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, mathematics.
Governor O'Malley has set a stretch goal: 55 percent of adult Marylanders will have a college degree by 2025. The University System of Maryland has adopted this goal in its strategic plan.
Our state cannot reach the 55 percent goal unless the flagship university helps lead the way. Over the next 10 years, as we get state funds to support growth, we will expand our enrollment by about 4,000 students at College Park and Shady Grove. We will increase by one-third the numbers of STEM graduates.
This call to action is not just an educational necessity. It is also a moral and economic imperative.
The 2010 census makes clear that the face of America is changing. You can see it in the classrooms and playgrounds of public schools. By the end of this decade, about half of our nation's children will be minorities. Among Hispanic students, for example, 50 percent never finish high school. The doors of opportunity cannot be closed to them.
Our youth are the future of the country. The future of our country is tied to the educational achievements of our youth. We will support their success. The achievement of all of our students will be a hallmark of our educational excellence.
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship
We are proud of the research and creative work conducted on our campus, in all academic disciplines. Our faculty has:
- Shot rockets into comets to study their make-up;
- Published seminal works on the lives of slaves in colonial and antebellum America;
- Created genetically-engineered fungus that can combat malaria in an eco-friendly way;
- Curated major art exhibits in the National Gallery;
- Appeared regularly on national media to comment on the historic uprisings in the Arab world.
Our faculty secures $550 million in external research funding annually. For every $1 dollar we pay our faculty in state-funded salaries, our faculty generates $3 in external research funding. We will build on this outstanding record.
We will be relentless in retaining our best faculty and staff. We will recruit the best scholars, artists, scientists, and engineers.
We will place even greater emphasis on big, multi-disciplinary research projects that tackle the biggest challenges of our time, such as: childhood obesity, cancer, green energy, climate change, and cyber-security.
We will forge more and stronger partnerships with the unique assets in our region: All the federal labs, agencies, and cultural institutions; large military bases; high-tech industries; and global businesses.
In the words of President Obama, our nation faces a new "Sputnik moment." There is no one dramatic event, no sudden epiphany. But there is a widening gap between the U.S. and other nations that puts at risk our longstanding supremacy in economic competitiveness, education, and science and technology.
A month ago, I spoke on this topic on Capitol Hill, to members of the Democratic Senators' Outreach Committee. I said that the American research university - a crowning achievement of American civilization - must respond to this Sputnik moment. We are a premier research university. We must also become a premier innovation and entrepreneurial university.
Faculty research is driven by a passion to advance the frontiers of knowledge. A byproduct of that passion can be the creation of new jobs and new wealth, which is essential to the future of our state and nation. We must set as a high priority to translate the results of academic research into viable enterprises.
Innovation is not only about science, technology, and business. It's about new vision and imagination in all areas of inquiry and creative work. It's about putting knowledge into practice.
The University of Maryland will launch a Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a one-stop concierge service. It will coordinate under one umbrella the many idea-generation and venture-creation activities on campus.
The vision is to make innovation and entrepreneurship an integral part of our academic culture; to expand curricular and co-curricular opportunities; to accelerate the commercialization of ideas; to make the University a major catalyst for economic vitality in the greater Baltimore and Washington areas.
We currently invest $5 million annually in these activities. We will raise $60 million for this Center. We will launch 100 new companies over the next 10 years. For example, a company we incubated at Mtech was sold recently for more than $1 billion .
This Center is the brain child of my predecessor, Dan Mote. I’m pleased and grateful that he has agreed to help get it launched.
The appropriations bill recently passed by the Maryland General Assembly directs the Board of Regents to study whether to "merge" the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
I support the study. I stand ready to provide whatever support I can to the Regents in their study. I know that my colleague, President Jay Perman of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, stands ready as well.
This is a difficult issue.
In 1862, at the time of our nation's greatest existential crisis, President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act to create a new kind of university. The land-grant university was an innovation in American higher education that catalyzed 150 years of national progress and prosperity. His soaring words are especially applicable today:
"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy future. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion. As our case is new, so must we think anew."
Whatever the Regents might ultimately conclude about merger, this is an opportunity for all of us to "rise to the occasion" and "think anew" about the vision and purposes of research universities in the 21st century.
How can the flagship campus in College Park, and the founding campus in Baltimore, come together in ways that will catapult both campuses to the top ranks of national and global universities? - In ways that will benefit students? - In ways that will be a win-win for Baltimore and the State of Maryland? - In ways that will benefit our sister institutions in the System?
To win great opportunities ahead, we must work together to bridge academic boundaries; professional boundaries; organizational boundaries; and geographic boundaries.
As president Perman said in his eloquent inaugural address last November, "We go further and faster when we go together."
The world today is flat, as Thomas Friedman has said. It is totally interconnected, with free flow of goods, capital, people, and ideas across national boundaries.
In a flat world, great universities will be globally networked universities. They will be universities without borders.
Our nation's capital is an international hub. Our location next to the capital positions us to be a hub where the best American and international talent congregates, collaborates, and innovates - the hot spot where East-West and North-South come together.
We will carry the banner of Maryland on the global stage of higher education. We will:
- Deepen the global competencies of our students;
- Expand the global content of our curricula;
- Strengthen our cross-border partnerships;
- Bring the world to our campus by attracting more top undergraduate students from abroad, as part of our normal out-of-state pool;
- Project our campus to the world, by sending more Maryland students to study abroad.
We have a responsibility to educate our students to live and work in an interdependent world. We inhabit the same earth, but we are divided by language, religion, ethnicity, and culture. When we learn to see ourselves in the faces of people who look different than us, we are affirmed in our common humanity.
No corner of the planet will be beyond our reach. But, we will place strategic emphasis on certain regions, such as Asia. China is the most important economic relationship for the United States in this century. The University is already extensively networked in China.
I recently attended a luncheon for the President of China, hosted by the Secretary of State and the Vice President. I was asked how the University of Maryland will help advance President Obama's 100,000-strong initiative - sending 100,000 Americans to China.
These are the facts. We send 100 Maryland students to study in China every year. We send faculty to Jiangsu to offer a Master's degree in criminology. We offer the executive MBA in Beijing. Our students go to China to compete in international business competitions - and win first place. We award annually over 100 executive master's degrees in public policy to Chinese government officials who come to study in College Park. We have Chinese start-up companies in our business incubator.
Our men's and women's basketball teams are planning to play in China next year. Terp athletics will be the front porch of our global house. China fans will learn to "Fear the Turtle." Now, how cool is that?
In a couple of weeks, I will meet with the Chinese Minister of Education to discuss these issues. Next month, I will join Governor O'Malley on his trip to China to strengthen economic and educational ties.
There is no limit to the impact that the University of Maryland can make in the world. No limit to the impact that internationalization can have on the education and lives of our Maryland students.
- Service to the People of Maryland
As we pioneer the future, we must remain faithful to our past, and adapt our founding values to the needs of the present.
The 19th-century land-grant university promoted economic development by focusing on scientific agriculture.
Today, the State of Maryland is urbanized and suburbanized. Our metropolitan areas are home to most of the population and most of the jobs. Agriculture is no longer the dominant economic activity in the State.
However, our land-grant mission remains a guiding principle. From Cumberland in the west to Ocean City in the east; from Rising Sun in the north to St. Mary’s in the south; we are the University of and for the people of Maryland. Our land-grant mission is to enhance the quality of life of citizens in metropolitan areas as well as in rural areas.
Every part of the University is engaged in this mission. For example:
- The College of Education promotes minority achievement and urban education.
- The School of Public Health advances health equity and health literacy.
- The School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation is at the forefront of smart growth.
- The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has cooperative extension offices in every county and in Baltimore City, teaching entrepreneurship and urban horticulture to city youth - the "Grow It and Eat It" program in Baltimore produces 20,000 pounds of food yearly.
Nowhere is our land-grant mission more relevant than in our own community of College Park. To our new Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker and to Mayor Andy Fellows, I pledge to you: The University will work together with you to make a positive difference in College Park - to develop a safer, more attractive, less car-congested community, with stronger schools - a community that more of our faculty and staff will choose to live in. We will develop a new town center in East Campus that will be a destination place.
Earlier this week, the Board of Regents voted to support the Purple Line. They voted to support any alignment through campus that would maximize the chances of federal funding for this project. Thank you for your support.
These four strategic priorities of my presidency are not promises that I make to you. They are opportunities for us to pursue together.
Now, you may wonder: How can we go forward with an ambitious agenda in today's trying economic conditions? The economic recovery is fragile. Our nation's fiscal house must be put in order. Federal and state budgets are likely to be constrained for some time to come.
Hard times call for straight talk and hard choices.
Nobody knows when our nation's economic travails will end. But they will end. The economy runs in cycles. In our blessed country, we have faced hard times before, and we have emerged stronger than before. We must now position ourselves and make hard choices, so when the lean times recede, we can surge ahead. We will continue to:
- Practice fiscal discipline and prudent stewardship of resources;
- Reallocate budgets to protect quality and core missions;
- Advocate tirelessly for state funding by demonstrating our accountability to state priorities and our high return on the state's investment;
- Expand new revenue streams by entrepreneurial activities, philanthropy, and partnerships;
- Make targeted investments in strategic areas.
And we will continue our drive to greater excellence in everything that we do.
Where I grew up, there is a saying: "En mares revueltos, ganancias de pescadores." In stormy seas, fishermen prosper.
Our University community is blessed with many assets. The most important asset is our character. We are determined. We work hard. We are innovative. We take risks. We will fish and we will prosper.
Let me close with another saying from where I was born: A village comes of age when its elders plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.
You and I - well, some of you and I - are the elders of the University of Maryland. Together, let us plant trees - of student opportunity and achievement; innovation and entrepreneurship; internationalization; and service to the people of Maryland - trees that will provide shade for generations of Marylanders to come.
Thank you and GO TERPS!
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President Loh's Inaugural Speech from University of Maryland on Vimeo.
President Wallace D. Loh's Spring 2012 Video Message