August 16, 2016
Dear University of Miami Community,
One year ago today, I arrived at the University of Miami as its new president. As I said then, I felt somewhat like a first-year student: excited about the remarkable university I was now a part of, a bit daunted about how much I had to learn, and eager to get underway and make a difference in my new community.
My wife, our daughters, and I could not have imagined then just how many memorable experiences we would have in our first year as Canes: warm expressions of welcome by trustees, faculty, students, staff, alumni, and benefactors; discovery of a vibrant, cosmopolitan city; walks with students around Lake Osceola; a trip to the Everglades; the unforgettable experience of tagging sharks in Key Largo with faculty and students from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and the irrepressible Miami Hurricanes spirit I felt visiting the student section as the U's football team took the field at home games.
It was an honor to help dedicate the new Fate Bridge, humbling to look out at the amazing group assembled at the Convocation Center for my inauguration, and exciting to break ground on new construction projects across our different campuses. I was filled with pride when I saw firsthand the dedication of our medical students at the community health fair they ran in Liberty City, and filled with sadness when we learned of the passing of President Tad Foote, who led the University for two decades.
In the middle of a busy, activity-filled year, I have also had the exhilarating opportunity to get involved in the intellectual life of our University, hearing scholars and scientists speak about their latest work and advising students about their fascinating career goals. I have found time to enjoy our arts and music scene, lecture about my own areas of expertise and, more broadly, re-imagine the future of higher education. Getting to know so many students, faculty, staff, trustees, community leaders, and elected officials has been a rich source of ideas and inspiration. The transition into my new position has been greatly facilitated by the guidance of our committed Board of Trustees, and I have benefitted from fruitful partnerships with its chairs, first Stuart Miller and now Richard Fain.
I have always found anniversaries to be opportunities for reflection, and as the University moves forward toward its centennial in 2025, I would like to share with you some of my own thoughts on this much more modest milestone: my first 366 days as your president (remember that 2016 is a leap year).
First, I am impressed by the talent of our faculty and student body and also by the caliber of people we are able to draw here as trustees, administrators, leaders, and partners. I have been fortunate to strengthen my senior leadership team with outstanding new recruits, notably Steven Altschuler as CEO of UHealth and Mark Richt as head coach of our football team. I am convinced that UM can be a magnet for talent. We can attract and retain a level of excellence that will make us stand out in the classroom, in the research labs, at the clinical bedside, and on the playing fields.
Second, our community is in a unique position to serve as a national model for diversity and inclusion. Ours is an extraordinarily diverse student body; we have long had a sizeable percentage of Hispanic students, owing in part to our geography, and we are now at or near the top of our peers nationally for enrollment of black students in the freshman cohort. With the help of task forces dedicated to identifying and addressing the concerns of communities that have historically suffered discrimination and exclusion, we are implementing several initiatives to ensure that all of us feel valued and have the opportunity to add value. Our new LGBTQ Student Center is a recent example of those efforts. Diverse students of talent and promise must have the opportunity of a UM education regardless of economic circumstances; expanding aid so we can progressively meet financial need will continue to be a top priority.
Third, I am convinced that we can make a distinguished and distinctive contribution to the global debate on the future of universities. Each of our main missions—research and scholarship, teaching and learning, health care—faces a complex mix of disruptive challenges and opportunities for innovation. We must proactively lead the way toward a future that will look very different from the past and the present. We have the legacy of a strong institution, built with the talent and dedication of those who have come before us. Resilience provides the foundation for renewal.
In this regard, I have been energized by your constructive engagement in developing the Roadmap to Our New Century. We aspire to build bridges across geographic, cultural, and intellectual borders; to bring forth a passion for excellence in every dimension of our work; to enable innovation so we can address challenges facing our world; and to nurture a true sense of belonging by including and elevating diverse voices. In bringing these aspirations to life, we take advantage of our strategic location in a city that is a point of convergence for creativity and innovation across the Americas and the rest of the world. What sets us apart is that we are a global university with a distinct hemispheric advantage.
The Roadmap process has been inclusive and inspiring, and you will hear much more in the months to come about its eight initiatives and the ongoing efforts to transform our academic health system.
The enduring impact of our work is enabled by the altruistic support of our trustees, alumni, and friends. I am very pleased to report that fiscal year 2016 set a philanthropic record for the University, with nearly $237 million raised in cash and cash equivalents, including the generous gift from the Miller family, which helped close the Momentum2 campaign. In addition, we secured valuable new commitments, most notably $100 million from Phillip and Patricia Frost, which appears to be the largest single gift ever announced at a presidential inauguration, and will accelerate our progress in path-breaking science.
As we look to the year ahead of us, I want to close by thanking you personally for the warm welcome you have given my family and me, for the time and effort you have put into the Roadmap process, and for the spirit of resilience and renewal that you display each day to make our University such a unique and special community. We are one U.