State of the University Address 2011 - page 4

Delivered September 1, 2011

Harvey Perlman, Chancellor


For the first time during my tenure as your chancellor, we are announcing campus-wide initiatives focused primarily on growth. If the last decade can be summarized as 10 years during which we determinedly chose to become better, the next decade will be characterized by an equally determined effort to become bigger without sacrificing the excellence we have achieved. A critical mass of successful students and talented staff and productive faculty is necessary to catalyze the steeper trajectory required to compete with our new peers. We'll learn soon that growth carries its own complexities. At the same time, the campus administration, in consultation with deans and others, will be constructing mechanisms that will reward those units who meet or exceed their targets. In this way we can assure that enrollment, graduation rates, research and faculty recognitions will be a welcomed structure for the faculty's ambitious plans for moving forward.

This is the 12th time I have delivered this address, and I am more energized and more optimistic now than in any of the years that I have been privileged to lead the campus. I particularly enjoy leading (or as is most often the case, following) a very gifted leadership team, individuals who seem committed to the University and not to any personal agenda. I particularly want to welcome Ellen Weissinger to her new permanent role as academic Vice Chancellor and to Tim Wei the new Dean of Engineering and Pat Dussault, the new Dean of Graduate Studies. All of you -- faculty, staff, and students -- have generated a long list of accomplishments for which I have received far too much credit. But it is not an unpleasant task to accept the kudos on your behalf.

I am often asked the question: "Just what does a Chancellor do?" For me this is a perplexing question because no two days are the same and a laundry list of what I do on a daily basis seems an unwelcome response to the question.

Searching for a metaphor, I first considered whether the chancellor might be much like the Wizard of Oz, the odd character behind the curtain, pulling the levers of the Emerald City. But the image of lever pulling seemed inappropriate for an institution of higher education. Rather, it seems to me that a university at its best is a collection of talent and interacting relationships, sometimes reflected in organizational charts and sometimes not, that seek to contribute to the symphony of education, research and service. A university then is like a jukebox — a collection of different tunes, not always in harmony, but all a part of an overall repertoire that contributes to the success of the people we serve.

On a personal note, I'm beginning to relate to George Burns' comment that "when I was young the Dead Sea was only sick." I understand the natural curiosity about a Chancellor's personal plans when that person has reached my age and has served for an extended period of time. There are a number of country songs that may reflect the thoughts of some of you. For example:

That well-known classic, "I liked you Better before I knew you so Well."
Or, Lynn Anderson's masterpiece: "I keep forgetting I forgot about you."
Or, that memorable song by Dan Hicks: "How Can I miss you If you Won't Go Away?"

Others of you may be longing for the day when you can sing Billy Walker's lament: "I'm so miserable without you, it's like having you here."

If the role of the faculty and staff is to continue to supply the jukebox with new music, the role of the Chancellor seems to be to feed the jukebox with quarters so that the music can continue. That's what I do. I feed the jukebox. How do I currently feel about continuing in that role? Joe Diffie summed up my current thinking.

Watch video for Joe Diffie - "Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox"