State of the University Address 2015 - page 2

I have entitled these remarks “Short Remarks from a Short-Timer” which sounded better than “stale remarks from a stale Chancellor.” When I announced last April 1 that this would be my last year as Chancellor, I was determined not to give a State of the University address. I concluded that it would be more appropriate, and in some ways more symbolic, if on April 1 of this coming year, I give a farewell address. I intend to do so on April 1.

However, my staff -- that mysterious black box known as the Senior Administrative Team -- urged me to give a State of the University speech. They argued it was traditional and there would be a serious void without it. They also correctly observed that we had to fill up the time between the employee service awards and the picnic.

It is difficult to know what to say. I am no longer in a position to set a long term agenda for the campus, and it would not be fair to my successor for me to attempt to do so. I plan to provide my final assessment on the state of the university next April before handing the reigns to a new chancellor. At that point I will have no political restraints on what I can say. That doesn’t leave much for this address. Of course, some might argue the lack of substance hasn’t stopped me before.

Many have asked me how I was able to serve as chancellor for such a long time. I reply that I followed that sage advice: Don’t retire until you’ve irritated enough people to make it worthwhile. I think I have satisfied that criteria.

One of the honors associated with being chancellor for the last 14 years has been that many of you cared about what I said in the State of the University. I am also quick to acknowledge that one of the strengths of this university, and one of the reasons for our success, has been that the campus has had the good sense to ignore some of my suggestions when they turned out to be impractical. The bureaucracy of any institution of shared governance can seemingly embrace an idea with open arms and then, in mysterious ways, made it all but disappear. I just wanted you to know I recognized it when you did it to me.

So without being too specific, I will report to you on the state of the university and give you an idea of the agenda I will try to pursue during this last year as your chancellor. I recognize that the focus of the campus will be on the search process for my successor, as it rightly should be. The university should be well positioned to attract good leadership and I am confident it will. As I said before, in leading the university I have tried to follow the advice in Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great,” which is to hire good people and get out of their way. I have been fortunate, more often than not, to find extraordinary talent, and if I have made any contribution it was to have the good sense to free them to lead. I am indebted to vice chancellors Ronnie Green, Prem Paul, Juan Franco, Chris Jackson, Mark Askren, and the others who have served on the senior administrative team during my tenure as chancellor.