From the President's Desk
The Celebratory Season
This is the celebratory season. For the next several weeks, including Founders Week and culminating with Commencement week, we will witness many occasions that acknowledge the achievements of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. We will recognize those students who have excelled both in the classroom and beyond at the annual campuswide student awards reception and at many other individual college and department events. We will congratulate our faculty who receive the good word from the provost about their promotions and tenure. We will honor faculty and staff who are retiring after their years of service to our University and particularly acknowledge those among our retirees who are being inducted into our emeriti hall of fame. We will welcome this year’s class of distinguished alumni back to the campus for a gala in their honor.
Although we have these events every year, we especially need them when critics of higher education, as they are doing more aggressively than usual this year, accompany their attacks with massive reductions to our budget and disparaging questions about our performance. It’s very easy to be frustrated, even angered, with all of this. Because, contrary to the baseless accusation of some of our critics that we are cloistered places of privilege, unaccountable to anyone, we have long since moved beyond a time—if it ever existed—when we expect resources to flow our way because we are intrinsically worthy.
The simple truth of the matter—as inconvenient as that truth may be for these critics—is that our work every day is centered on our students, grounded in strong performance measures, open to public scrutiny, committed to serving the needs of our communities and state, and focused on the future. We are no more affirmed in this work and purpose than when we celebrate the goodness and generosity of our students.
Although there are so many students worthy of praise, I’d like to focus on one small but highly representative group, in particular, who underscore the best intentions and successful expressions of our work. These are the recipients of the University Advisory Board’s Outstanding Student Service Award.
This award started six years ago when Judy Sitton was chairing the board. The award is a page from her own book, for it acknowledges students who are in good academic standing and who have demonstrated exemplary altruism and volunteer service. The Advisory Board seeks nominations from faculty and staff and then has the happy task of reviewing the letters of support, all of which, it seems, begin with something like, “It gives me great pride….”
And no wonder. Consider this year’s recipients:
We will celebrate much as we conclude this academic year. Yes, we will talk with pride and conviction about our mission and the values that support it. They are compelling and they do nourish us. But nothing strengthens us more as a place of noble purpose, nothing sustains us more now and into the future, than the inspiration and satisfaction we discover in the stories of these students. We single them out because they are deserving of recognition—but, just as importantly, because they are representative of so many more, who, individually and collectively, contribute to the story of whom we are and what we will yet become. These are the faces of our larger institutional narrative, and we could not be better portrayed than through these servant leaders.
—Paul J. Zingg, President
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