May 31, 2011
Dear faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and friends of Rutgers:
My longstanding and profound pride in Rutgers has grown even stronger in the past month. Walking with my wife Joan and our year-old daughter Katie on Rutgers Day, I was reminded again of the breadth of outstanding programs this university offers—and was inspired afresh by the often brilliant ways in which members of our community made their areas of expertise relevant to visitors of all ages. Then at Rutgers Stadium on May 15, I presided over Rutgers’ largest and first truly university-wide commencement. At that jubilant, magnificent ceremony, we honored the first graduating class of the School of Arts and Sciences, born of our Transformation of Undergraduate Education, and conferred a record 12,800 degrees as well.
Today I reflect with joy on these fresh expressions of great achievement at Rutgers as I announce to our Board of Governors and to all of you my plans to step down as Rutgers president at the end of the 2011–2012 academic year.
As many of you know, Rutgers is my home. I was born only a few blocks away and spent countless hours wandering through campus walkways and corridors as a child reared by parents who spent their careers loving and caring for Rutgers. Later, I had the privilege of serving on the Rutgers history faculty from 1976 to 1992. So as I prepare to conclude my presidency, I am not leaving home. Joan, who is a loyal Rutgers alumna, Katie, and I plan to be a part of the Rutgers community for many years to come. I will return to the faculty in New Brunswick, where I began my academic career as an assistant professor 35 years ago. My family and I will remain connected and committed to Rutgers through our work, philanthropy, good will, and public service.
When I returned to Rutgers as its 19th president in December of 2002, our nation was at war and New Jersey was grappling with a difficult economy. Sadly, these conditions persist today. In my Inaugural Address, I said that despite these realities, we have within Rutgers enduring instruments of the highest and noblest human purposes and that never was the work we do more important. Despite tragedies, challenges, and budgetary hardships, we have labored together for nearly a decade to move this remarkable university forward.
Together, we achieved the most significant reorganization of Rutgers in a quarter-century through the Transformation of Undergraduate Education. That initiative has opened up opportunities for all New Brunswick/Piscataway undergraduates to benefit from the university’s academic programs and support services. It led to the establishment of the School of Arts and Sciences with its comprehensive new curriculum, Byrne first-year seminars, dramatic expansion of opportunities for undergraduate research and honors programs, and support for top undergraduates who are increasingly winning the most prestigious international scholarships and awards.
I am exceedingly proud to have appointed so many academically excellent, entrepreneurially aggressive chancellors, deans, and vice presidents on all three campuses. They are providing leadership for everything important happening at Rutgers and helping us find new sources of revenue in order to achieve our ambitions. Together, we have launched new interdisciplinary academic initiatives in such fields as nutrition, materials and devices, transportation, childhood studies, urban entrepreneurship, and climate change and alternative energy. Together, we have also strengthened the arts and sciences disciplines that are at the core of the university. These programs have positioned Rutgers to compete in the global economy, to contribute to the solution of worldwide problems, and to prepare students for lives of accomplishment and purpose deep into the 21st century.
We have made important campus investments, including a business school building and residence hall in Newark, a law school building and recreation center in Camden, and a visitor center and buildings for the health sciences, life sciences, and civil engineering in New Brunswick/Piscataway, to name a few. Together, we are realizing a new vision for the Livingston Campus, with an emphasis on business and professional education, including a new academic building to meet the growing demand for business studies. Already we have dramatically reshaped the student experience at Livingston with a new student center opened last year, a dining commons opening this fall, and a 1,500-student residence hall complex opening in 2012.
In these years we have also strengthened our commitment to Rutgers’ 400,000 living graduates with a more robust alumni relations presence, a reinvigorated Reunion and Homecoming, and our first comprehensive, university-wide alumni association, the RUAA. We have made the dream of college more attainable for disadvantaged children through the Rutgers Future Scholars program, which next summer will reach its full enrollment of 1,000 pre-college students—each holding the promise of a free Rutgers education if they earn admission. We have worked together to promote deeper appreciation for the university and its achievements through initiatives such as the Rutgers Today online news center, Rutgers Day, and our Jersey Roots, Global Reach campaign. True to the theme of that campaign, Rutgers has become both more engaged with the communities where our campuses are located and more active and present internationally.
Along the way, I have taught, worked with, and learned from undergraduate and graduate students whose intellectual curiosity is matched by a commitment to Rutgers’ betterment. I have applauded their accomplishments in the classroom, lab, and studio, on the stage and the playing field, and in the community. I have seen our highly skilled and dedicated staff members surmount challenge after challenge in supporting students and keeping the university moving forward. I have marveled at our faculty’s success in making important discoveries, earning record levels of grant funding ($433 million last year alone), winning international prizes, and earning election to revered academies. I have witnessed the devotion of parents who have made great sacrifice to keep their son or daughter at Rutgers, and the generosity of our alumni in funding scholarships to make a Rutgers education possible for those who come after them.
Thanks to all you have done, the demand for a Rutgers education has never been higher. Applications for admission have risen by 14 percent since 2002, and enrollment has grown from 51,480 students that year to an anticipated 58,000 this fall. During that period, the university has improved student retention and graduation rates, increased student diversity, and enlarged the representation of out-of-state, international, and non-traditional students. These changes have enabled Rutgers to educate and graduate a student body that is highly diverse and increasingly well-prepared for 21st century global citizenship.
There are ambitious opportunities ahead of us. We are in the midst of a $1 billion fundraising campaign—the largest in our history—and have already raised more than half of that total. During the year ahead, I will continue to devote myself to fundraising, and I am confident that Rutgers will reach the campaign goal under my successor, just as the last Rutgers campaign reached its successful conclusion following my arrival as president in 2002.
Just as important is the challenge set forth by the higher education task force appointed by governor Chris Christie and led by former governor Tom Kean. Affirming that “For a state to be great, it must have a great state university,” the task force has made recommendations to propel Rutgers to the next level among the nation’s premier public research universities. I have expressed the university’s clear support for these recommendations, including adequate state funding of higher education and a bond issue to support capital facilities. I have also spoken forcefully about the transformational benefits of bringing Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the School of Public Health into Rutgers. Having these health science schools within our university would help attract top-flight researchers, increase federal research grants, and create new interdisciplinary opportunities among our distinguished academic departments. I will continue to advocate strongly regarding these issues during the year ahead.
With important accomplishments behind us, and a bounty of opportunities ahead, I believe that Rutgers today is stronger than ever. I have pledged to the Boards of Governors and Trustees that I will continue to work vigorously to advance Rutgers, and I extend that same pledge to all of you.
Joan and I feel privileged to be part of this university. We will always love Rutgers and the extraordinary people who make this such an outstanding institution.
Richard L. McCormick