Remarks to New Jersey State Assembly

Richard L. McCormick, President
December 12, 2002

Thank you Speaker Sires and thanks to the members of this distinguished House for the opportunity to address you today. The last time I was at this podium was in 1964, when I served as Speaker of the State Assembly of New Jersey Boy's State. It feels good to be back.

Rutgers belongs to the people of New Jersey, and on my watch — and yours — we will meet New Jersey's needs for the highest quality education, research, and service. In becoming president of Rutgers, I am following in a long and proud tradition.

Queen's College, later Rutgers, was chartered in 1766 by New Jersey's Colonial Governor, one of Benjamin Franklin's sons.

In 1864, the state legislature designated the Rutgers Scientific School, now Cook College, as the state's land-grant college.

In 1918, the New Jersey College for Women, now Douglass College, was founded. Today, Douglass is one of the nation's largest and most distinguished colleges for women.

In 1945, the Legislature declared Rutgers the state university, and the Newark and Camden campuses joined in the next few years.

So Rutgers' relationship with New Jersey spans nearly 140 years. During that time, Rutgers has fulfilled a three-fold mission: teaching students of every age and from every walk of life; conducting research to discover and apply new knowledge; and service to our citizens.

And we are proud of Rutgers' record. There are approximately 320,000 living alumni, the great majority of them in New Jersey. Our graduates have excelled in every arena from the depths of the seas to the vastness of space. Rutgers scientists have advanced the world's body of knowledge and used that knowledge to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and lift the human spirit. We have represented New Jersey with dignity and pride, and we stand today among the most respected of our nation's public research universities.

Today, the long, proud, and entwined histories of New Jersey and Rutgers have again reached a historic moment. The N.J. Commission on Health Science, Education and Training has proposed a major restructuring of the public research universities in our state. Championed by Governor McGreevey, the Commission's vision presents exceptional opportunities for Rutgers, for UMDNJ and NJIT, and for New Jersey.

We are ready to work with the Governor and the Legislature to create an even better system of public higher education for this state and for the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.

The decisions made in this House will profoundly affect not only health science education in New Jersey but also our undergraduate and graduate students, our state's economic future, and our ability to serve the people of our state. I pledge to work with you to seize this opportunity and to achieve these goals.

It is an honor for me to return to my home state at this time in the history of Rutgers. My administration will be open and accessible. I look forward, therefore, to working with each of you.

In closing, I want to point with pride to the very special relationship between Rutgers and the people of New Jersey. From the Pine Barrens to the Northeast Corridor, from blueberries, to neuroscience, to public policy, to collaboration with the K–-12 schools, Rutgers serves the citizens of our state. If we have not always done this as well as we could have, if we have sometimes seemed aloof from the people and problems of our state, I promise to do better. No matter which district or which New Jerseyans you represent, Rutgers will meet the needs of your constituents and make you proud.

I came home to New Jersey to cement the bonds between Rutgers and our state. Thank you for that opportunity and for the privilege of addressing this House today.