Moments to Treasure

Richard L. McCormick, President
As published in the Spring 2012 issue of Rutgers Magazine

Rutgers has arrived at an extraordinary moment. We are perhaps weeks away from a restructuring of higher education in New Jersey that will have a profound impact on Rutgers, including the possible integration of a medical school that will yield enormous benefits for the university and the state. We have seen the Rutgers–Camden community eloquently articulate and demonstrate the campus’s immense value in serving South Jersey and the world. And we have welcomed a highly accomplished leader in president-designate Robert L. Barchi.

As I complete my presidency and return to the faculty, many signature moments of the past decade at Rutgers will remain with me. One is that day in March 2006 when the Rutgers Board of Governors approved the reorganization of undergraduate education on the New Brunswick Campus. The board’s vote crystallized a nearly two-year conversation among faculty, students, alumni, and staff about how to make the undergraduate experience more robust, more equitable, and fully worthy of a major public research university. Thousands of voices contributed to that discussion, and from it grew a superb School of Arts and Sciences, substantially expanded academic opportunities for our students, and equally significant improvements in student life.

Another moment is the June 2008 morning we met the first cohort of Rutgers Future Scholars, the program that is helping hundreds of teenagers from our host communities to dream of and plan for a college education. Every student wore a red Rutgers T-shirt with “Class of 2017” imprinted on the back. The smiles on the faces of those then-seventh graders—who will be applying for college this coming year—told me all I needed to know about their determination to make the most of the opportunity Rutgers was giving them. This program’s impact has been life-changing—not only for the boys and girls in the program, but also for the Rutgers students who are serving as their mentors.

Talented, dedicated students have etched so many indelible moments into the history of Rutgers these past 10 years: the veterans who challenged Rutgers to do more for our brave soldiers returning to their studies (we now have one of the best veterans programs in the nation); the undergraduate who launched the Middle East Coexistence House to bring Muslim, Christian, and Jewish students together; the student leaders who extracted the administration’s written promise to expand the Livingston student center—ushering in the rapid and remarkable transformation of long-neglected Livingston into a showcase campus and a hub of professional education.

I am full of gratitude for all these moments, and for so many more that have defined the character, creativity, courage, brilliance, compassion, and tenacity of the Rutgers community.

A final moment I will always treasure was a personal one that happened just a few weeks ago: receiving a surprise honorary degree from Rutgers, a university that has meant everything to me throughout my life. I have never felt so honored. Thank you for the great privilege of being your president.