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Inaugural Address by President Michael Young

April 15, 2005 — It is with deep appreciation and gratitude that I welcome all of you who have chosen to join us on this special day in the life of this great university. I am honored and humbled by your presence. We have with us today leaders from government, industry, education and our religious communities; members of our University community, including administrators, faculty, students, staff and alumni; and hundreds of other supporters and well-wishers. Please know how much your presence means to Suzan and me and to the University. I am also delighted to welcome so many members of my extended family, who knew me when I was young and remain in some state of amazement that the Board of Regents really went through with this and put me in charge. None, of course, are more amazed or in a greater state of disbelief than my own children, who have joined us as well. Welcome to all of you.

I also very much appreciate the warm words of support and encouragement that have gone before. As you might imagine, assuming leadership of this University-with its remarkable history and its record of world-class accomplishments-is daunting. But I take great comfort in knowing that I share this stewardship with so many exceptional people whose passion for the school and commitment to its success equals mine. Indeed, it is precisely that support and sense of shared responsibility that will allow us to move this University forward.

I also take great comfort in knowing that we all build on the exceptional work of those who came before: great presidents, two of whom have honored us with their presence today, great professors, administrators, students and alumni. Their dedication to a “perpetual increase of knowledge, science, and intelligence,” as one of our most distinguished founders put it, has given us a strong foundation upon which to build. That storied past and certain foundation ensure that we can reach with confidence a successful future, a future that we can barely glimpse, but that we know is full of great opportunities and limitless possibilities.

But before we try to imagine that future, return with me to the past, and let us remind ourselves from where we have come. Join me on a stroll through our University, but not the University of today with its 28,000 students, its 2,000 professors, its 18,000 employees, its hospitals, its David Eccles School of Business, its Kingsbury Hall, its Hinckley Institute of Politics or its Bennion Center for Service Learning, its Rice-Eccles Stadium, its Marriott Library, or its museums.

Rather, the university through which we stroll is the University of Utah in 1915 – a great University, to be sure, but a very different one from today and certainly from the University of tomorrow. The campus is a small cluster of 13 newly constructed buildings, mostly on Presidents Circle. And the very first parking garage won’t be built for another three years, and then it will hold a grand total of eight cars. The block U – that beacon on the hill-is there, but hiking to it requires a major trek across undeveloped land.

Our University of 1915 has a law school, but just barely; it offers fewer than 20 classes and boasts only four full-time faculty. We have a new gymnasium, and our women students exercise in the gym, to be sure, but in wool pantaloons, not microfiber sweat suits. All our freshmen wear green caps, as required by the ASUU Constitution, no less. Students study electricity, not nanotechnology; they learn elocution, not digital media; and they are taught proper handwriting, not computer programming. Resident tuition, about which students still grumble, is $12 annually. Non-residents have it particularly difficult; they must pay $25 per year. The faculty salary schedule permits full professors the princely sum of up to $2,500 per year.

We actually have a senior administrative position called dean of women, occupied by Lucy Van Cott, whose concern for the students’ well-being is the hallmark of her service. In fact, in 1915, she recommends we purchase a few more cows to supplement those that are supplying about half of the milk for the campus cafeteria. Dean Van Cott keeps a cow of her own on campus, by the way, which she milks daily. But she is not the only one.

Just five years after our stroll across campus, in 1920, the Board of Regents will be approached by the president of the University, John A. Widtsoe, who will request permission to graze his cow on the University lawns. The regents will grant that permission, providing the University president a right that I assume is mine even today.

This president is no shrinking violet, by the way. A 1917 newspaper article reports that: “President Widtsoe floored Gerald Lambert, a sophomore, with his fist when he found Lambert . . . just outside his office door trying to cut the hair of Rodney Pack, a freshman.” Another student lost two teeth, we are told, in the ensuing melee. “Wholesale arrests of students . . . are threatened,” the article continues, “as a result of the haircutting war on between the freshmen and sophomore classes.”

As we continue our stroll through 1915, we find that our University is growing rapidly. More than 2,500 students will enroll this fall. Student organizations flourish, including ASUU, the band, the Utah Daily Chronicle, not to mention an organization called the Order of the Gleam. The dean of arts and sciences makes an audacious request this year to the legislature. He would like a building with classrooms. To that end, he seeks appropriations in the grand amount of $75,000. In fact, appropriations to the University are increasing, a recognition of the growth and energy the state has witnessed up there on that dusty hill presided over by a painted U.

And the strength of our academic programs is matched by our accomplishments on the athletic fields. Our basketball team will go on to win the national championship in the spring, beating, I am pleased to say, the University of Illinois by a score of 28 to 27. And in football, the Utes have just been crowned state champions, again.

It is a tremendous university, dedicated to “the perpetual increase of knowledge, science and intelligence.” In every respect our University lives up to the promise made by its founders 65 years before, one of whom said:

We wish ….[to] lay the foundation of a glorious institution that may be as the bright king of day, reflecting its noontide rays upon every clime, where knowledge may be disseminated in all its various branches, where literature, arts and sciences can be taught in all their present perfection and improved thereon . . . . [William I.. Appleby]

Now, fast forward with me 100 years and walk across this great campus again. The year is now 2015. Some things have hardly changed at all. The University just won the national championship in basketball again, and, by soundly defeating BYU and Utah State in football, have been crowned state champions again, on our way to another appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. The state’s newspapers are even daring to use the word “dynasty” when they talk about all our sports teams.

But much more fundamentally, our very essence, our heart and soul, remain the same. Our University of 2015 is still a place where all can partake of stores of wisdom. It is a place of great opportunity, where all, irrespective of background or circumstances, can be launched into the world, prepared to assume roles of leadership and responsibility. It is a place that still attracts students who share their predecessors’ passion to acquire knowledge, not merely for the sake of learning or for securing employment, however laudable those goals might be, but for the opportunity and skills it provides to make their communities and their world a better place.

It is a place that still takes seriously the notion that the development of character is an inescapable responsibility of a great university and its equally great faculty. It is a place where the faculty still well understands-and represents daily in their interaction with students-that habits of character, of honesty, of integrity, of principled loyalty and an intelligent concern for one’s fellow beings are not mere adornments of the educated person, but are at his or her very core, and that their inculcation is perhaps the very essence of a great education.

And above all, it remains a place of free and open discourse, where the force and validity of ideas depend not on their pedigree or author, but on their capacity to survive the rigorous, open-minded, honest, unfettered debate so warmly encouraged throughout the campus.

But in very important respects, our University of 2015 is an institution profoundly different from the University of 1915 through which we just walked, or even from the University that we enjoy today.

The U of 2015 is, without doubt, a livelier place. Our students are much more heavily supported by scholarships and spend far more time on campus, engaged in one-on-one research and individualized learning experiences with their professors and their classmates. The students you see are also different, although in ways you can’t initially identify. Then, you realize, it is because these students represent even more fully than in the past the rich diversity that now characterizes our state and our nation. You also notice that these students, in their interaction with each other and with their professors, speak dozens of different languages-most learned on campus-but honed to perfection in our dozens of study-abroad programs, programs which are undertaken by virtually every student at the University.

And these international experiences provide far more than just language skills. You pass the biology building and notice a student, newly returned from a trip to Latin America, working individually with her faculty mentor as she digitally analyzes a plant used in the Amazon rain forest to treat diseases.

Still another group of students is working in our Warnock Engineering Building to complete the electronic circuitry for electrodes that will be implanted by our medical students and their mentors in the body of a patient paralyzed by a spinal cord injury. These electrodes will send signals to receptors in the patient’s legs, bypassing her damaged spinal cord and allowing her to rise from her wheelchair and learn to walk again.

A visit to the fine arts buildings will reveal dancers working with computer programs to visualize and animate new works of art.

You will stroll by the business school and notice just about as many engineers taking classes there as conventional business students. But you will be surprised that these so-called conventional business students are as conversant with nanotechnology and recent developments in the field of biomedicine as they are with flow charts and pro formas.

The law school, housed in its elegant new building, also seems awash in engineers and physics majors, and lectures seem as likely to focus on genetics and quantum mechanics as torts and habeas corpus.

As you walk by the new College of Humanities building, which houses the Tanner Humanities Center and other departments, you notice posters for lectures and symposia. You are struck by the fact that these lectures are designed not only to illuminate the complexities of Proust and Joyce, but to help us understand what Proust, Joyce, Plato and Kant have to teach us about this remarkable technological world in which we now live and, perhaps more importantly, how to ensure that these technologies and scientific advances make the world a better place, a more beautiful, more just, more humane place.

It is an extraordinary tour of an extraordinary university. But it is a tour I take in my mind on a daily basis. I have seen this University of the future and I believe it is within our reach. It will not be easy to achieve, but it is possible. Indeed, I believe we can, and more importantly, I believe we must. We cannot fail the trust placed in us by those who have gone before and sacrificed so much to make this University what it already is. We owe our children and their children the future they so richly deserve.

To that end, I would like to propose specific actions we should take today to ensure our University of tomorrow becomes a reality.

But first, I stress that we are well on our way to reaching that dream. We are celebrating an unprecedented year in the history of the University. It surely has been so for our student-athletes-our football team, our men’s and women’s basketball teams, our women’s gymnastics team, our ski team, our soccer team, as well as our men’s and women’s swim teams-all have achieved conference championships and considerable national success and visibility.

But we have also achieved successes in realms far removed from the hardwood and the gridiron. Our faculty-as I have learned is their habit-has had an exceptional year. May I cite just a handful of what could be hundreds of examples:

· Frank Brown’s work that revolutionized our understanding of the dates of human fossils;

· Dennis Bramble’s novel study of the influence of early human running on anatomy, particularly appropriate to mention the week before the Salt Lake Marathon;

· Duncan Metcalfe’s exciting work as lead scientist on the Range Creek archeological site;

· Prize-winning geneticist Mario Capecchi and his colleagues’ work on identification of the genetic dimensions of a deadly form of muscle cancer in children;

· Peggy Battin’s remarkable work exploring the ethical issues related to end of life;

· Lyle Campbell’s efforts to document and preserve the nearly extinct languages of indigenous peoples of Central America;

· Vince Cheng’s worthy investigation of the challenging issues surrounding culture and identity; and

· Geologist Marjorie Chan’s authorship of a study suggesting the presence of underground water on Mars.

These identify the smallest fraction of world-class, cutting-edge work that has gone on at this university this year. It has been an extraordinary-though typically extraordinary, if I may say-year for our faculty.

This year has also seen significant physical growth on campus. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, 10 new facilities or major renovations are in the planning or construction stages.

Obviously, we are deeply indebted to the Governor, the legislature and its leaders, and our many private donors. We are keenly aware of the competing demands for limited resources, especially for our capital needs, and we are very grateful to them all for their commitment to this expanding enterprise on the hill-much like their predecessors in 1915.

But at the same time, I believe there is even more we can do-indeed, we must do-to ensure a “perpetual increase of knowledge, science and intelligence.” Or-as one of our great supporters is fond of saying-I believe the best is yet to come. I believe to be at the University at this moment in time is to be part of an extraordinary alignment of the stars, witness to a perfect storm of opportunity.

But to take advantage of those opportunities, we must give special attention to three major areas of emphasis that will help us reach a reality such as that we have just imagined. These are engagement, preparation and partnership.


It is imperative that we expand our opportunities and requirements for student engagement in the educational endeavor. Gone are the days-if they ever existed-when students could acquire a world-class education, an education that fits them to change the world, merely by sitting in class and being passive receptacles of information. Just as our very best students have done for generations, today all our students must become part of a learning community in which they teach as much as they learn; in which they learn the principles that govern and order the world in which they live, by experience as much as by observation.

To this end, we must offer every student distinct, individual learning experiences. Whether our students find their learning community through LEAP, the Honors Program, service-learning at the Bennion Center, undergraduate research opportunities, or in some other way, it is critical that they have an opportunity to engage the learning process in direct and personal ways.

So, this morning, I invite all our deans, department chairs and faculty members to help us devise just such an educational process, one that ensures that every student has just such one-on-one learning experiences before he or she graduates. And I invite our students to take personal responsibility to seek out such opportunities, from involvement in faculty research to service-learning to individually tailored learning modules.

Our ability to provide such an education is, of course, directly linked not only to our desire to create such an experience, but to our capacity, as well. To that end, the University must, over time, add additional faculty in areas of critical importance. And I pledge to the faculty my commitment to do precisely that.

At the same time, however, this sort of an education also deserves the best students our state has to offer and demands that these students make the University the focal point of their lives during their time here. To that end, I today announce new scholarship opportunities to attract precisely those students most inclined and capable to take advantage of such an education. These opportunities include:

· Expanded scholarship programs for Presidential Award winners;

· New transfer student scholarships; and

· A new alumni scholarship program for children of our out-of-state alumni that offers on-campus housing.

Our very best students-like our recent Rhodes Scholar, Gretchen Domek-will become partners in their education and help us create the kind of extraordinary, individualized educational experience that will be the hallmark of the greatest universities of the 21st century.


Our second area of emphasis must be to prepare our students to succeed in the 21st century. To do that, our students must receive an education fit for the new millennium. But what does this mean? What kinds of skills must they acquire while they are here? I would suggest that it consists of four things: technological literacy; an interdisciplinary perspective; international awareness; and exposure to as diverse a student body and faculty as we can possibly muster. Let me explain each of these in turn.

First, we must prepare all of our students, no matter their field of study, to be technologically literate, as well as socially, politically and economically aware. Our law and business graduates must understand genetics and computer technology as well as torts and finance. And those who specialize in science, math, engineering and medicine must be introduced to the economic, social, political and ethical institutions and forces that will shape how technology is developed and deployed in our world. We want to graduate people who will not be mere observers of society, but shapers and molders; and that requires all of our graduates to weave a sophisticated understanding of science and technology into whatever other discipline they study.

The second element of preparation for the new millennium follows directly from the first. We must prepare our students to think and act in an interdisciplinary manner. The future is essentially and inescapably interdisciplinary. We see that in the convergence of fields as diverse as medicine, philosophy and engineering; in the study of nanotechnologies; in emerging fields within the environmental humanities; in urban planning and the arts.

Interdisciplinary work invites us to get back to the fundamental meaning of learning. It requires us to view the world from a child’s vantage point, always asking questions, never making assumptions. And as our own Mario Capecchi has said, if you don’t ask big questions, you don’t get big answers.

To encourage further “big thinking,” today I am announcing a new interdisciplinary seed grant program, which is open to proposals from faculty members of different colleges who may not have collaborated together before. In addition, I have requested a bonus in the academic budget model for new, interdisciplinary courses taught by an integrated team of faculty members across multiple colleges.

We must also expand institutional structures within the University that foster and encourage interdisciplinary work. Critical to our future are more programs like our world-class interdisciplinary curriculum in neuroscience and genetics, and our newly created programs in environmental humanities and public policy. Only through such organizations will we be able to address the great and grand questions of the day and to train the students of tomorrow.

Third, we must prepare all of our students to succeed in a world with fewer and fewer borders. Our graduates enter a world where borders matter greatly to politicians, but little to others. Goods, money, people, information-all cross borders with an ease that was unthinkable even a few short years ago. A few months ago I attended a luncheon with two of our distinguished graduates-both of whom could only be described, without the slightest exaggeration, as captains of industry. At that luncheon, they were asked: “What are we going to do about international competition?” They were genuinely stumped; not by the answer, but by the question. Both finally replied that they did not think of it as “competition.” Almost half their products were sold abroad and half their workforce lived in other countries. For their purposes, and, they stressed, for most purposes relevant to the 21st century, the world is a single entity, with borders largely irrelevant to their thinking or planning.

Happily, the University of Utah has more international resources than any other major state university-untapped resources to be sure, but resources just the same. The number of students at the U with high-level foreign language experience and long-term foreign living experience is simply unmatched by any other major public university. Over 600,000 people from other countries visit Utah every year. Over 80 languages are spoken by students in the Salt Lake School District alone. The state’s people and products are found around the globe. And what other state in the country has a governor who speaks fluent Mandarin?

We must build on this base and develop programs that are commensurate with our students’ and faculty’s abilities, as well as the demands of the 21st century. To build on these existing strengths, such as our world-renowned Middle East Center and our numerous study-abroad programs, we must develop additional programs, such as the three I announce today. These include:

* An Institute for Public and International Affairs;

* A Center for Asian Studies; and

* A Center for Latin American Studies, with an initial emphasis on Brazil.

In some ways, these centers are an acknowledgment of the preexisting work of our faculty. But we must expand our students’ and our faculty’s opportunities and I pledge all my efforts to do precisely that.

Fourth, to adequately launch our students into the 21st century, we must prepare them to thrive in an increasingly diverse world. To train leaders of the 21st century, we must remain committed to the unshakable proposition that diversity is essential for a quality education. All members of the University community must approach all people and their backgrounds with openness and respect. And we must all share a common commitment to this principle.

Diversity in our student body, faculty and administration is an absolute requirement to ensure an education that truly prepares our students for the roles they will assume in society. An understanding of the perspective, history, background and world views of people from every ethnic and racial group imaginable will be simply indispensable for absolutely every person who claims to be educated in the coming era.

I am very proud of the progress we have made in the past few years with our comprehensive programs for students of color. Our Utah Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships and mentoring for first-generation college students, has demonstrated that students in our state are motivated and ready to meet the challenges of a rigorous curriculum. This year we will graduate our first class of Utah Opportunity Scholars. I am delighted to report that 85 percent of these students will complete their degrees in four years, much higher than the national average and, indeed, than our average. Additionally, support programs such as that provided by the Larry Miller and Ivory Homes scholarship programs have made it possible for scores of students to reach their educational goals.

But we must do more. And to that end I commit the energy and efforts of my administration. One demonstration of that commitment is my announcement today of my decision to continue the funding for the Utah Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The University has also made progress toward increasing the diversity of our faculty. Today, 26 percent of our faculty are women and 12 percent are faculty of color. However, that too, while laudable, is not enough. We must continue to recruit aggressively, and subsequently nurture, women faculty and faculty of color. This morning, I also renew the challenge to all of our academic departments to continue to increase the diversity of their faculty. To that end, I am pleased to announce a new incentive support program for departments that recruit outstanding women and faculty of color. This program acknowledges that every student benefits from the presence of a diverse mix of the best scholars in our classrooms and labs, and the University’s academic quality benefits from new scholarship and viewpoints.


The third and final area of emphasis I share with you today is partnership. It is clear to me that nothing we propose will happen without a deep partnership with our community; that is why we must enhance our connections with Utah’s citizens and businesses.

Quite simply, Utah’s University is part of the community. Our futures and our fortunes are inextricably intertwined. There is not a person in this state whose life has not been made better because of this great University. And there is not a corner of the University that has not been enriched by the support of Utahns across the state. That abiding, interconnected relationship must continue to be nurtured.

The University represents a unique resource for the state, as an educator of Utah’s workforce, an employer, a vital source of cultural enrichment, and an originator of new business. A good example is the integral role the U plays in supplying excellent health care throughout the state. Our renowned University Hospital, the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and the Moran Eye Center bring world-class clinical care and research to Utahns.

Other good examples include the seminal role the U has played in nurturing the arts and humanities in Utah, in providing innovative leadership and training in the social and behavioral sciences, and in fostering economic development. The examples are many, and include our nationally recognized Bennion Center, the University Neighborhood Partners program and our renowned cultural and performing arts programs. All these services allow us to reach out and give back to the state, while at the same time giving us a better understanding of how the University’s resources can best be used to serve the state.

An essential ingredient of our relationship to the state and to the community, however, lies in the commercialization of our research. Research and studies conducted at the U offer enormous potential to improve lives here in Utah and around the world. Today, our researchers have enabled neurosurgeons to see inside a three-dimensional living brain; devised treatments for devastating neurological conditions; and increased the safety of buildings, freeways and bridges. Today, patients with Alzheimer’s disease, or those with macular degeneration, or those needing artificial limbs find great hope in the work being done by our researchers. To that end, we must move our best research and our cutting-edge technology from the laboratory bench to the bedside, from the test tube to the market.

To ensure that the University’s research benefits as many people as possible today and tomorrow, we recently created the Office of Technology Venture Development. Headed by Jack Brittain, the U’s first vice president for technology venture development, the office will identify emerging technologies and oversee their maturation to the marketplace.

I am inspired beyond words by the faculty and students of this great institution and the citizens of this great state, for their faith in the power of education. I am reminded of the words of one of this University’s great presidents, the pugilist and cow-milking John A. Widtsoe, who said, in his first address to the faculty:

“The hunger for education and the spirit of liberal support for education which prevail in Utah, if sincerely met by the faculty, will compel high achievements. . . . As the University develops we shall offer yet more completely to our students all the knowledge accumulated by the world . . . . I hope to see this institution enter into the very life of our state; to help solve its problems, to point its way, to help bear its burdens as well as to share in its prosperity . . . .”

And his words remind us of the great foresight of those who came before us. They may not have imagined the dramatic ways the world would change, but they knew that certain values would guarantee the strength of the university they were building: an embrace of all knowledge, the primacy of the faculty, the need for tolerance, and the interdependent relationship with the state. Today, those values continue to guide us, carried out, at least in the beginning, through the strategic initiatives I have outlined today.

I realize these objectives are broad and ambitious-but surely they are attainable. Our ambitions in 2005 must be equal to those who came before. We must be bold; we must surprise ourselves by our own ideas and our audacity in pursuing them. We must embrace our state and our world, and the people and potential teeming within them.

In conclusion, it is imperative to remind ourselves that we have been entrusted with a precious jewel, the value of which we barely comprehend. And entrusted is, without doubt, the proper word. Just three years after the pioneers arrived in this valley, while still living in primitive housing and barely eking out a living from the land, they had the audacity to create a university. They commenced work on the Salt Lake Temple, a building to attend to matters of the spirit; and they created irrigation ditches and laid out plots for homes and gardens to attend to matters of the body; and they laid the foundation of a great university to attend to matters of the mind.

They began in the parlor of the home of Mrs. John Pack, at the corner of West Temple and First North Streets. The space may have been small, but their vision was limitless. It is worth recalling the words of Willard Richards, who wrote the following in his petition seeking support for the fledgling institution:

“A great and mighty people are now looking to you to lay the foundation and guide the superstructure of a university that shall introduce them and their posterity to a perpetual increase of knowledge, science and intelligence . . . . Open the flood gates of intelligence to all who may seek shelter . . . ; stem the tide of popular ignorance, delusion and falsehood . . .; gather around you teachers in every language under heaven . . . . Raise the standard of intelligence so high that mortals cannot overreach you, and make the ascent so gradual and easy that all may attain unto it; . . . .”

Our circumstances are certainly infinitely better than those pioneers, but their challenge still echos in our ears and our hearts and, to it, we must be true. As an American president challenged us in another time and place, “You have a rendezvous with destiny. . . . let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”

That I will have the honor of doing all that can be done, together in partnership with all of you, will, without doubt, be the greatest privilege and opportunity of my life, my brief moment here.

Thank you.