On Saturday, 3,244 students will enter the next phase of their Longhorn careers, graduating and so becoming Texas Exes. I welcome the families of our new graduates to the Forty Acres, and I celebrate with them this momentous event in the lives of their children, brothers and sisters, spouses, and in some cases, parents.
New graduates, I look forward to seeing what you do with the education you received here. At UT Austin we say “What starts here changes the world,” and we mean it. The Eyes of Texas — and of the world — are upon you, so make the most of your lives. Stay in touch with your classmates, your professors, your deans, and with me, and come back often to visit your alma mater.
Congratulations to all of our graduates and to all of their loved ones who have helped them reach this point. And Hook ’em Horns!
Several years ago, I helped establish a network of more than 20 leading public research universities and partner organizations including the Association of American Universities, the Forum for the Future of Higher Education, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and Lumina Foundation to share ideas, best practices, and discuss policy solutions to common institutional challenges. The leaders of these great institutions recognize that we can accomplish more together than we can alone. This partnership creates discussion and new collaborations across the institutions.
Today the UT Austin campus welcomes representatives from several Public Flagships Network partners including the AAU, the APLU, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Kansas, University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, and University of Pittsburgh. Together we’ll discuss how best to inform current higher education policy discussions to create more opportunities for educational innovation and how better to define and communicate the value of America’s great public research universities.
I’m proud that this group is strong and growing, and I welcome these members to the Forty Acres.
What starts here changes the world.
Before we break for Thanksgiving, I want to tell everyone in the Longhorn family – students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends – how thankful I am for you. Because of your combined efforts and your dedication, Texas has a vibrant university of the first class, and that is something for which all Texans can give thanks.
There’s no more appropriate time than Thanksgiving to share this short video with you. In it, UT students express their feelings on “Thanks Day,” which this year fell on November 13 and which marks the day on which our students’ education would end for the school year if we had to depend solely on tuition and state funding. It’s heartwarming.
Lastly, let’s get our Horns up high for a big Thanksgiving night win against Texas Tech and show the Longhorns we’re behind them all the way.
Happy Thanksgiving and Hook ’em Horns!
On Thursday night, we launched a great new UT institution — the Clements Center for History, Strategy & Statecraft. At an inaugural gala, friends of UT and friends and family of our late governor, Bill Clements, for whom the center is named, gathered on campus to celebrate the opening.
George Seay, chairman of the Clements Center Board of Advisors, grandson of Governor Clements, and lead donor for the center’s creation; William Inboden, the center’s executive director; and I welcomed special guest Robert Gates, former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA director, who spoke to the group about his life in national security. It was a great event and an auspicious start for this new center of scholarship and teaching.
I thank all those who attended and especially the Seay family for its leadership in this exciting new endeavor. In recognition of the birth of the Clements Center, the Tower was lighted orange.
What starts here changes the world.
Photos by Brian Birzer
Wednesday, in my role as chair of the Association of American Universities, I traveled to Washington to meet with congressional leaders including Democratic whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, chair of the House Republican Conference. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss federal sequestration’s damaging effect on university research and possible solutions as Congress negotiates spending levels for 2014.
Much of our nation’s scientific and economic leadership was built on innovation and research on college campuses and relied on public support. Sequestration is already hurting that research and limiting students’ involvement in the types of innovation that can change the world. We, as a nation, must move forward and support research universities as tools of scientific and economic growth.
Last week, the AAU, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and The Science Coalition, which collectively represent more than 300 higher education institutions, released a survey of U.S. colleges on the impact of sequestration, which took effect in March. They found that the mandatory cuts to federal discretionary spending, from which research budgets are funded, have led to a reduced number of new federal research grants; the delay of some research projects; and fewer admission, stipend, and research opportunities for students.
As AAU President Hunter Rawlings, who participated in the meeting, has said, “As we cut, and then cut some more, and as our competitors overseas increase their investments in research and education, we create an innovation deficit that threatens America’s global leadership. This foolish policy must end.”
Hunter and I were joined on Capitol Hill by officials from the Association of Public Land Grant Universities and presidents and chancellors from Ohio State, UCLA, the University of Maryland, the University of Illinois, and Tulane.
As always, I’m proud to represent The University of Texas at Austin in our nation’s capital and wherever I go.
On Thursday night, we renamed one of UT’s largest colleges for one of Texas’ most historic and industrious families. I’m delighted to announce the newly minted Moody College of Communication.
The Moody Foundation’s $50 million gift is the largest gift to a communication program in the United States. My personal thanks go to Ross Moody, Frances Moody-Dahlberg, Robert L. Moody Sr., and all members of the Moody and Matthews families for their foundation’s transformative gift. I also congratulate Dean Rod Hart and the college’s faculty and staff for their work.
Our campus is anchored by the names of great Texas families: Jackson, McCombs, Cockrell, Butler, Johnson, and Dell, among others. We now add the name of another great and historic Texas family, Moody.
What starts here changes the world.
Steve Patterson, athletics director at Arizona State University and a two-time Texas Ex, will be UT’s next men’s athletics director. Steve is the perfect choice to build on our athletics success and DeLoss Dodds’ legacy. He helped build a championship Houston Rockets team and brought the Super Bowl game to Houston. Most importantly, he’s run a winning program at Arizona State that places students first and is committed to their lifelong success.
The appointment is subject to approval by the UT System Board of Regents, which is scheduled to meet Nov. 13-14.
Steve has a long track record in building successful sports franchises that will serve him well at Texas. He worked for more than two decades as an executive with the NFL’s Houston Texans, the NBA’s Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers, and the Houston Aeros hockey team. He also served as president of Pro Sports Consulting. But even more than that, he is committed to doing what is best for student-athletes in an educational setting.
It is a bonus that Steve holds both a BBA and a law degree from UT Austin. I look forward to seeing where he takes UT’s men’s athletics.
Welcome home, Steve!
Hook ’em Horns,
Each year, the Texas Exes honor six alumni who, through their careers and their dedication to the University, have distinguished themselves. Tonight we honor our six newest inductees. I’m proud to join the Texas Exes in celebrating these six exemplary members of the UT family:
Linda L. Addison, BA ’73, JD ’76, New York
Linda is global head of Dispute Resolution and Litigation of Norton Rose Fulbright and serves on its Global Executive Committee. A founder and president of the Center for Women in Law at the UT law school, she was named one of the “50 Most Influential Women Lawyers in America” by the National Law Journal.
Charles D. Fraser, Jr., BA ’80, Houston
Charles is surgeon-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, where he pioneered the first artificial heart specialized for newborns. He is also a professor of surgery and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.
Wallace B. Jefferson, JD ’88, Austin
Wallace is chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. The first African-American to serve in that office, he has been president of the Conference of Chief Justices, an association of chief justices from the 50 states and U.S. territories. He currently serves on the Judicial Conference Committee on the Rules of Practice and Procedure, the Board of the American Bar Foundation, and the council of the American Law Institute.
Janiece Longoria, BA ’76, JD ’79, Houston
Janiece is a partner in the firm of Ogden Gibson Broocks, Longoria & Hall. As chairman of the Port of Houston, she oversees the second-busiest port in America. She is also a former vice chairman of the UT System Board of Regents and a founder of the Center for Women in Law at UT’s law school.
Robert B. Rowling, BBA ’76, Dallas
Robert is owner and chairman of TRT Holdings, Inc. He has served on the UT System Board of Regents and has chaired the UT Investment Management Company. The McCombs School of Business’ new graduate building will be named Rowling Hall in his honor.
James J. Truchard, BS ’64, MA ’67, PhD ’74, Austin
James is co-founder and CEO of National Instruments. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and has been recognized with the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship for his community involvement.
I hope you’ll raise your Horns with me in saluting these truly Distinguished Alumni. We will light the Tower orange in their honor.
What starts here changes the world.
Tomorrow night, we’re lighting the Tower orange in honor of new graduates. They’re not UT graduates, but they are walking the stage at UT’s Bass Concert Hall. These proud students are finishing their degrees at Western Governors University, an online university through which students can earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees on their own timeline. The average age of a WGU student is 37, and most work fulltime. WGU’s four degree programs include education, business administration, information technology, and health professions (nursing).
Today, I met with WGU national president Bob Mendenhall, WGU Texas chancellor Ray Martinez III, and the WGU Advisory Board, which was meeting on our campus. As I told them, I believe WGU is a good addition to the mosaic of higher education options in America. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, WGU so far has been invited by five states, including Texas, to brand itself as part of the higher education infrastructure of those states.
In this model, students graduate every month, and once a year they are invited to walk the stage. In the past 12 months, 557 students earned their degrees from WGU Texas, and 210 will walk across our stage to be recognized for those degrees.
Just as Tier I research universities fill a critical need in our society, so too do educational options like Western Governors University. I’m proud of these hard-working Texans and proud that our campus will be part of their higher education experience.
Hook ’em Horns,
On Tuesday, I had the honor of beginning my year of service as chairman of the Association of American Universities. To mark the occasion, I contributed an op-ed to the Houston Chronicle expressing my hopes for a new national investment in higher education. I’d like to share it with you here and below:
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Today, I’m proud to begin my one-year service as chairman of the Association of American Universities. Since 1900, the AAU has been the chief promoter of the American research university, and the University of Texas at Austin is one of just 62 current members.
In American higher education, there is no issue more critical than affordability. Gov. Rick Perry has made it a priority and President Barack Obama has as well. It concerns me, as it should every leader in higher education and all who understand the crucial role a college education plays in social mobility and national productivity.
In August, the White House published its College Scorecard, an interactive tool families can use to evaluate college options. UT-Austin fares well with a high graduation rate and a below-the-median cost.
In the final analysis, there are only two main ways to decrease the price tag of college for students: 1) decreasing operational costs and 2) increasing support from nontuition sources. Obama has called on universities to control their costs, and at UT, we are doing that. For example, we are undergoing a major initiative to reduce the costs of our operations by consolidating our staff so that multiple departments can share the expertise of specialists in human resources, information technology, procurement and accounting. Universities are behind the business sector in modernizing these functions, and we will all benefit from catching up.
But holding the line on costs — even cutting costs — is not sufficient for the needs of the future. We must also increase support for higher education from nontuition sources. These sources fall into four main categories: philanthropy, research grants, nontraditional revenue sources (such as licensing our discoveries or merchandising our brand) and public funding.
On this last count, we all have reason for alarm. In the last 25 years, student enrollment at state universities across America has grown by 62 percent, while total public funding has increased by only 2 percent. Consequently, state funding per student has dropped by 30 percent in those 25 years. And this is not a matter of our collective wealth, but rather, a matter of priorities: Nationally, state support per $1,000 of personal income has dropped by 37 percent. We cannot continue to decrease public funding across the nation and then express shock when the price to students goes up or we fall behind our competitors around the world.
We are witnessing a massive, historic public disinvestment in higher education. In spite of that, higher education is still doing amazing things. In Texas, economists have estimated that our state receives a 21-to-1 return on investment from UT-Austin. That is, for the state’s annual investment of about $300 million, it gets a university that contributes $6.4 billion to the economy through direct and indirect spending by staff, faculty and students.
The reasons for this disinvestment are many and include state- and federally mandated programs that have eaten deeply into the amount over which state legislatures have discretion. Those mandates likely are not going away. But if legislators realized the massive return on investment they are already getting from higher education, they would be going “all in” with public funding like a poker player with the best hand of his life. Of course, it is not just a matter of “throwing money at a problem.” We must be smart and targeted in our spending; but make no mistake, we must invest resources in higher education.
University administrations need to aggressively control higher education’s cost. But the responsibility for the cost of public higher education also rests with the public. Higher education affordability should be a nationally shared priority. State governments should begin making up lost ground by returning to their historical investment levels for higher education. It will help hold the line on the cost to students, and it’s the best investment of public dollars we can possibly make.
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Thank you for your support as I enter this exciting new year of national visibility for The University of Texas at Austin.
Hook ’em Horns,