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August 19, 2004

Remarks to Board of Regents

Katharine C. Lyall, President

I've watched so many people deliver parting words of wisdom to this Board that it feels strange to be doing so myself.  I will be brief, but I want to recognize and thank three groups of people who have been very important in my work here:

First, I want to thank my Cabinet and the System Administration staff, who understand their role as making our campuses effective and welcoming places for students to learn and faculty and staff to work.  They understand our mission and work tirelessly to fulfill it.

Second, I am very grateful to the chancellors who lead each of our institutions, serve as civic leaders in communities throughout the state, and increasingly are called upon to be major fundraisers for their campuses.  I have recruited and worked with more than fifty chancellors in my term as President and I thank them for their professionalism and their personal friendship.

Third, I am indebted to the Regents around this table, and those who have served earlier, for your stewardship of Wisconsin's most important public asset.  It is an awesome responsibility; I know you will support Kevin Reilly as you have supported me in these duties.

Finally, I'd leave you with three bits of advice, which you may adopt or ignore as seems useful.

  1. UW System is a federation of individual institutions, not branches of anything. Respect the local histories and the deep regional support for each campus, they are strengths.
  2. People count! UW System succeeds despite below-average funding because of exceptionally loyal employees who are committed to our mission—squander this, and there is no recovery.  (Contemplate the price that is being paid by the U.S. economy and U.S. industry for squandering its human capital in the '80s and '90s.)  We need to celebrate and reward public service if we are to sustain a first-rate public university in the future.
  3. Never lose faith in the ability of education to change lives—we are in the long term business of expanding knowledge and vision.  The drafters of Chapter 36 gave us an inspiring mission; I urge you to read it now and again:
    "(2) The mission of the system is to develop human resources, to discover and disseminate knowledge, to extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campuses and to serve and stimulate society by developing in students heightened intellectual, cultural and humane sensitivities, scientific, professional and technological expertise and a sense of purpose.  Inherent in this broad mission are methods of instruction, research, extended training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition.  Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth."

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the privilege of leading this extraordinary public university system!

Return to Regents news summary for Aug. 19, 2004