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President Henry S. Bienen Delivers Final 'State' Address

March 18, 2009

Listen to President Henry S. Bienen deliver his remarks on the state of Northwestern University

Henry S. Bienen

Thank you for the introduction. I'd also like to thank the Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council for sponsoring the speech and the Medill School of Journalism for hosting the event this year here in McCormick Tribune Forum. There will be an opportunity for questions after the speech. NUSAC established an e-mail box for people to send in questions and I imagine we'll have some from the audience, so I'll try to leave plenty of time for that.

As you know, I plan to retire in August, so this will be my last State of the University address as president of Northwestern. It truly has been a remarkable experience, one I have enjoyed immensely. There are so many things that have happened in that time that make me proud -- the awards of our faculty; the fellowships and prizes of our students; the scientific breakthroughs; the terrific theater, music and dance performances that we've seen. Our athletic successes, including Big Ten and national championships.

Equally important have been the wonderful friendships Leigh and I have formed with members of our staff, faculty, students, trustees, alumni and supporters, and people with whom we have interacted in government, foundations and the community. I also want to acknowledge my wife, Leigh, who has brought a great deal to Northwestern on her own and who has filled many roles, all with good cheer and good judgment.

In addition, the chair of the board, Pat Ryan, has been a great partner. Pat and his wife, Shirley, have been the best trustee leaders any president could have, as well as the best of friends.

I have been lucky to work with two wonderful provosts. Larry Dumas and Dan Linzer have been integral parts of the success of Northwestern over these years. One of my few regrets is that Larry did not live to enjoy the retirement he deserved and to have the time to look back on how much he contributed to Northwestern.

I also need to thank my office staff who kept me on schedule and for their good will and devotion to the University and to me personally.

I know I'm not citing the many, many other people who have been so helpful to me over the years. But I fear if I start doing so, we'll be here the rest of the day. Being a president means being a leader. But I know now, even more than I did when I started in this position, how much one's success depends on the continued efforts of the many people around him. Northwestern will have a new president, Morton O. Schapiro, next fall. I think the Board of Trustees has made a terrific choice and I know that all of you will be as helpful to him as you have been to me.

The economy obviously continues to be on all of our minds. As you know, I sent a letter to the Northwestern community recently detailing the University's financial conditions and the steps we've taken to maintain our fiscal health. Those steps include a 3 percent cut in operating expenses across the University. But as I noted then, we do not plan any University-wide personnel reductions. We will limit the amount of funds that we draw from the endowment, preserving our endowment as much as possible in a very difficult time.

The combination of these things is in keeping with Northwestern's long tradition of prudent fiscal management. We believe these measures will enable us to make it through the rest of this fiscal year and next fiscal year in relatively good shape. I must caution, however, that this is a moving target. If the economy remains in the doldrums and the markets continue to fall, the cushion that we've tried to create for next fiscal year will disappear. So we, like all of you, are hoping for a recovery sometime in the next year because otherwise Fiscal Year 2011 will be even more challenging than next year. That will be the case not just for Northwestern, but also for all of higher education.

Fundraising in fiscal year 2008 was strong. We raised $270 million in new commitments, exceeding our $250 million goal. Cash gifts increased from $192 million in fiscal year 2007 to $217 million in FY08. Such generosity is even more important now, in light of the worldwide recession. But I am the first to acknowledge that the current economic conditions are working against growth in philanthropy, although certainly not from a lack of desire to give. We understand that many alumni, parents and friends will be more cautious in their giving, and we are adjusting our goals accordingly.

On the other hand, the University has received some impressive new contributions in fiscal year 2009: The Lavin Family Foundation made a generous gift to support Kellogg. Another significant contribution came from the Mellon Foundation for graduate fellowships in humanities and history. The Davee Foundation directed large gifts to Feinberg and Bienen.

In two days, I will depart for Doha to participate in a ceremony, sponsored by the Qatar Foundation, celebrating the opening of Northwestern University in Qatar. Thirty-eight students are members of the inaugural Class of 2012, pursuing degrees in communication and journalism. They will be joined in August by a second class for which application numbers are already 50 percent higher than for our first class. The launch of our campus in Qatar promises to benefit Northwestern as it expands our outreach and helps to internationalize our University. We hope it will also benefit Qatar and the broader Middle East, as we bring programs in two fields that the leaders of Qatar understand are fundamental to the nation's development as center of free inquiry and creative expression. The faculty and staff of our Qatar campus — a majority of whom came from or have close ties with our home campus — have done a marvelous job overcoming the inevitable challenges associated with launching a new campus 7,000 miles and nine time zones from Evanston. They have been assisted by many colleagues in Evanston and we appreciate all of their efforts.

This also has been the inaugural year of the Kellogg School of Management certificate program in Managerial Analytics, the second Kellogg program for undergraduates, as well as the new Jazz Studies program in the Bienen School of Music and the architecture program in McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In addition, the law school will soon begin its new accelerated program. And we just made a senior hire in Feinberg, which will enable the medical school to move forward with a new Department of Medical Social Sciences.

Internationally, in the spring of 2008 we had our first group of students study at a new partner institution in Uganda for Global Health Studies, and we have signed an agreement with a partner institution for studies in Brazil. The number of international students in our freshman class has grown to an all-time high of 6.5 percent.

Last month we celebrated the 200th the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, the culminating event in the One Book, One Northwestern Program, focused on Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. This past summer, I sent copies of David Quammen's recent book, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin, to all incoming students, inviting them to think about evolution and its impact on the development of modern science and culture. An impressive series of programs, coordinated by Teresa Horton of the Evolutionary Processes Program in Weinberg, provided opportunities to reflect on Darwin's impact.

In regard to admissions, I'm pleased to report that despite a challenging environment, applications for undergraduate admission once again set an all-time record this year, with 25,395 total applications. We also took several steps in an effort to increase the enrollment of minority students in the incoming freshman class; the results so far are very encouraging – a 53 percent increase in applications from Latino students and a 26 percent increase in applications from African-American students. Our acceptance letters to all admitted students will go out next week, and I'm confident that we will enroll an exceptionally strong class of first-year students. We also increased our budget for undergraduate financial aid by 10 percent in order to help new and continuing students afford a Northwestern education.

Applications to our graduate and professional programs also increased again this year. In the law school, applications are up 8 percent, compared to a 1 percent increase nationally and may surpass the all-time record. As I noted previously, the accelerated JD program will being in May and we had 135 applicants for the class of 20 to 25 students, so that appears to be off to a strong start. And the JD-MBA program has seen an increase in applications of more than 50 percent.

At Kellogg, applications are up about 4 percent from the previous year, again, above the national average.

In the Graduate School, applications are up about 10 percent across the board, with the highest spikes in economics and engineering. We expect to enroll a slightly smaller class this year but we will provide these students with same high-quality, competitive funding guarantee and quality of academic and social life that we currently provide.

Based on a strong spring performance, the School of Continuing Studies anticipates an equally successful fall 2009 with undergraduate applications holding steady and graduate applications continuing to surge. In addition, SCS is launching its Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration in an online format to capitalize on growing interest in graduate studies. Working adults appear to be strengthening their credentials as the economy struggles and the expansion of a strong program to a national audience should contribute to an increase in fall graduate applications.

We've continued our construction program to enhance our teaching and research activities. In Chicago, we completed the build-out of the 10th floor of the Lurie Medical Research Center. In Evanston, we completed the renovation of Annie May Swift Hall and the addition of the 5th floor of Crowe Hall. The construction of Silverman Hall for interdisciplinary research by chemists, biologists and engineers is nearing completion, as is the renovation of Tech plaza and the expansion of the Central Utility Plant to accommodate the increased cooling loads that result from our new facilities. We have also begun construction for the expansion and renovation on the Searle Student Health Center.

We held a design competition for a new facility for the Bienen School of Music and selected Goettsch Partners of Chicago as the architects. Design of that building is under way.

We've also started site work for the expansion and renovation of Harris Hall and will soon accept bids for the building construction. And we are designing two additions to Tech of five stories each for a new clean room facility and for support lab services. We will shell six floors of space in these additions and will fit them out when economic conditions improve.

The economic downturn has had a significant impact on our capital program going forward. We've deferred $90 million of projects including renovations of the Admissions office in Evanston and animal care facilities in Chicago.

The draft Campus Framework Plan that was developed by a dedicated group of faculty, staff and students working with Sasaki Associates was reviewed this year by the entire University community as well as by the Evanston community. We made revisions to the Framework Plan based on the feedback we received and the Trustees have adopted the revised plan.

Turning to research, our research volume last year once again set a new record: $438.8 million, 5 percent more than in FY2007. FY2008's greater dollar volume of awards was fueled by an increase of 10 percent from federal agencies. Foundations grants and voluntary health organization awards also rose, by 23 percent and 14 percent respectively.

Our new Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern is tackling the linked challenges of energy and sustainability, encompassing global issues such as energy, water, materials, food and waste, by consolidating the University's existing strengths and fostering new efforts in these areas.

One Northwestern, a comprehensive initiative to integrate Northwestern's diverse resources and talents in biomedical and life science programs across the two campuses, began to be implemented in winter quarter. The first four priority areas are: to increase hiring coordination, increase connectivity and community, develop more cohesive life and biomedical science graduate programs, and rationalize and optimize the current departments, centers, and institutes.

And I would be remiss if I did not note that two of Northwestern's university centers are celebrating their anniversaries this year. Congratulations to the Program on African Studies on its 60th anniversary and the Institute for Policy Research on its 40th.

Our faculty earned many prestigious awards in a variety of fields this year. Of particular note were Tony Awards for Todd Rosenthal and Anna Shapiro, both members of the Department of Theatre.

In addition, Teri Odom, associate professor of chemistry and Dow Chemical Company Research Professor in Weinberg earlier this year received the NIH Director's Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health and next month will receive the 2009 Outstanding Young Investigator Award from the Materials Research Society.

Other major honors for our faculty this year include:

  • Tobin Marks, Vladimir N. Ipatieff Research professor of chemistry and professor of materials science and engineering: Prize for Technical and Scientific Research, Prince of Asturias Foundation

  • Chad Mirkin, George B. Rathmann professor of chemistry and professor of medicine, chemical and biological engineering, biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering: Election to the National Academy of Engineering.

  • Fraser Stoddart, Board of Trustees professor of chemistry: Arthur C. Cope Award from the American Chemical Society.

  • Election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences: Zdenek Bazant, Walter P. Murphy professor of civil and environmental engineering; Eddie Dekel, William R. Kenan professor of economics; Larry Hedges, Board of Trustees professor of statistics and social policy; Robert Orsi, Grace Craddock Nelson professor in Catholic studies; and Michael Whinston, Robert E. and Emily H. King professor of economics.

  • Lifetime achievement awards to four faculty members from the society in their respective academic fields: Peter Dallos, professor of audiology, otolaryngology and biomedical engineering and John Evans professor of neuroscience; Alice Eagly, James Padilla professor of arts and sciences in psychology and professor of management and organizations; Saul Morson, Frances Hooper Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature; Abe Peck, professor emeritus in service of journalism; and Dr.James Yao, professor emeritus of surgery.

  • Yuri Manin, professor of mathematics: Great Cross of Merit with Star, Federal Republic of Germany

  • Barbara Newman, professor of English, religion and classics and John Evans professor of Latin: Distinguished Achievement Award, Mellon Foundation.

  • Dale Mortensen, Ida C. Cook professor of economics: Distinguished Fellow Award, American Economics Association.

  • Dr. Robert Bonow, professor of cardiology: John Phillips Award, American College of Physicians.

Northwestern students and recent graduates demonstrated the strength of our six undergraduate colleges by earning awards in all the country's elite scholarship competitions. Among the awardees were four students who will study in Oxford, England next year. They are:

  • Mallory Dwinal, a senior in Weinberg, and Anya Yermakova, a senior in Weinberg Bienen; both Rhodes Scholars.

  • Samuel Kleiner, a Weinberg senior and one of my own students, a Marshall Scholar.

  • Amanda Craig, a 2008 Medill graduate, a Rotary Scholar.

Seven students will study in Cambridge next year on Gates and Churchill Scholarships. The Gates winners are: Braxton Boren, a 2008 Bienen grad; Kristin Buterbaugh a Weinberg senior; David Dillon, Weinberg 2008; Chandler Robinson, Weinberg 2006; and Victor Roy, Weinberg 2007. The Churchill winners are: Yonathan Kahn, a senior in Weinberg and Bienen; and Rene Boiteau, a Weinberg senior.

In addition, 2008 Gates Scholar Andrew Gruen, a 2007 Medill grad, has been awarded a Luce Scholarship for study in Asia. Lauren Parnell, a 2007 Education and Social Policy graduate, is one of 12 Mitchell Scholars headed to Ireland, and a record 29 current or former students have embarked on Fulbright grants this year.

These successes result from the combination of having excellent students and strong mentoring and support from the Office of Fellowships and the undergraduate research program. Strengthening our efforts in these two areas has been an objective of mine, and I'm very pleased with how well this has worked.

We continue to enjoy unprecedented success in intercollegiate athletics. For the fourth straight year, Northwestern finished among the top 40 universities in the country in NACDA's Directors' Cup standings, which measures overall athletic success. Our women's lacrosse team, which is now being called a dynasty, won its fourth straight NCAA title and is once again ranked No. 1 in the country. Another spring sports team, our No. 1-ranked women's tennis squad, won the ITA National Indoor Championship and became the first northern school to ever win the event. And most notably, our two major revenue programs, football and men's basketball, both advanced to postseason play -- the football team winning nine games and playing in the Alamo Bowl, and the basketball team competing in the NIT. Our student-athletes also continue to excel academically, ranking atop the Big Ten and among the nation's leaders in the NCAA's two primary academic measuring sticks, the Graduation Success Rate and Academic Progress Rate.

Our staff members also continue to provide excellent service to the University. A total of 47 staff members received Service Excellence Awards for exceptional performance in 2008. The 2008 Employee of the Year winners and finalists were: In Chicago, the winner was Sachin Patel of the School of Continuing Studies and the finalists were Ann Ross of Feinberg and A. Sage Smith of the law school. In Evanston, the winner was: Paula Blaskovits of Weinberg and the finalists were Marsha Coffey of Weinberg and Kenneth Viani of the Office for Research. The 2009 Employee of the Year finalists and winners will be announced on May 7.

I will end now so we can go to the questions. Thanks again to all of you for the great service. I hope that I, too, have made contributions to Northwestern. It has been an honor and pleasure to serve as president of this great university.

Thank you. With the help of my colleagues here on stage, I will now answer any questions you may have.

Topics: Campus Life