I have been part of higher education for the past 35 years. Thus
I have the advantage of having seen the natural ebb and flow of
life on campuses large and small. I know that good times are to
be embraced and that hard times will come. I have been fortunate
in that the former outnumber the latter by at least three to one.
Mary Ann and I came to Syracuse in 1991 during
some hard times. The nation was in an economic downturn, making
families think twice about taking on the financial burden of a
college education. And higher education was simultaneously experiencing
a demographic dip in the number of college-bound high school graduates.
I knew that shepherding the University through
this period would take the determination, talent, experience,
and goodwill of the entire community. I knew that some hard choices
were ahead and that there would be difficult losses to face.
I didn’t know then that Syracuse was a place
where people truly cared about their institution and were willing
to do whatever it took to weather the storm and move ahead. I
told my new colleagues—members of the board, the faculty, staff
members, and students—that with a solid plan and a vision for
the future we could make history.
And we did.
Syracuse University was one of very few higher
education institutions to come through the early ’90s having withstood
budget cuts of more than $60 million and the loss of some 600
jobs while simultaneously implementing the initiatives that would
improve every facet of campus life.
I couldn’t be prouder of this singular achievement.
Today SU enjoys the fruits of these efforts—the
student profile is improved, more alumni and friends give to the
University, the endowment has grown impressively, facilities and
technology improvements abound, services to students are more
responsive, the learning environment has improved appreciably,
and the University has a greater national presence than ever before.
It hasn’t been easy. There were times of
great stress, some discouraging moments, and more than one failure
along the way. But I think the pride we feel today in this student-centered
research university has been well worth it.
As I said, I have the advantage of knowing
the cycles of life at a university. Each year there are occasions
that boost my spirit. I never tire of them because they make me
know, deep in my soul, that this is a good thing we do here.
Convocation is one such event. There in front
of me in the Dome each fall are our new students and their families,
eager to get on with this new phase of life. They don’t know,
and neither do we, how this adventure will turn out. And the air
is ripe with potential.
In February come the Chancellor’s Citations
and the celebratory dinner in honor of a select group of our finest,
most accomplished faculty and staff. I read and listen to their
accomplishments and marvel that a life could be filled with so
much. And I take pride in knowing that Syracuse had a part in
making these achievements real.
In May I host the annual University Scholars
program at our residence. I am in awe of these young men and women
as I listen not only to their accomplishments and high expectations
of the future, which are truly impressive, but also to the very
high regard they have for their dedicated faculty and staff mentors.
I have also been rewarded with a Board of Trustees
whose confidence in the University and in my ability to lead has
supported the changes that this report chronicles. They have been
with me through budget cuts, and they have approved the funding
of initiatives, particularly those outlined in our new Academic
Plan, that will bring us yet closer to achieving our vision as the
nation’s leading student-centered research university.
There is a moment in this past decade that
I will recall with great affection in the years to come. It was
1996 and our men’s basketball team had reached the final game of
the NCAA championship tournament. They were good players, but not
necessarily as strong or talented or experienced as the other leading
teams. Yet they played on with determination, grit, and—most importantly—as
a smoothly functioning team.
This team knew who it was, what it could accomplish,
and that it had to work together to get there.
It was very much like Syracuse University itself—determined,
tenacious, and functioning as a true team—a team of people who really
love the place and the work they do.
I am grateful to have witnessed such growth,
and I am confident of an even richer future.
Kenneth A. Shaw, Chancellor and President