Features

Inaugural Address:
Educating Global Leaders

The Following is an excerpt of President Bacow's Inaugural address on April 19. 2002.

On the surface, an inauguration is about installing-and maybe even flattering-a new president. But in reality, it's also a moment for celebrating the institution. And we at Tufts have much to celebrate. Today, we reflect on the past, savor the present and look to the future.

I would like to begin, however, by thanking a few of the people responsible for the fact that I am standing before you today in these robes: My father, Mitchell Bacow, who taught me the importance of honesty, integrity and always speaking one's mind. Dad, I hope the latter will not get me into too much trouble in my new job. My late mother, Ruth, who recognized that I was born to be a teacher long before I ever did. My wife, best friend, now Tufts' first lady, and I also hope, Tufts' first friend, Adele, who has helped to make my life so rich, so full, and so much fun. And our two sons, Jay and Kenny, the light of my life, who help me immeasurably by telling me things about college life that most university presidents never get to hear firsthand.

I also want to thank the other great teachers in my life. Some of them are here today: Bob Solow, my undergraduate mentor; Mark Moore and Richard Zeckhauser, two of my doctoral dissertation advisors. Together, they shaped the intellectual lenses through which I view the world. Chuck Vest and Jim Freedman have taught me much about what it takes to lead a great university.

But one of my most important teachers appeared long, long before college and career. I knew her back then as "Mrs. Chandler." And in a sunny, fourth-grade classroom of Webster Elementary School in Pontiac, Michigan, she taught me, very gently, how important it was to listen . . . because other people had really interesting things to say. For a university president, that is a very important lesson. I am delighted, truly delighted to say that Mrs. Chandler is with us here today. Shirley Chandler Bitterman, thank you for having taught me so well.

A former president of Brown, Henry Wriston, once described the challenges faced by every college or university president: "The president," Wriston said, "is expected to be an educator, to have been at some time a scholar, to have judgment about finance, to know something about construction, maintenance and labor policy, to speak virtually continuously in words that charm and never offend, to take bold positions with which no one will disagree, to consult everyone and follow all proffered advice, and do everything through committees but with great speed and without error."

To this I might add, "to raise money unceasingly without ever seeming to ask," and "to eat splendid meals non-stop in service to one's institution without ever gaining a pound." Evidently, these challenges haven't changed much through the years. In fact, upon being elected the first president of Tufts, a century and a half ago, Hosea Ballou had a lively sense of the pressures of the job. He also maintained an admirable equanimity about their consequences: "If I am ground into powder," he wrote, "I hope it will bring the price of flour down."

From Hosea Ballou to John DiBiaggio, my predecessors have all cast themselves enthusiastically between the millstones-and in the process, this great institution has been both leavened and enriched. The last half-century especially has been a time of great progress and evolution here at Tufts. Together with many devoted colleagues, Presidents Nils Wessel, Burt Hallowell, the late Jean Mayer and my predecessor, John DiBiaggio, built Tufts from an excellent regional university to an institution of truly international prominence. I know I speak for the entire Tufts family when I say how grateful we are for their vision, persistence and leadership. Burt and John, we thank you for all you and your fellow presidents have done on behalf of Tufts.

And our presidents have been far from the only leaders Tufts can claim. Our faculty have relieved human suffering and advanced human knowledge in every field you can name, from developing the basic mathematics and physics that produced the CAT scan, to editing the most widely circulated edition of Shakespeare's works in the world.

Our faculty have also produced something unexpected from most great research universities, but the very signature of this one: generation after generation of superb and beloved teachers. Great teachers like Gerald Gill, who was named Massachusetts Professor of the Year-twice. Great teachers like Dr. Jane Deforges, who taught generations of aspiring doctors at our Medical School. Great teachers like Sol Gittleman. At what other research university would the most popular undergraduate course on campus be taught by the provost? As we extend our reach as a university, we must also extend this marvelous legacy of inspired teaching for every generation of students to come.

Of course, we are also shaping the world through our former students. Our alumni are helping to mold the future of electronic commerce. Redefining the way news is delivered digitally and in print. Pushing the frontiers of nutrition, medical and dental practice. Contributing to the search for peace in countless capitols and embassies throughout the world. And as we all know, this search for peace has never been more important than it is today.

We come together today at a grandly symbolic moment for this institution: Sunday is Tuftonia's Day, the 150th anniversary of the founding of Tufts College. We should take tremendous pride in the accomplishments of those 150 years-our first 150. But to do justice to all those who have brought us this far, today we must ask: what of the future? How will we prepare the next generation of Tufts students to address the challenges we face-as a species, as a society, as a planet? To a world beset with so many urgent needs and opportunities, what will be the unique contribution of Tufts?

The answer is both simple-and complex:

Educating the first generation of leaders for a truly global world. But what does that mean, exactly? And how do we do it at Tufts? We do it not only by attracting students to the study of international relations-by far our most popular major-but by encouraging them to live the subject. By sending 40 percent of our undergraduates to study abroad. By leading the nation in the number of Peace Corps volunteers for schools of comparable size. By bringing to our campus an incredibly diverse and international student body, and practicing, together, the difficult and sometimes even painful task of learning to live with our differences.

How do we educate leaders for a truly global world? By teaching collaboration as a way of life-and a source of answers. By bringing together research and education in ways that could not be accomplished anywhere else.

Imagine a collaboration among faculty from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and our School of Veterinary Medicine. What problem might draw faculty from these three schools together? The answer: famine relief. Our Vet School developed a powerful vaccine to treat a devastating disease of cattle in equatorial Africa. These faculty came together with faculty from the Friedman School of Nutrition and the Fletcher School to teach young Africans to administer it, on site-themselves. These barefoot vets, as they are called, are helping to alleviate hunger in war-torn Sudan by improving the productivity of the livestock that people's lives depend on .

How do we educate leaders for a truly global world? Not only by cultivating in our students profound professional expertise-but also by educating politicians and diplomats who are qualified to discuss the ethics of cloning, or the science of climate change. By educating chemists who love poetry, music and the arts . . . doctors who love politics . . . business leaders who speak three languages, besides finance. By educating engineers who believe that the quest for peace on Earth is their problem, too. In short, by helping our students become active, engaged, effective citizens -in the best tradition of Tufts, and in the great tradition of a liberal education.

People comfortable dealing with ambiguity. People willing to take a risk to make a difference. People more interested in solving problems than in taking credit. People who -Mrs. Chandler will be glad to hear-can appreciate what others have to say. Who are both effective advocates -and aggressive listeners. People who are eager to imagine and implement large, daring, multifaceted solutions-together. That is what we do at Tufts-and we do it exceptionally well. In cultivating students with the breadth, perspective, awareness and sense of responsibility that grow from a liberal education, we stand among the very first rank.

But there are new challenges ahead. To maintain and enhance our intellectual vibrancy and our international stature, and to educate tomorrow's leaders, we need to focus on four critical areas of growth and change:

First, we need to ensure that Tufts remains accessible to all and not just the wealthy few. Attending an elite university in this country has become a tremendous financial burden for families. Across the country, tuition seems to rise inexorably. As a student of economics, I am always interested in efficiency. But I'm afraid that many of the things that would curb costs and make Tufts "more efficient"-larger classes, fewer faculty, less mentoring, fewer independent studies-would make us much, much less productive by every measure that really matters to us here. The economies of mass production just do not apply. If we want to keep a Tufts education accessible to more than the affluent few . . . If we want to preserve the intimacy that we value so much at Tufts . . . If we want to admit students on a truly need-blind basis . . . If we want our graduate students to be able to choose their careers based on something other than the need to pay off huge student loans . . .If we want to attract and retain the very best faculty and staff-we must develop an endowment in keeping with our stature as a university, and we will.

Second, we need to be attentive to the entire realm of the undergraduate experience. Today, colleges and universities everywhere are rushing to define themselves as "student-centered." At Tufts, we can say with confidence and pride that we already are. And yet we know there is more we can do to understand and enhance the many ways our students learn, both inside and outside the classroom. We need continually to raise the bar of intellectual excitement and challenge-while finding new ways to educate the whole person as well.

Third, we need to strengthen support for our graduate programs, and to invest in the intellectual infrastructure that supports great scholarship. If we do it right, we will not only magnify our scholarly reputation and enhance the quality of graduate education, but we will strengthen the learning experience for our undergraduates as well.

And finally, we must draw together, ever more closely, our eight distinguished schools. This may sound like merely a matter of bureaucratic convenience. But I'm convinced there is no better way to enhance our rare position as the home of an elite liberal arts college in the heart of a great university. And in a time marked by massively complex problems that know no boundaries of geography or discipline . . . income inequality, climate change, the ethics of new reproductive technologies, the perils of international terrorism . . . our ability to contribute will depend on our capacity to pool our knowledgeĐand pull together as one with ever more permeable boundaries between schools, departments and disciplines.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Tufts yearned to put a light of inquiry and inspiration here on Walnut Hill. With an act of great personal vision and generosity, he did so. Today, that light is made of many flames, which blaze on this hill and well beyond. It is our challenge now to bring them together to shine as one, and raise them still higher, to shed their light across the world. To be joined with you in this mission, I am more honored and grateful than I can say. It is a challenge that I accept humbly and with great determination

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