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August 25, 2003

President's Column

This week the University begins another academic year - the 123rd in its proud history. After a challenging spring and an eventful summer, I am pleased to report that despite some lingering uncertainties regarding the budget and related matters, we enter the fall semester with our momentum as positive as ever. In a few weeks, I will give you a more detailed report on major issues; for now, let me just mention with pride some of the new additions to our community.

Image: President Philip E. Austin

At Convocation on Friday we welcomed a new class of students at Storrs, including 3,200 freshmen and nearly 800 transfers. Like their counterparts at the regional campuses, and their more advanced fellow UConn students at the graduate and professional schools, the young men and women we greeted at Gampel are bright, enthusiastic, perhaps a bit apprehensive, but equal to the increasingly high standards we set for them.

We had 18,000 applicants for admission to Storrs this year, higher than ever in our history; there was a similar increase in first-choice applications for the regional campuses. Our decision to hold the size of the Storrs freshman class to the same level as last year's class made the selection process particularly challenging for our admissions office.

Those who were admitted and arrived last week continued the multi-year trend toward stronger academic credentials (average SATs at about 1170, compared to 1149 last year), increased cultural diversity (18 percent of the freshman class from underrepresented groups, compared to 16 percent last year), and tremendous promise. They will represent a major asset to the University.

The new students are joined by a cohort of new faculty and staff, whom we also welcome enthusiastically. A lingering concern regarding the budget, which I will outline in more detail in my later report, relates to the extent to which the University will be able to fill positions vacated by faculty and others who availed themselves of the state's early retirement incentive last spring.

The people who have just joined us were, for the most part, recruited prior to the early retirement incentive, and filled vacancies created by other departures or, in a few cases, by newly-created positions in areas of compelling need. We were delighted to attract men and women of exceptional talent to supplement an already outstanding faculty. Our hope, of course, is that over the course of the coming year we will have the budgetary capacity and legislative authorization to meet our needs by filling many of the early retirement positions, and that we will also continue to attract exceptional individuals to non-faculty staff positions in student support and other critical areas.

Our new faculty and staff fill a gap that is more than simply numerical. The people who recently retired leave an extraordinary legacy. Individually and as a group, they guided the University through a critical period of our history and made the progress of the past decade possible. All were esteemed colleagues; in my own case, a great number are close personal friends. Fortunately, many will remain in and around Storrs or the regional campuses and will continue an affiliation with the University.

One of the great satisfactions of the summer was that we welcomed several wonderful individuals to our senior administration. There will be many opportunities for you to get to know them over the course of the year, and in every case they attach a high priority to working closely with faculty, staff, students, and community members. They include:

Our new athletic director, Jeff Hathaway, who to my delight (and relief) came home to UConn, where he previously served with such distinction as associate AD before taking the athletic director's position at Colorado State. He brings not only a deep understanding of our own program but an unquestioned commitment to academic as well as athletic excellence and integrity.

Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith, who was appointed vice president and chief operating officer following the Board of Trustees' approval of a new organizational structure (outlined in detail in earlier communications). Linda has worked in higher education for more than 25 years, most recently as vice chancellor for financial affairs at the University of Alabama system. She understands complex universities and has a strong "consumer" orientation - meaning that the administrative services she oversees exist to meet the needs of faculty, students, and the larger community.

John Martin, the new president of the University of Connecticut Foundation, also brings a long and proven track record to his responsibilities. A Connecticut native, John has worked in university advancement and development for more than 30 years. Prior to accepting the UConn Foundation's offer, he served as vice chancellor for advancement at the University System of Maryland and president and chief executive officer of the University of Maryland Foundation where, among other achievements, he spearheaded a fundraising campaign that exceeded its $700 million goal by more than $200 million.

Later this fall, William Curt Hunter, senior vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, will join us as the new dean of the School of Business. A graduate of Hampton University with graduate degrees from Northwestern University, Curt is a widely recognized figure in the world of economics and finance, with an exceptional career in academia and government.

Before I close, I should add that Gov. Rowland honored the University last month by naming Dr. John W. Rowe as the chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Thomas J. Ritter as a member of the board. Currently chairman and CEO of Aetna Inc., Jack Rowe is an international ly recognized medical researcher and academic leader, author of more than 200 publications and a leading text in geriatric medicine, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a former president of Mount Sinai Hospital and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and, from 1998 to 2000, president and chief executive officer of Mount Sinai NYU Health. For the past year, he has served the University as a member of the UConn Health Center's Board of Directors.

The Governor's other new appointee, former Connecticut House of Representatives Speaker Tom Ritter, is among the University's closest friends, a UConn Law School alumnus, and an instrumental figure in the enactment of UConn 2000.

Jack Rowe and Tom Ritter fill the seats, respectively, of Roger Gelfenbien and Claire Leonardi, who both served with great distinction.

I know our new board members, like our new senior staff members and our new students, and the others who have joined us, will help make the next period in our history a time of continued success for the University. We can look forward to a busy, exciting year.

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