Citizen of the Year address

Welcome to the home of the Division III National Champions in Men’s Basketball and Women’s Volleyball!

It is an honor to be recognized as the 2007 St. Louis Citizen of the Year-an honor that stems from my work and partnership with many at Washington University and many in our great community. I have been supported, mentored, and encouraged by great colleagues and friends, but no one has been more important than my wife, Risa Zwerling. We met within two weeks of my arrival here nearly 13 years ago. She has been a constant and wise counselor and a powerful advocate for the mission of the University.

Previous Citizens of the Year have certainly done an enormous amount for this community, and it is very special to be included on a list of great citizens of St. Louis. Of course, it should be evident that it is Washington University being honored today. An enormous investment has been made in this University by individuals, corporations, and foundations of St. Louis. I am grateful to be serving at a time of such remarkable progress, and I am thankful for the support given. There are many returns on the investments that have been made. As Chancellor I receive more credit than is truly appropriate for the remarkable contributions of the University to this community. However, those in a university community also understand that I probably get more blame than I deserve for the problems, too! My predecessor and the 1977 St. Louis Citizen of the Year, Dr. William Danforth, whispered to me at my installation as Chancellor in 1995 that “there is never a day when they love you more, except for the day you say you’re leaving!” But being named 2007 St. Louis Citizen of the Year is a highlight of my tenure as Chancellor, and this is a day I will cherish. By the way, I am not leaving, so there remains a day when you will love me even more.

In this address I will first set out some of the important accomplishments of the University, focusing on areas of importance to the St. Louis community. Hoping to set sights high in my first year in St. Louis, in June of 1996, I gave a speech to our Board of Trustees entitled “Realization of the Promises of the 21st Century.” Now we are nearing the end of the first decade of this new century, and many new challenges and opportunities are emerging. In 1996 who could have foreseen the devastation and implications of 9/11; the dramatic rise and fall of the technology sector; the collapse of major corporations like Enron and WorldCom and now Bear Stearns; or the coalescence of understanding that the world’s future hinges on addressing the challenges associated with energy and environment? Before turning to a response to some of these issues, let’s first focus on the University and its impact on the St. Louis region.

While Washington University is a national treasure with growing international stature, it is right here that we have the greatest impact. With about 12,000 full-time employees we are one of the largest employers in the region. Our payroll is approximately $1 billion. The total operating revenue for the last fiscal year was nearly $1.9 billion, and we spend much of this revenue here in St. Louis as a customer of many local businesses. Importantly, too, much of the operating revenue comes from sources outside St. Louis, contributing significantly to the regional economy. Much of the tuition revenue is supported by families who live outside our state. Further, approximately $500 million in research funding comes annually to Washington University faculty and research staff from the Federal Government. Philanthropic support to the University from the St. Louis region is very significant, but it is noteworthy that support from outside St. Louis from our alumni is important as well. An investment from outside the area affirms the value of our University and the St. Louis region to our country and to the world. In sum, Washington University has a profoundly positive effect on the economy of our region.

Washington University is a source of talented people, with many students coming from outside the region. We have roughly 12,000 full-time students, half of whom are undergraduates and the others are graduate and professional students. We attract some of the most talented people from all parts of the United States and from over 125 countries. Indeed, Washington University has become widely recognized as one of our nation’s premier destinations for education and research. The students bring diversity to our community, and certainly they come with many talents, imagination, dedication and enthusiasm. We owe our success in undergraduate student recruiting to the leadership of Vice Chancellor James McLeod and our Associate Vice Chancellor for Admissions, John Berg. More than half of our students are involved in community service programs that benefit our region. Graduates of Washington University remain in St. Louis in significant numbers and continue contributing to the community as they enhance their education or take up independent careers. Even though many of our students come from outside the state of Missouri, we are a significant, net importer of talented people. By the way, now that I have been named a St. Louis Citizen of the Year, should I say “Missourah?” In any event, our alumni populate the professions of law, medicine and other healthcare professions, business, social work, education, the arts, architecture, and engineering.

Many educational programs are offered by Washington University to benefit St. Louisans, including degree and non-degree programs offered through University College in Arts & Sciences and professional degree programs for part-time students interested in our John M. Olin School of Business or the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Washington University is also a cultural and intellectual center, bringing to St. Louis many thought leaders and cultural events in the performing arts – all open to the public. The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and our Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum contribute to our region’s strength in the visual arts and design. The new facilities for the Fox School are magnificent and provide an outstanding home for one of America’s finest university art collections.

Each of the other six schools of the University developed new facilities in the last 10 years that, along with talented people, exciting and premier programs, and great students, enable Washington University to lay claim to being one of America’s leading research universities. The Olin School of Business developed the Charles F. Knight Executive Education Center, a vital asset in building ties with the business community of St. Louis through advanced educational programs. Engineering built Whitaker Hall for Biomedical Engineering, housing a new academic department already at the forefront among such programs, and I might add, already too small to meet our aspirations. The Brown School of Social Work doubled its space with the addition of Alvin Goldfarb Hall, but new initiatives on the horizon demand yet more space in order to meet the challenges before us. The School of Law has surged ahead as one of the nation’s leading law schools, benefitting from the development of Anheuser Busch Hall. Arts & Sciences has been strengthened by exceptionally fine facilities for science education and research in chemistry and earth and planetary sciences. Medicine has developed major new facilities for education, research, and clinical care including the McDonnell Pediatric Research Building, the Farrell Learning and Teaching Center, and the Center for Advanced Medicine, a collaborative undertaking with Barnes-Jewish Hospital, our partner in clinical medicine. The Center for Advanced Medicine is home to the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, a joint undertaking of the School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and BJC HealthCare. The Siteman Cancer Center, led by Dr. Timothy Eberlein, is the only comprehensive cancer center for this geographical region, so designated by the National Cancer Institute, and already the 3rd largest in the United States after Sloan Kettering in New York City and M. D. Anderson in Houston.

The Danforth Campus developments include new undergraduate residences, establishment of the Habif Health and Wellness Center, and complete renewal of the John M. Olin Library, Graham Chapel, and Holmes Lounge. In all, we have built more than 30 new buildings in the last dozen years! Three more will be finished this summer. These physical developments have added to the vitality of the construction business here in St. Louis and have fueled the special effort we have made to work with the women and minority business community through our Supplier Diversity Initiative. Sandra Marks, working with us in a program conceived by Vice Chancellor Richard Roloff, has assisted us to engage the diverse business community of St. Louis. Our new and renovated facilities assist us in recruiting the finest faculty, students and staff and also provide new venues for engaging and serving the St. Louis community and responding to the new challenges of this century.

Progress of Washington University in the last 12 years has been guided by a careful and comprehensive planning process involving hundreds of people. Every new building has been accompanied by new programs that attract talented students and faculty who are creating and defining fields of scholarship. The University is now nearing the end of a new comprehensive planning process that will guide us in the next 10 to 12 years. I would like to preview some of our plans for the future with a focus on those that will strengthen our community.

Talented students are the focus of our efforts on campus, and we will continue to be inclusive and diverse. We know we need to work to provide the scholarship resources needed to continue to admit talented students from all segments of society and from all parts of the nation and the world. As I have already indicated, our students make enormous contributions to St. Louis, and we will strive to enhance our community in this vital dimension.

One major effort to build the visibility of St. Louis will involve our McDonnell International Scholars Academy, a partnership involving 24 leading research universities around the globe, including Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. Led by Professor James V. Wertsch, the overarching goal of this program is to build understanding and cooperation among people and institutions of the world. With St. Louis as the hub, our partnerships are intended to build cooperative education and research programs that will contribute to addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems. This effort brings some of the world’s most talented people for graduate or professional degree programs as McDonnell Scholars. The Scholars also learn from each other about their countries and cultures. These intellectually diverse McDonnell Scholars also learn about the United States and our culture, history, politics, government, values and ways of doing business. McDonnell Scholars are being prepared to be global leaders in business, academia, government and other public service roles – leaders who will have received their formative graduate and professional training right here in St. Louis. One of our first graduating McDonnell Scholars will be joining Emerson this spring.

The McDonnell Academy will likely expand to 30-35 partner universities and through this partnership Washington University will be engaged in international collaborations in both education and research. We are already engaged in a joint Executive MBA Program with Fudan University located in Shanghai, China. We anticipate other collaborative education programs that will involve our students and faculty spending time with one or more of our McDonnell Academy partners.

Energy, environment, and sustainability are interrelated areas of international, national, and regional importance. Last year we launched the McDonnell Academy Global Energy and Environment Partnership, which now engages us in collaborative research efforts with our partner universities. Professor Pratim Biswas, Chair of the Department of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering, leads this partnership, and he has engaged faculty and students from Washington University and from many of our partner universities in collaborative research programs to address these global challenges. Other international areas of possible collaboration include global health, international peace and security, intellectual property law and “big science” such as space exploration.

The McDonnell Academy efforts represent one thrust area of research activity of our International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability. Led by Professor of Biology Himadri Pakrasi, I-CARES is an international center that will be the University’s premier research effort to address issues related to energy, environment and sustainability. Other research areas include a regional partnership to develop biofuels, ecology research at our Tyson Research Center, efficient building design, improved combustion processes, and work to mitigate the accumulation of carbon dioxide from combustion of fossil fuels. In addition, the University has recruited a University sustainability officer to guide our efforts to be as efficient as possible in consumption of resources in our own operations. In all I-CARES efforts, we are committed to partnership and collaboration, both within the University and with research organizations regionally and internationally. Our aspiration is to be a leading academic center for education and research on energy, environment, and sustainability and a model organization in terms of stewardship of the environment and the resources available to us.

A second compelling initiative in the era ahead is what we have referred to as BioMed 21. This effort is intended to more rapidly effect the translation of medical research to benefit patients. The Washington University School of Medicine is among the finest institutions of its kind, with large and excellent programs of medical research, clinical care, and education. BioMed 21 will accelerate the pace of progress in addressing diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and diabetes. Diagnostic imaging, genetics and genomics, and a new focus on clinical research and bioinformatics will propel our efforts in making progress in the era ahead. Much of this effort will be undertaken collaboratively with BJC HealthCare, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Together with our partners we are currently building the BJC Institute of Health, which will house interdisciplinary teams of medical researchers to bring benefits to patients we serve in the region, in our country and around the world. Medical research promises to yield unprecedented progress in tackling the most difficult human health challenges. The 21st century is the age of biology, and we aim to continue to play a leadership role in advancing basic biology in ways that will benefit humankind, from plant science for energy and food, to cures for cancer and heart disease. Initiatives like the Children’s Discovery Institute, in partnership with St. Louis Children’s Hospital, will advance the health of our region’s children, and the Hope Center holds the promise of an understanding of neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. BioMed 21 and other research partnerships will enable our School of Medicine to remain a vital health care provider, an extremely important contribution to our community. Excellent patient care is a reward from a great School of Medicine.

We know that biomedical research will continue to be an extremely rewarding investment for the future. However, we see other ways to improve the health of people in our community. Indeed, an assessment of ways to align University aspirations with interests and needs of the community reveals a major opportunity in the area of public health. The strategic plan for the University, on which we have been working for several years, includes the establishment of a new Institute for Public Health that will be launched later this year. The University has already committed $8.5 million of endowment to support the Institute and has deployed resources to recruit new faculty and develop academic programs. Important aspirations of the Institute will be to improve our health indicators overall and to overcome health disparities. The founding director of the Institute for Public Health will be Dr. Edward F. Lawlor, Dean of the George Warren Brown School of Social Work. The deputy director will be Graham Colditz, Professor of Surgery. Dr. Lawlor and Dr. Larry J. Shapiro, Dean of the School of Medicine, will be co-chairs of a University-wide Faculty Advisory Council to guide the development and implementation of programs of the Institute.

Washington University’s Institute for Public Health will be an interdisciplinary initiative integrating the University’s work in community health, health policy, international health, epidemiology and biostatistics, genomics, and environmental health. The Institute will reinforce and complement strategic initiatives being implemented by the Brown School of Social Work and the School of Medicine, as well as support related efforts to be undertaken by the University’s other schools including the Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Arts & Sciences, the Olin School of Business, Engineering, and Law.

The Institute for Public Health will also guide the development of the University’s public health curriculum, including a master’s of public health degree to be offered by the Brown School beginning in the fall of 2009. Undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral course work is planned to help future professionals address many of the critical health issues we face locally, nationally, and around the world. Hallmarks of such training will include the effective ability to collaborate with partners from diverse communities, including vulnerable populations; the ability to communicate health education and change health behavior, and; to promote meaningful, efficient health services and policy.

Collaboration is at the heart of the Institute, expanding current relationships and building new partnerships with diverse communities, agencies, and other universities. Importantly, our partner in healthcare delivery, BJC HealthCare, will be a key collaborator in the development of the Institute, because we share a common commitment to improve the health of our community. Steven J. Lipstein, President and CEO of BJC HealthCare, and a trustee of the University, will serve as chair of a National Advisory Council to further guide the development of the strategic plan for the Institute.

Another area of vital importance to our region is public education. As with the Institute for Public Health, we see an opportunity to contribute to educational opportunities for young people in our region in ways that will also strengthen Washington University. There is universal awareness that improving the educational opportunities for the children of our region is important to our future. Earlier this year Washington University committed to be a sponsor of a new charter school in the City of St. Louis to be administered by the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), a successful initiative of urban charter schools spawned by participants in the Teach For America Program. We are committed not to just being a “sponsor,” but also a partner of the KIPP charter school, which is slated to begin in the fall of 2009. Faculty, students and staff will work with others in the community and with KIPP to develop a successful system of charter schools that will set high standards for public education in our region. With about 10 percent of our undergraduates applying to Teach For America, interest is high among our students to be involved in efforts to strengthen public education.

Beyond our partnership with KIPP, we will continue and enhance efforts to improve mathematics and science education in the public schools through programs that have been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Drs. Sarah Elgin and Victoria May of the Department of Biology have been critical leaders in these efforts, along with Dr. William Tate of our Department of Education in Arts & Sciences. These programs have partnered us with the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Science Center, and the Missouri Botanical Garden to work with several public school districts in our region, including nearby University City and Maplewood/Richmond Heights, in addition to work with the St. Louis Public Schools. With support from the Monsanto Fund, faculty led by Professor Heather Corcoran and Douglas Dowd in the Fox School of Design & Visual Arts have designed and developed “MySci,” a special traveling science van, to excite interest in science among kindergarten, first- and second-graders in our region.

Looking ahead, we are planning a special program to enhance the probability of success in college among those students graduating from the City of St. Louis Public Schools. We envision a summer program on the Danforth Campus for promising city students to better prepare them for college. We aim to lift the hopes and dreams of our city’s most talented students and encourage them in their efforts to attain leadership roles in society. I myself am the son of parents who did not attend college. Both my mother and father encouraged me to pursue college, and how grateful I am to each of them. A challenge of our community is that not all of our young people have parents encouraging them in their quest to become all that they can be. I am very impressed by Risa’s commitment with a program called “Discovering Options.” Risa is mentoring a 4th grader, lifting her hopes and prospects to realize the potential Risa sees in her. As such students advance in the city, Washington University resolves to reach out to talented high school students in the City of St. Louis to help them fulfill their dreams to become the next generation of leaders in our community and around the country.

Another area of alignment of community interests and needs and our academic aspirations relates to innovation and entrepreneurship. As a community we have thrived, because we have enjoyed the benefits that derive from a large number of successful businesses. Throughout our history we have enjoyed economic prosperity stemming from major businesses and their success in our community. Great corporations provide major employment opportunities for people here and around the nation and the world, and they have invested in St. Louis and its institutions, including Washington University. We enjoy many cultural assets, because our business community shares its success. All companies need to continue to be innovators in order to remain successful in this highly competitive world, and the University seeks to better prepare its students to be sources of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Attracting and retaining our talented young people depends on having a strong and growing business environment to employ them in exciting, meaningful, and rewarding jobs. Our Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Programs is nurturing the development of new enterprises through formal education, experiential learning, and development of student-run businesses. I am proud that the Skandalaris Center includes an emphasis on “social entrepreneurship” that helps members of the community do much good while doing well. One great success is the “Blessing Basket Project” conceived and led by Theresa Wilson, a program to help women in developing countries become vital contributors to the economic well-being of their community. Today, more than 3,000 women in six countries are weaving baskets for sale in developed countries with substantial economic benefit to the women, their families and their communities. This “blockbuster” development of a new enterprise is providing our students and faculty an opportunity to bring important benefits to people all around the world. Biomedical engineering students, led by Professor Frank Yin, are working in China to assist in applying modern technology in the developing world. In our region, I am very proud of the work of Professor Bob Hansman of the Fox School of Design & Visual Arts for his innovative “City Faces” program reaching out to inner-city young people to encourage their educational pursuits through the visual arts.

Looking ahead, Washington University is contributing to a developing culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in our region. The Skandalaris Center is supporting 20 undergraduate interns to work with start-up companies this summer, right here in St. Louis. We seek to expand this program in the era ahead, both to assist in building new companies, and also to build ties between our students and the growing businesses of our region. With annual research expenditures of over $500 million per year in medicine, science, and engineering, we have the potential to spawn more new companies similar to those that populate incubators such as the Center for Emerging Technologies and the Nidus Center for Scientific Enterprise. We are encouraging our Office of Technology Management to partner with community efforts like Biogenerator and CORTEX to more rapidly move the results from research to benefit our community. Through the Olin School of Business and our School of Law we will contribute to building the infrastructure for the formation and development of new businesses based on new intellectual property. We are crafting new ways of working with science-based companies, as seen in the partnership recently announced with Pfizer. An exciting era lies ahead, and through new knowledge creation and its application to benefit humankind, our region is destined to be a center of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Let me close with a few words about my role here. Recently I attended a conference where I was introduced as the Chancellor of Washington University. Afterwards, a participant asked me “Who is the President of Washington University?” “Chancellor” is a title that means different things in other settings. When I arrived more than 12 years ago, an MIT friend sent me a framed definition of “chancellor” from the dictionary. One definition is “chief secretary to a king” – this one seemed apt at the time, as I was coming in succeeding a “king” among leaders in higher education, Bill Danforth, who became chairman of our Board. Another definition is “titular leader of a university.” Being just a chemist I had to look up “titular” to find out that this would mean a “figurehead” leader. For example, the Queen of England is Chancellor of the University of London. But the definition I like best is “doorkeeper.” I see myself as a person responsible for opening doors for students and faculty and assisting them in realizing the promise they hold.

As in 1996, we cannot know what the future will bring. But we do know that we will need a new generation of leaders. We will work to prepare a talented and diverse group of students to be society’s leaders. We are part of a larger world, and our new leaders must work internationally to address global-scale problems like those associated with peace and security and with energy and environment. These are critical to our collective future. We know, too, that we have great strength in advancing human health through biomedical research. And we know that our community will be stronger if we are successful in improving public education and public health and stimulating a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Washington University cannot do all this alone. We need to encourage and reward collaboration and interdisciplinary education and research within the University, to be sure, but we need to strengthen partnerships with other organizations in our community. We need to build great teams – teams of faculty, students, and community members. These teams can work to fulfill our dreams -building teams … fulfilling dreams. That is what we will do in the era ahead.

Thank you for honoring me with your presence today.