What a place to build a life and a career. As I began my inaugural address on September 17, 1999, a year after taking office as president of James Madison University, I quoted the famous French mime Marcel Marceau, who wrote: “Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us all without words.” It was fortunate on that beautiful day that I had prepared remarks, because the words in my mind were most assuredly overtaken by the emotions in my heart. The same is now true.
Tyler Miller, our third president, in his 1949 Inaugural Address said, “I approach the responsibilities of this position with mingled feelings of pride, humility and satisfaction.” Well, today in announcing that I will be ending my service as president of this great institution, I have those same mingled feelings: immense pride in what has been achieved, humbled by the intellect, energy, and talent that characterizes the faculty, staff and students of this institution, and filled with the satisfaction that only comes through observing the success of those you served.
I have informed rector Jim Hartman and the other members of the Board of Visitors that I will end my service as the president of James Madison University in June of 2012. I announce my intentions now so that the Board and the University will have sufficient time to search for a new president.
Once I came to grips with the meaning of this personal decision my first thoughts were of gratitude. I am so thankful to Judith who has worked with me over the course of my presidency. She has experienced first hand the joy of a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter announcement, a national championship, and the passage of a major bond issue, but she has also shared my frustration and disappointment with difficult decisions such as the elimination of athletic programs due to Title IX, the reduction of budgets, and the premature loss of students’ lives. I am deeply appreciative of her support and encouragement and my love for her knows no bounds. I thank my sons who involuntarily sacrificed time with their dad, attributable to the demands of my office.
I am also thankful to those who have served the University as members of the Board of Visitors during my presidency. They have without failure provided direction, guidance and support always governing with the best interest of the university in mind.
When I accepted this job, I said that it was the best university presidency in the country. I meant it then and I still feel the same way. It isn’t the beautiful campus or the well maintained buildings, although they do make for a pleasant place to work everyday. It is the people.
I attended a conference on Monday at which David Gergen, who has advised four presidents, who provides political commentary on CNN, and who is the director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School, said the single most important thing for a leader to do is to build a competent leadership team. I know I have succeeded at that! My immediate staff, the VPs, the AVPs and Deans - you are a brilliant group: You are bright, persistent, talented and hard working and you pursue your tasks with a collaborative spirit that simply exists in no other place. Some of you are also lifelong friends. Many of our achievements are a tribute to your leadership and your contributions. I am profoundly grateful for our years together.
What a perfect blend we have of seasoned, capable faculty coupled with young, aspiring dreamers whose scholarly efforts and inspiring teaching amaze me everyday. When I began this job, I said, “my principal ambition is to create an environment in which great teachers can work their special magic with students. The magic of learning. Rather than ten buildings, ten million dollars, or ten new programs, I would prefer to be responsible for creating the conditions for ten faculty to flourish at JMU and to alter the lives of students they teach. If that can be done then I will feel gratified with what has been accomplished.” Others will judge if we have accomplished this goal. I think we have.
Our administrative and support staff makes so much of what we do possible. Their devotion to our mission, their service to their constituents, and their refusal to accept anything other than excellence has fueled our progress for years.
And then there are the students. The primacy of student needs has permeated all that we do. Judith and I have had hundreds if not thousands of students to our home. We have enjoyed their company. We have answered their questions. We have watched them grow and prosper. We have been amazed at how much they can eat! We hope that we have prepared them well for their futures.
It would be easy to be discouraged by current conditions: environmental challenges, political unrest, terrorism, poverty, budget deficits and the list could go on. However, if you visit a class and talk with students, if you witness their unselfish desire to help others, if you experience first hand their innovative spirits and “can-do” attitudes, you cannot help but be optimistic about our future. I had the good fortune to come to work in this force field of positive thinking every day of my professional life at Madison.
Countless numbers of community members, alumni, parents, donors, business leaders and others have supported this university and encouraged me during my tenure. I fully understand what that kind of support means and I am thankful that I received it.
There is much to be done in the time remaining before I hand the keys to the office to the next president. There are two legislative sessions and four commencements. There will be no “winding down.” We will approach all of our responsibilities with the full intensity and drive characteristic of our work throughout the previous decade. Dr. Ronald Carrier, who prepared me for this job, handed me an institution in great shape in 1998 and I plan to turn over an even better one to the new leadership in 2012.
The opportunity that I have had to lead James Madison University wasn’t just an assignment. It was my chance to fulfill a dream. I am thankful to the selection committee that interviewed me and still had courage to forward my name as a finalist for this post. I am grateful to the members of the Board who entrusted this marvelous institution to my care, and to the many board members with whom I have worked since.
I have been a part of JMU for the vast majority of my adult life and for one-third of the University’s life. By July, 2012 I will have served almost fourteen years as president. I love this institution; I love the mission and values for which it stands. I have the highest respect and regard for the people here who are devoting their professional lives to the betterment of the University and its students. I hope that I have inspired and challenged; but also supported and nurtured along the way.
While I am pleased for President Rose and Mrs. Rose, this is not a happy occasion for me. When I joined the board six years ago, I did not expect to have the honor of chairing the board, and I certainly did not anticipate that we would be hiring a new president. It is my honor to do both. I can say without any reservation that it has been a privilege to observe Dr. Rose and his team as they have worked every day to make this a better university than it was the day before. This university has had only five presidents in its 102 year history, and that stability has served the university well. Dr. Rose has served this university in many capacities since 1975 and his imprint will be indelibly present on all areas of the institution.
In the "Rose Years" if I may call them that, most every aspect of the university has been improved and/or expanded. In twelve short years over twenty-five buildings have been constructed, over 2.4 million square feet have been added to the footprint of the university, over twenty new academic programs have been initiated, a Phi Beta Kappa chapter has been established, the budget has more than doubled, enrollment has grown by 37% to 19,400 and the first capital campaign was successfully conducted. Dr. Rose has also capably represented the university on numerous boards and advisory bodies and he enjoys the respect and admiration of his peers. The list of accomplishments goes on and on. There will be opportunities over the course of the next year to celebrate what will be known as President Rose’s legacy. I look forward to being part of these fond remembrances.
I am sure many of you are now wondering how we will go about searching for the next leader of this great institution. I am pleased to announce that Joseph Damico, who has been a member of the board for seven and one-half years, and who served as Rector for two of those years, has agreed to serve as the chair of the search committee. With his consultation I will appoint the membership of the search committee in the near future. Obviously, the major constituent groups of the institution will be represented on the committee.
A search firm will be engaged to assist the committee and the board. Ultimately, the search committee will make its recommendation to the Board of Visitors and the final selection of the new president will rest with the Board. It is always a challenge to predict a timetable in these matters, but it would be my hope that by first quarter, 2012 we will have selected a new president. This schedule provides time for the new president to become more familiar with the institution after selection before taking over the leadership of the university on July 1, 2012.
The JMU mission statement reflects much about how Dr. Rose has envisioned his charge, "We are a community committed to preparing students to be educated and enlightened citizens who lead productive and meaningful lives." And, we continue to see our students go out in the world and make a difference, make a change, make a positive change. Thank you for being here with us today.
Dec. 8, 2010