The following is the text of President Driscoll's inaugural address, given April 26, 2013.
An inauguration is a ceremony to celebrate the beginning of something, and I am grateful so many of you join us today. I seem to be the focus, but I want to direct your attention elsewhere. My focus—our focus—should be on a new beginning for this great institution that has served so many since 1875. However, we really can’t celebrate what’s to come without a look back in time to acknowledge what has brought us to this point.
The history of this region serves as our back drop. Our location is very special. It symbolizes what we as a university are and what we must continue to be.
Before IUP’s founding in 1875—perhaps 150 years or much more—people traversed through the area by two particular pathways. From north to south, they traveled the Catawba Trail, which passed near Punxsutawney and through modern-day Indiana. The Old Kittanning Trail intersected the Catawba Trail where the Hadley Union Building stands today. A fresh-water spring at the intersection served as a meeting point of diverse people—natives of many tribes, European missionaries, settlers of assorted backgrounds.
They conferred. They negotiated. They conducted commerce.
They drank from the same spring.
In 1845, Indiana came to the country’s attention. It was just a few blocks from here that Judge Thomas White set free Anthony Hollingsworth, a runaway slave who’d been tracked here by bounty hunters. In fact, Judge White set Mr. Hollingsworth free only after local residents protected him, sheltered him, and protested his capture.
It is worthy of note that Judge White’s nephew and law partner, Titian Coffey, eventually became the acting attorney general under President Abraham Lincoln and was a likely coauthor of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Appreciation for others—a true tradition of removing barriers and encouraging people to go beyond the limits others place on them—and provision of opportunity spilled through the doors of our very own John Sutton Hall when Indiana Normal School opened in 1875.
Jane Leonard greeted students the day the Normal School opened. As the school’s first preceptress, Miss Leonard demanded excellence and rigor from the very beginning. Before taking her position, she had traveled the world and often introduced her own travels into her English curriculum to help expand the view of her students. For the next 46 years, she instructed them upon their graduation, to “Go forth, be true, be brave, be successful.”
Miss Leonard’s call to action permeated each successive generation of students. There was Vashti Burr, a member of the class of 1918 who was admitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court and later served as the first female deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania. And, there was the late Patricia Hilliard Robertson, a member of the class of 1985 who served as a flight surgeon before becoming an astronaut and who died doing what she loved—flying.
These examples illustrate a university community that has a long tradition of demanding excellence and achieving success through the creation of opportunity.
We will continue the tradition in the newest chapter of IUP.
Upon my arrival here last summer, I found a community of people who were anxious to move ahead but who also wanted to carry forward all that is good and just about our university. And so we will.
The Cook Honors College’s success in consistently producing Fulbright Scholars and other prestigious national prize winners is emblematic of our traditional commitments. Those successes don’t happen just because we recruit the very brightest students to the Honors College—although, they are quite bright.
We must continue to provide the things that ensure productive learning by acknowledging our students—many the first in their families to seek higher education—are most successful because we are committed to face-to-face education. There is a place for online courses and degree programs, and we will expand our use of instructional technology to enhance learning and provide opportunity. But, the best way to deliver a rigorous and truly complete education is through a residential experience on a traditional campus, with resources like libraries, advisors and mentors, and extracurricular activities—and camaraderie among students. We learn and grow best in a community of scholars that provides common rallying points in and out of the classroom.
The stock from which we draw our students has an incredible work ethic. We must create academic wonder and then use that work ethic to continue to challenge them to be their absolute best. To shape them into the very best possible citizens, we must seek more opportunities to engage them in out-of-class activities—in hands-on research, in community service, in internships, and in appropriate extracurricular experience—and ensure they understand their responsibility.
As teachers and scholars, we must also continue to learn and pass along a love of lifelong learning to students—and grow together with them. A thirst for excellence will be what inspires them to better themselves and then go forth and better the world.
As an institution, we must practice what we strive to inspire, and that includes truly owning IUP’s doctoral research mission. The mission comes with responsibilities that not only enable us to provide our students with the hands-on experiences I just mentioned but also enrich the greater community.
Western Pennsylvania needs IUP.
Its citizens need our university’s expertise to create a better life for everyone. Research defined in consultation with those around us and then conducted by IUP experts who are committed to the region will provide lasting and the best results. In our fast-changing world, we will need to be nimble, but such action will lead to a meaningful future for us all.
As an example, sustainable natural resource development is something in which IUP must be involved. Situated here, in the heart of western Pennsylvania atop what might be the second largest natural gas deposit in the world, how can IUP not only participate but lead? Our interdisciplinary team that includes chemists, geologists, geographers, and safety scientists are right now studying energy issues of all kinds.
We are doing this so that we may prepare our students for dealing with energy issues in their future employment, but we also are a community partner in this regard, responding to a growing demand for more information on energy development and guidance on how to use it profitably and safely. The discussion begins with shale gas, but it doesn’t end there. Coal, wind, and solar are all points for research, exploration, and educational development. We must have more such interdisciplinary collaboration.
In an era in which the news and many of our neighborhoods are filled with reports of a nationwide obesity epidemic, an aging population, floundering elementary and secondary student performance in math and science, a spike in the instances of children born with Autism Spectrum Disorders, gun violence, domestic violence, and many, many other health, educational, and social issues, our university community has the ability and the opportunity to be a leader in finding solutions.
We educate dietitians, nurses with specialized training in geriatrics and home health care, sociologists, criminologists, clinical psychologists, and special educators prepared for working with special-needs students. And, of course, we draw upon our roots as a teacher training institution: We always have prepared excellent teachers. All families deserve the chance to thrive in healthy communities. We are in a position to provide the best sets of hands and minds—now and into the future—to ensure our communities are safe and have the services families need and the education systems they want.
As we continue to collaborate to improve our economy and business climate and address specific needs such as energy and safe, healthy, and well-educated communities, we must also provide all of our students with the tools they need to be successful. And, let us not forget that we are a world of people from many nations, cultures, and beliefs. Let us recommit to the value of the humanities and the arts, the keys to understanding ourselves and each other.
To help address the challenges and opportunities that face our world, we will work together to make sure all of our graduates are creative, flexible, and agile and that they are able to navigate our shared human experience.
We are, right now, making life better in western Pennsylvania. And, we will do more.
Just as our presence is an important component to economic and environmental progress, it also is a key ingredient for social progress. IUP is the most diverse entity in this county. One of our own distinguished alumni said it best. Richard Macedonia, now retired CEO of Sodexo, was lauded for his dedication to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
He said, “Diversity and inclusion are incorporated into the culture of organizations because growth and survival depend on them. In today’s ever-changing global environment, organizations will either effectively leverage increasing diversity or lose their competitive edge.”
IUP is not only about the enterprise of education and the people who come here from other places. It’s also about this place we share and the relationships we have with our host communities. We influence what happens just outside our campus borders and beyond. That is reciprocated. The external community plays such a grand part in our campus culture. In the numerous visits I’ve had with alumni over the last nine months, I’ve heard time and again that the town plays a meaningful part in their memories of IUP. We the university community and we the greater community must continue to work together for the social and economic good of both.
Thomas Greene understood how a healthy town-gown relationship would benefit New Bedford, Massachusetts, when a lyceum opened in 1829. He wrote, “We come from all the divisions, ranks, and classes of society…to teach and to be taught in our turn. While we mingle together in these pursuits we shall learn to know each other more intimately; we shall remove many of the prejudices which ignorance or partial acquaintance with each other had fostered….In the parties and sects into which we are divided, we sometimes learn to love our brother at the expense of him whom we do not in so many respects regard as a brother…. We may return to our homes and firesides [from the lyceum] with kindlier feelings toward one another, because we have learned to know one another better.”
I invite all of us at IUP, in Indiana Borough, in White Township, and everyone across western Pennsylvania to come together to envision and then to build a strong and vibrant future for our children. We at IUP stand ready to do our part.
As we celebrate all that is good about IUP today, we must also set our sights on sharing what we know to be true. We must raise the visibility of this great place, and we must work together to tell everyone. We should and must be proud of what we do. We have alumni around the globe, and we must engage them to help us tell our story. Humility is a wonderful virtue, but our future and our reputation depend on our doing just a little shameless bragging. The world needs to know about this wonderful university Becky and I have come to embrace.
To those of you who traveled from far-away or even nearby places to celebrate the tradition of excellence and success, the opportunities we offer, and the next chapter of our university, I thank you. I urge that we hear and heed Miss Leonard. Let us go forth, remain true to ourselves, and be brave in reaching for what we must become. Together, we will be successful.
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