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University President

University of Central Missouri
Administration 202
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4112


Inauguration Address, October 6, 2011


On behalf of Kris, Charlie, and Kathryn, please accept our thanks for the meaningful hospitality and warm welcome that you have demonstrated to the Ambrose family since we arrived in Warrensburg last summer.  Today provides an incredible sense of indebtedness to this University community - faculty - staff - alumni - Board of Governors - and, especially - UCM students for allowing us to become a part of what is a truly special place.

Video shown during inauguration

What an incredible sense of community that you demonstrated yesterday when over 650 students joined forces with faculty and staff, the United Way, Warrensburg schools and community agencies to meet the needs of our community.

On behalf of the entire University - thank you Governor Nixon for your participation today in the life of the University of Central Missouri.   Your presence affirms yours and the State of Missouri's commitment to higher education and the challenge for all of us to lead as we move the vital interest of the State forward.

If you would allow me a moment of personal appreciation - thank you to my family, friends, and colleagues who have taken your time and energy to engage with UCM.  I can truly say that I am here today because of your strong encouragement, example, and friendship.  There are many here that I owe a significant debt of gratitude.  I am thankful for the opportunity to introduce to you Kris’ parents who are here today, Glenn and Marjorie Allen.  And, even though my father never had the opportunity to know that I had become a college president, and unfortunately my mom could not be here due to her health - they put education as priority in our family, made the sacrifices parents make, all which significantly impacted my life. 

I am forever grateful to Kris, Charlie, and Kathryn for our family life together that has been defined by college campuses and the people on those campuses that we now count as family.

This morning I would like for us to recognize the impact that we each can have on students as they envision what they can become as a result of their own unique collegiate experiences.  As a student at Furman University, two college presidents took an active interest in Kris and me - Dr. Gordon Blackwell and Dr. John Johns - engaged in our lives as undergraduates, became our lifelong friends, and lifted our aspirations that life in and on a college campus could be rich and meaningful. Their examples made a difference and they were right.

I also am thankful to acknowledge the graduate coordinator and my major professor, at the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia, Dr. Parker Young - who is a great teacher, mentor, and friend - He always instilled in students the way to truly become a part of a college or university was to put yourself totally into it - and I am most grateful that he is here with us today - thank you Parker.

I first came into contact with the then "Central Missouri State University" through the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and through my work with one of the leaders of the Association and Board of Director's member - Dr. Ed Elliott.  Nearly 27 years of friendship with Dr. Elliott and his wife Sandra, before coming to Warrensburg, gave me a sense of deep appreciation for this special community and helped define the personality of the institution.  Thank you Ed and Sandra.

It is my hope that the past 12 months have helped define not only where we are, but more importantly, a much greater sense of where we can go together as we reach for what is possible from here in Warrensburg, Missouri. 

UCM is built on Strong Foundation

It is obvious Central is built on a strong foundation with a deep history and rich heritage that now places us in a special place of responsibility that requires all of us to define and create the future.

Laura Louis Runyon - a professor of history who served at Normal School Number Two and through the transition to Central Missouri State Teachers College, authored the University's Motto, "Education for Service."  These words are etched in stone on the Northeast entrance to the Humphrey's Building - constructed in 1907.  The inscription so accurately described the institution's efforts to prepare students to serve the State that the college decided to adopt it as its mission soon after the stone was set.

Now fast forward to this weekend, this year's Homecoming theme of "Traditions" builds on our core values as Normal School number 2 in 1871 - to Central Missouri's Teachers College in 1919 - to Central Missouri State College in 1945 - to Central Missouri State University in 1972 - and to our continuing evolution as the University of Central Missouri in 2006. 

Standing on the shoulders of those that have come before us - "Education for Service" - to the State of Missouri has and will continue to be our mission and central to our future.

Strategic Governance and Leadership

We begin from this point in time as we look to our collective future from a position of strength as an academic institution.  We are led by a Governor working with our State Legislature to minimize the losses of State support while at the same time remaining committed to a core Missouri value of holding the cost of higher education as low as possible so that higher education can remain accessible for all. 

Last August, Governor Nixon convened the first Higher Education Summit in over 20 years and called on higher education to increase college access and success for students, reduce program duplication and replication, and build statewide partnerships and collaborations to increase the State’s overall effectiveness, while at the same time becoming more efficient in the use of our resources.

Over the last 12 months, this University community responded, UCM in collaboration with the Association of Governing Boards, designed and implemented a new Strategic Governance for Student Success Model.  Led by this institution’s faculty, staff and students, the results produced have been dramatic and significant as we work to aggressively meet the future head on.  I greatly appreciate the entire campus' excellent work and sense of innovation while embarking this future-focused effort.

This strategic governance and resource allocation model sought to align with these statewide objectives by  reallocating academic programs and resources to meet the increased demands of a growing enrollment, while at the same time reducing administrative costs through academic and administrative efficiencies, maintaining stable employment, providing increased support for faculty and staff, all at the same time holding our cost to students equal to inflation over the past two years.

This fall semester the University welcomed 11,637 students who did in fact Chose Red - this represents the largest number of students in our institution's history.   Representing Missouri are 10,153 students who can clearly identify the value proposition presented by the quality of an engaged faculty and staff and the many opportunities that define the cumulative effect of Central on students.

UCM faculty have led statewide collaborations delivering degree programs in partnerships with other institutions across the state in economics and foreign languages. These types of collaborations coupled with innovations like course redesign are keys to our statewide core mission and the future of public higher education.

Since this time last year this University community has increased the value proposition of the University; further focused on our mission to meet the needs of those we serve; developed a wide range of new partnerships and collaborations to accomplish these tasks; and most importantly, maintained the ever present focus on our students' success.   This is the true spirit of the University of Central Missouri.

The response of this University to the new reality surrounding public higher education is a stronger indicator of who we are, but it is also a much stronger indicator of what we can become by linking our past, present and future.

Pace of Change

Often the word "change" is overused in our daily lives. However, I am confident we can agree that we could never have predicted or imagined the pace of change that we experience - not only in terms of decades – but also on a daily basis.

For example, we can find constant change in our daily news consumption, communications with family and friends across town or on the other side of the globe, shopping via the Web, following the University President on Twitter, normal business-related matters and so on - all are paced at an unprecedented speed of change.

And, whereas I am no futurist, I believe the speed of change will continue to accelerate even faster in our world - and higher education must be defining and leading such change.  The challenge for higher education is to clearly define its role clearly for leading change, or risk being subject to the pace of change that questions both our value and relevancy.

Here at UCM we are keenly focused on our responsibility to use change as a positive catalyst for our own future. It is our responsibility to prepare students to not only embrace change but also to be equipped to lead the dynamic environments of the world today. It is our most important responsibility.

I don't know if you experienced last night, or if you logged on to your Twitter or Facebook page, bringing together a sense of responsibility to lead change and how quick things changed - Steve Jobs passed. Steve said in one of his quotes that I picked up on Twitter this morning - "We are here to put a dent in the Universe," and that's what we're here for isn't it - it's our greatest responsibility.

Seeing our Future through our Past and Present

It is through the lives of our graduates and their commitment to take the knowledge they have gained here at Central, along with their personal sense of purpose to go out into the world to make a difference, that I believe best illustrates not only our University's potential, but perhaps more importantly, the urgent responsibility of our work together to create a better future for the State, Nation, and World.

As part of the Homecoming activities, tomorrow evening, we will recognize Mike Webb and Mark Schuppe as our 2011 Distinguished Alumni who represent more than 82,000 graduates of Central.  There are three other alumni here today who also help to define our future.

Today, it is my honor to ask you to join me in welcoming home United State Air Force Captain Allen Clark.  Allen, a 2002 graduate is here today with his wife Aimee - Allen, like many others serving our country, has been away from his family over 230 days and just arrived home on Saturday.  He has flown 125 missions and 650 hours over Afghanistan in support of ground troops through Project Liberty.  Allen flew a mission last month on September 11th that marked the tenth anniversary of the day he decided to enlist in the Air Force as he watched the events of that day unfold on television in the Elliott Student Union.  Since that time he has flown as part of the B2 program at Whiteman Air Force Base and is best known at the Mules home football games for being on the sidelines taking pictures.  We are glad to have you back on the sidelines and thank you Allen for what you represent to your University and to our country.

Another alumnus grew up on a farm with eight brothers and sisters north of Clinton, Missouri.  Growing up during a period of segregation resulted in many challenges for the Steward family. The Steward children were supported by parents who made any and all sacrifices to provide for their children and who encouraged their education.

Dave Steward decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Business while becoming a student-athlete as a part of Coach Short's Mules Basketball program.  Dave's strong desire to succeed and his lifelong dream to own a business resulted in him becoming Chair of the Board of World Wide Technologies, a business he started in 1990 to provide revolutionary technology products and service around the world.  The company's strong commitment of service has made World Wide Technology a globally respected corporation that annually generates billions of dollars in sales.   This has also led Dave and his wife Thelma to become engaged members of their community and leaders in numerous charitable causes across St. Louis and Missouri.

Over the past year, as we have talked with Dave Steward about the pace of change and the requirements of leadership for the future - we began to discuss how his own University of Central Missouri experience could shape our efforts to produce the next generation of servant leaders for the future. 

Like many academic programs across the University, we asked how could we attract students to UCM by virtue of their learning experiences and equip them in ways that help them embrace the pace of change and to lead within it. 

As a result of these goals and aspirations, we are grateful that Dave and Thelma are going to help build our future through the development of the Stewards Scholars program within the Harmon College of Business. 

Through a generous gift to fund the five-year start-up of this first of its kind Scholars Program - Steward Scholars will be recruited who exemplify scholarship, character, and leadership in the classroom and community.  Each scholar will be provided with full scholarship, but more importantly, support for high impact learning opportunities that will be built on excellence in the profession of computer information systems with the cornerstones of civic engagement; cultural, global, and social awareness; and leadership development.  Steward Scholars will be provided academic internships; mentors within their field of study; a study-abroad semester; engagement with leaders in the field; serve as mentors to other students; and emerge from the program as a springboard for their leadership aspirations for the future.

Future Steward Scholars will not only be prepared for "change" - I believe they will be instrumental in defining what "change" will be in the future.  These scholars will define, create and lead "change" - all because of the cumulative effect of the UCM experience - and the generosity of someone who himself benefitted from his own experiences here in this community.

Dave Steward represents what is truly unique about the University of Central Missouri and he is actively engaged in helping shape the outcomes for what is required of us in the future - please join me in recognizing  and thanking Dave and Thelma Steward.

The next special person who represents where we are and where we can go together - is also a Distinguished Alumnus of UCM - Don Nissanka, born in Sri Lanka - came to UCM in the late 1980s and became fully involved in the Central experience.  After working in residence life, Don received a bachelor's degree and master's degree in industrial engineering and technology management.  Don's professional work began here in Warrensburg with a paid internship at Gate Energy, which is now known as EnerSys.  His full-time position came with increasing levels of responsibility in power systems technology for defense, aerospace, medical, and Telecom industries worldwide.  From EnerSys, Don became president of KoKam America, one of the first mass production lithium-polymer cell facilities in the country. 

Using the success of KoKam, Don is now president of Exergonix and is envisioning job creation and economic development as an emerging technology campus in Lee's Summit.

Don Nissanka envisions preparing the workforce of tomorrow in full partnership with the University of Central Missouri to shape the future of education in ways meant to decrease its cost, accelerate learning, and to provide for extraordinary applied learning for students while advancing the values of learning and service. Please join me in recognizing Don his active engagement with our future.

These unique individuals, represents the cumulative effect of a University - committed to taking the knowledge provided by a faculty dedicated to teaching and learning and the strong personal sense of purpose students bring to campus to reach beyond themselves - then combining these two elements together that have and will continue to shape our future.

In the lives of these servant leaders you can clearly see the Spirit of the University of Central Missouri. Allen, Dave, and Don, again, thank you.

In one year of service here, I clearly understand that this is a learning community, who chooses to go the extra mile, truly engage in the lives of students, and sees and supports education wherever and however it takes place…

I am humbled and honored to be the president of the University of Central Missouri. As we look to the future, I am encouraged by our strong historical foundation as an institution. I also know that we, as an institution, will readily accept the assignment of embracing and evolving with change in the future. As it has been since 1871, UCM has understood the need to embrace change thoughtfully and wisely.  We have all the elements to move to a new chapter in our institution's history.   

Being a relative newcomer to Missouri - I am now becoming more fully aware of what the "Show Me State" means.

Today - the tremendous impact of change on our students requires them to not only ask:

Show Me

But I think we are also being asked to;

Prepare Me

Inspire Me

Challenge Me

Engage Me

That's what the University of Central Missouri does best -and- we can do it best together.  We are the University of Central Missouri.

Thank you.