UB Today Alumni Magazine Online - Winter 2004
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Message from the President
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President's Message

'The opportunity of a lifetime'

  Simpson
On October 28, 2003, it was my great honor to accept the appointment of the State University of New York Board of Trustees to serve as the 14th president of the University at Buffalo, an institution I believe to be the premier public research university of the Northeast. I am thrilled to be here, and I can tell you that at the conclusion of the search process, when the opportunity to join the UB community as president was presented to me my decision was a very easy one to make.

I welcomed the opportunity to become part of the long and distinguished history of this great public research university, with its tradition of outstanding leadership in higher education. Simply put, I regarded it as nothing short of the opportunity of a lifetime.

My appreciation of UB's many strengths, and my sense of the university's enormous potential for the future, have been shaped by more than 30 years of experience in higher education, most recently as provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. In this leadership capacity, and throughout my years as a senior university administrator, professor and research scientist, I have long known that UB boasts first-rate scholars and researchers among its renowned faculty, and nationally and internationally recognized academic programs in a wide range of disciplines, excellent graduate and professional training, and exceptional facilities and opportunities for advanced research. Since my appointment as president, I have become even more closely acquainted with the university, and the more I learn, the more I am struck by the level of achievement everywhere in evidence at UB.

First and foremost, I have been singularly impressed by the faculty, students and staff I've met on campus, and overwhelmed by the level of support of the alumni and community members who have welcomed me to the university. This combination of energy, talent, vision, pride and enthusiasm in UB says to me that the university community is ready, willing and able to build on its longstanding history of success. I look forward to working with you in this regard, and I welcome your ideas and your contributions of time, talent and expertise on behalf of UB, as together we work to strengthen UB's traditions of excellence in research, education and public service.

UB's excellence is indeed widely known; the university enjoys significant national and international recognition. As a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), UB is regarded as one of the nation's top research universities. With one of the most powerful academic supercomputing sites in the world, UB is a highly respected and sought-after location for cutting-edge research. As New York State's most comprehensive public research university, the flagship of the SUNY system, UB serves students from across the state, throughout the nation and around the globe, and attracts the highest quality faculty to its ranks. And, like many of our AAU colleagues, UB competes at the highest echelon of university athletics, NCAA Division I-A, drawing the most academically talented scholar-athletes from across the nation to our classrooms.

Part of my goal as president is to enhance this recognition across the board, and to establish our leadership in even more definite terms. Together, we will help UB further achieve the national and international acclaim the university so clearly deserves. But in addition to UB's many great qualities, my firm belief in UB's distinction comes also from my own personal and professional commitment to public higher education, and my passionate conviction that access to the educational opportunities provided by a public university like UB is absolutely critical to the very welfare of our nation. In many ways, public higher education represents the highest manifestation of democracy. My vision for UB therefore focuses on academic excellence and leadership: I look forward to working together to make UB the very, very best public university it can be. The citizens of the many publics UB serves-not only in Western New York and New York State, but also across the nation and around the world-deserve nothing less.

It is a pivotal time for higher education; public institutions across the nation are facing tremendous economic and political challenges. On the one hand, our nation is experiencing an unprecedented demand for access to public higher education, and I strongly believe that leadership institutions like UB have a responsibility to meet this demand. At the same time, decreasing state and federal support for public education, a phenomenon common to California, New York and every state in between, makes our enterprise an increasingly difficult one to successfully fund. How can we provide greater access to public higher education without the support we have traditionally relied upon to finance these institutions? Given these great challenges, how can we ensure a future of excellence for our generations of students to come?

These questions are not unique to UB; this is a national conversation. With vision, insight and cooperation, however, exceptional challenges can be transformed into exceptional opportunities. Thanks to innovative public-private partnerships and an active, engaged core of alumni and other university supporters, here at UB we are already well on our way in this endeavor. I have every confidence that such a strategic approach will enable UB to continue to thrive as a leading public research university. I am dedicated to continuing to explore new ways of building on these efforts, and I very much look forward to doing so in partnership with the faculty, staff, students, alumni and university friends who make up the UB community.

As alumni, you have an especially vital role to play in this important process. I am eager to hear your perspectives on your alma mater, and to learn about your hopes for the university. As one of the newest members of the UB community, I also want to thank you for your warm welcome. I am honored to be with you, and I look forward to working together to meet the challenges ahead, and to creating new and exciting opportunities for the future of public higher education as well as for UB.

John B. Simpson
President, University at Buffalo


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