Release Date: September 29, 2010
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo President John B. Simpson today struck a hopeful chord for the future of UB and the region, even as he lamented Albany's continued failure to give the university the autonomy it needs to move more quickly ahead with the UB 2020 plan for academic excellence.
Simpson's remarks were made during his fifth, and final, annual community address given to more than 400 community, business and university members in Asbury Hall. Simpson last month announced his decision to retire in January to spend more time with his family.
In a strongly worded speech, Simpson emphasized that "UB 2020 does not have an expiration date," even though Albany chose over the summer to "preserve the status quo" by not enacting higher education reforms that would benefit UB and SUNY.
Simpson thanked the community for its support of the university and the UB 2020 strategic plan, which he said is still the community's collective vision and best strategy for the future.
"I want to reiterate that UB 2020 is not a short-term growth plan, but a long-range vision of this university's sustained excellence and impact -- one that will continue to guide this university and this community long after the year 2020," Simpson said.
UB 2020 remains the university's chief priority, he said, and the commitment to achieving the goals of UB 2020 "remains as strong as ever."
"During my remaining time as president, I will lead our senior team in making the strategic choices necessary to sustain UB 2020, to protect UB's long-term viability and to ensure quality for our students," he said.
Simpson pointed to the recent successes of UB 2020 as evidence of the plan's viability, even in the face of the state's economic crisis and cuts to the UB budget totaling $60 million. He said UB's expansion in downtown Buffalo will remain a "first priority" for the university because it is "the right thing for UB to do." Examples of UB's significant progress downtown, he noted, include ongoing construction of the UB-Kaleida Health clinical care, research and business-incubation building, as well as the recent groundbreaking for a new Educational Opportunity Center, and the launch of a new UB medical informatics institute on Main Street, in partnership with Dell.
He said nurturing the university's relationship with the community was a principal objective of his presidency, and that Buffalo and UB now have a strong bond that is "one of the greatest assets of this university, and of this community."
Other UB 2020 accomplishments, Simpson noted, have included creation of the university's first master physical plan since the 1970s, which is overseeing the launch of major building and construction projects on UB's three campuses; recruitment of talented students and faculty from around the world, in large part because of UB 2020's interdisciplinary research approach; and partnering with K through 12 education to improve access and create opportunity for students across the city, region and state.
Simpson asked the community to continue to press for reforms that would lessen Albany's control over New York's public higher education system, to give UB the tools needed to achieve UB 2020 and increase its economic impact on the region.
"The vision we have created together is both far-sighted enough to transcend leadership transitions, and powerful enough to sustain setbacks from Albany. And although I am leaving, I know that UB will get the tools it needs to achieve the dream we share. This is too important, for too many people, for Albany to ignore. That day will come."
But, he added, the community "must also focus on what we can do for ourselves."
"This university's potential is too great, and its impact is too vital to this community's future, to leave only in the hands of Albany," Simpson said. "We must act to control our own destiny through every means possible -- by investing our resources wisely, by forging strategic partnerships and by seeking out the private support that will help us to sustain our critical public mission."
He noted that private philanthropy has played a critical role in the progress of UB 2020 and "will grow more important as we move forward."
"Our shared commitment will transcend any one presidential administration here at UB," he said. "As UB 2020 enters a new era of leadership, I know you will give my successor the same warm welcome and support you gave me, and I encourage you to remain strong in your commitment to UB."
"You have it in your power to achieve greatness," Simpson told the gathered supporters, "and to put Buffalo back on the world map as a center of innovation, and a leading city of the 21st century."
In remarks introducing Simpson prior to the speech, UB Council Chairman Jeremy M. Jacobs thanked Simpson for his leadership of UB and said he would be "remembered as someone who was unafraid to set high expectations and push the envelope in setting new boundaries."
"More than anything, John has demonstrated that we can attract a world-class leader to UB and I am confident that we will find someone not only to carry the torch lit by John, but more importantly, someone who will create their own path to success as they build and improve upon UB's strategic vision," Jacobs said.