Office of the President

Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.

Board of Trustees Meeting
Trabant University Center
May 7, 2013

Good afternoon. As always, I thank Gil and the Board for this chance to speak.

Before I get started, I want to welcome Deborah Hayes, our new vice president for communications and marketing. Deborah is committed to raising UD’s profile across the country and around the world, and we’re thrilled to have her on board.


Back in December, I gave what I called an “interim update” on the Path to Prominence, and promised I’d be back in May—a full five years after the plan’s unveiling—with a more robust accounting of our progress.

Well, the interim update clocked in at about 35 minutes. So unless you want to place your dinner orders now, I need a different approach. I still want to talk about our principles and milestones—they’re not any less relevant at five years old than they were the day I first said them out loud. But I’ll leave the fine detail to the report we’re producing this summer.

I also want to talk about the path ahead—where we go from here, with five years of work behind us, and five years’ worth of challenges accrued … some that we anticipated, and some that surprised us.

I said this in December, but it bears repeating: I’m amazed at what this community has accomplished since we first came together and put concrete goals to our most deeply held values.

It’s often scary to go back to a strategic plan and look at what you said you’d do. Not the big, overarching imperatives that everyone can get behind, but the specific initiatives supporting them. I’ve looked at the plan many times—lately more than ever—and we’ve hewed closely to our commitments. As you can imagine, that’s a big relief.

Many of the centers and partnerships we said we’d launch go by a different name than what we gave them in 2008, when they were still hypothetical. And there are outliers—things that, after careful deliberation, we decided not to do. You’ll remember the UD Law Institute. Or maybe you won’t. But, by and large, we acted on our priorities, and with a speed that’s surely the envy of most universities.

When Nancy Brickhouse was asked what she considers the Path’s biggest benefit, she said it’s given us focal points for our investment of time and money, and that we can make these investments with the blessing of the campus community because of the broad input and support we secured for the plan as we developed it.

As the Path was coming together in 2007 and 2008, I doubt any of us could have foreseen how important a plan would be. As the recession lingered and threw some universities off course, we still had our “true North,” the commitments we’d made and that we would honor.

I assure you that, wherever we go from here, “Path to Prominence, v. 2.0” will be developed with the same dedication to broad and deep engagement. No plan can survive the indifference of those who must implement it, and we wouldn’t even dream of trying.

So with that, I’m going to talk about your plan, and your successes—give you a few brief snapshots of a University just starting out on a Path in 2008, and one that’s now a few miles down the road.

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