UD President Patrick Harker (right) makes a point during his State of the University presentation. The event, part of Alumni Weekend, was moderated by Ralph Begleiter.

State of University

President's annual address highlights accomplishments, looks to future

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4:37 p.m., June 9, 2014--From the newest graduates, already making their marks on the world, to next year’s highly accomplished freshman class and the critical research and scholarship occurring every day on campus, the University of Delaware is strong, growing stronger and well-prepared for the challenges ahead.

That was the message delivered by UD President Patrick Harker on Saturday, June 7, in his 2014 “State of the University” address, an annual highlight of Alumni Weekend.

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“We’re on the vanguard,” Harker told the audience of alumni, faculty, staff and friends in Mitchell Hall, midway through a weekend that drew thousands of Blue Hens back to their alma mater. “We’re shaping the national dialogue on issues that matter most, and we’re solving some of the most persistent problems that plague us.

“This is a University operating from strength. And we have everything we need, right here, to take UD from great to even greater — the people, the brilliance, the relationships, the will.”

He referred to the previous week’s Commencement address in which Vice President Joe Biden, a 1965 alumnus, told the new graduates that they were entering the world at an “inflection point,” with the opportunity to bend the course of history. Already, Harker said, some members of that class are having such an impact, taking the lead in areas of research and service.

“What’s so gratifying,” he said, “is that as those graduates go off to bend history, we welcome a new class that will do the same.”

Calling the Class of 2018 “extraordinary,” Harker noted that it will be not only highly accomplished but also significantly larger than preceding first-year classes. With some 4,200 freshmen expected in the fall, UD is working to meet the challenges of ensuring that all students will be served well on campus — “but really, what a terrific problem to have!” he said.

The entering class will also be more geographically diverse and will include more students (28 percent of the total) from historically underrepresented groups. With demographics shifting throughout the U.S. and particularly in the Northeast, Harker said, UD can expect to continue to enroll larger numbers of students who are the first in their families to attend college, as well as those from low-income households.

“We need new strategies, new engagement and new energy” to provide such qualified students with access to higher education, he said. “And we need an absolute commitment to affordability.”

In addition to providing students with a first-class education, research universities such as UD must also create knowledge, Harker said, in many ways taking on the research and development role that companies increasingly do not provide. He highlighted some of the innovative work being done on campus — research with the potential to combat hunger, to create affordable clean energy, to help children with limited mobility and to take on many other major global challenges.

“This is our moment to lead,” Harker said, “to fix problems of access, affordability and success; to better translate our scholarship into solutions with impact; and to dig deep into our mission, to examine and debate it — and then live it boldly.” He introduced Provost Domenico Grasso, who will lead efforts to plan the University’s path forward.

Grasso told the audience that the planning process has begun with the creation of three working groups of faculty, staff and students. Those groups will address ways to sustain and accelerate advances the University has made in recent years, explore the best models for research universities of the future and identify ways in which UD’s research, teaching, service and partnerships can improve people’s lives.

“We want to be the best University of Delaware that we can be,” Grasso said, encouraging alumni to participate in the planning process. “We want to be consequential.”

The State of the University event concluded with a question-and-answer session moderated by Ralph Begleiter, Rosenberg Professor of Communication, in which Harker also answered questions submitted by members of the audience.

He discussed some of the year’s highlights, including the newly opened Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory and the developing Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus. Both facilities house new ways of teaching, learning and conducting research in an interdisciplinary manner that are essential in the future of higher education, Harker said.

Also in response to an audience question, he again emphasized UD’s Commitment to Delawareans, which guarantees financial accessibility to First State residents who attend the University.

Reunion classes present generous gifts

Six classes celebrated milestone reunions during the weekend, from the Class of 2009 to the newly inducted members of the Gold Guard, the Class of 1964, who marked 50 years since their Commencement. Those reunion classes attended the State of the University event, along with some of the newest alumni from the Class of 2014, which graduated just a week earlier.

Representatives of all the reunion classes joined Harker on stage to present donations to the University raised during gift campaigns this year, for a grand total of $1,082,370. The Class of 2014 presented its senior class gift of $6,900. Other gifts were presented by the reunion classes of 2009, which gave $23,100; 2004, $53,920; 1999, $81,800; 1994, $58,600; 1989, $206,950; and 1964, $651,100.

 “I’m honored to accept this incredibly generous gift on behalf of your classes,” Harker said in receiving the donations. “I thank all of you for giving back to UD — for valuing what we do here, and for helping us do it even better.”

Additional Alumni Weekend articles, resources

For the main Alumni Weekend article, click here.

For an article on the Alumni Wall of Fame Class of 2014, click here.

For the UD social media Storify site, click here.

An image gallery will be available at UD in Photos.

Article by Ann Manser

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and Ambre Alexander Payne

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