Statement at February 2022 Board of Regents

(As prepared for delivery)

From the time I first arrived at the University in 2002, I have been moved by the dedication and passion that students and alumni hold for this place.

As I progressed through those years, I began to understand the long continuum of events, challenges and triumphs that bind everyone to the University of Michigan and extend always to the new students who venture onto campus each fall. It is a profound connection.

This past weekend, a graduate of the University – someone who holds three Michigan degrees – wrote a moving essay about how challenging it has been in recent months to remain loyal to his alma mater. It is a place he loves very much, as do hundreds of thousands of alumni, but he feels disillusioned.

And then he reminded readers about the essence of Michigan. For all its flaws, the University of Michigan has always been about learning. We are about that intellectual spark that creates a bond between teacher and student and ignites the learning that joins both. That purpose – that joy of learning – is what has carried us as an institution through the decades. It is why we endure.

“The institution is the purpose made permanent.” That is what this graduate wrote in 2022. The sentiment is relevant regardless of the decade, whether we are becoming the first university in the country to build its own hospital, or are working to eradicate polio, or are using art and the arts to confront racism.

Our collective commitment to learning and discovery holds true for yesterday and it will guide us toward tomorrow. It is what compels us as a university to take great risks, so that we may always pursue new knowledge for the good of society.

The institution is the purpose made permanent.

I am continually astonished by the difference we make in the world each and every day. Just recently, one of our medical residents helped a woman who had gone into labor weeks before her due date. Now, our doctors deliver babies every day. But Dr. Stephen Ansah-Addo is a dermatologist. And he and the mother were 30,000 feet in the air, aboard a transcontinental flight between Ghana and the United States. Despite these challenges, a healthy baby boy came into the world, and the lives of both mother and doctor were forever changed.

My pride in what this institution has stood for over its entire history is what brought me back now for this interim period. I look forward to working together to uphold Michigan’s purpose – here, around the world, and 30,000 feet in the sky.

Let me share a bit about our immediate future. Our carbon neutral future.

Today we are proud to request approval for a geo-exchange plant that will supply the heating and cooling for the Leinweber Computer Science and Information Building.

This will make Leinweber U-M’s first large-scale building that will not rely on natural gas for heating.

As I said this morning in my note to the community, all of us deserve to learn, work and live in a safe and mutually respectful environment.

Tomorrow, we are inviting faculty and staff to contribute to the University’s initiative to improve culture and create a set of shared values via participation in a survey.

The survey is part of the culture journey being led by Dean Patricia Hurn and Michigan Medicine’s Sonya Jacobs.

The regents and I are fully committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone in our community and to earning your trust through accountability when untoward incidents do occur.

Our university proudly serves the people of our state, and I applaud the increases for Michigan’s public universities in Gov. Whitmer’s budget proposal.

This includes a 5 percent increase in additional ongoing funding, plus another 5 percent one-time funding increase for each of the state’s 15 public universities.

An investment in public higher education is an investment in the future of our state and its children, and I welcome this budget recommendation.

Lastly, I’d like to congratulate Provost Collins on being named president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

This is a tremendous achievement and a reflection of your expertise and integrity.

We are very, very proud of you. Congratulations.