The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday December 3rd

Full Text of Moeser's Inaugural Speech

Thank you, President Broad. I must say that one attraction of this position was the opportunity to work with a true leader in American higher education, Molly Corbett Broad. We are all grateful, President Broad, for your tireless work on behalf of this state’s future – our students – and for guiding our efforts to secure the people’s support for next month’s bond referendum. Thank you so much for great leadership.

Let me also thank the Board of Governors and Board of Trustees for giving me the honor of standing here today. And my family, especially my wife, Susan, for their devoted support.

Governor Hunt, Chief Justice Frye, President Lancaster, Chairman Ruffin, Chairman Cates, other platform party members and distinguished guests, members of the university community and friends: there is an old proverb that says, “We drink from wells that we did not dig, and we are warmed by fires that we did not build.”

On my first day on the job, I did what countless Carolina students have been doing for years on the first day of class – I took a drink from the Old Well. So today, I have just taken another drink of that water – to cool my own voice for these remarks, but also to draw from the well of history as we lay out the vision for Carolina’s future. With the smiling face of providence and hard work by all of us, we stand at the precipice of a golden age for Carolina, a 21st century Renaissance.

Our founding fathers knew what they were doing when they planted the seeds for a new kind of university in America, realizing that a radical experiment in democracy required an enlightened electorate. So it was Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.” The framers of our republic realized that liberty and democracy were fragile, that the old order of education only for hereditary aristocracy would provide an insufficient foundation for building a republic.

Thus, it was North Carolinians, under the leadership of William Richardson Davie, on this very day in 1793 established the nation’s first public university to be the wellspring of freedom, the light on the hill of liberty, with its motto “Lux, Libertas.” “Light, Liberty.”

In that moment, in Chapel Hill, American public higher education was born. It has fallen to a succession of generations to keep Chapel Hill’s flame of enlightenment rekindled and the well of liberty replenished.

Since my appointment in April, I have immersed myself in the history of this great institution. What stands out most vividly is the degree to which we have experienced several critical moments – points in time where the University took great strides that changed its culture or its character by orders of magnitude.

Certainly, the foundation in 1793 was such a moment. But so was the second opening of Chapel Hill in the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction. One woman’s tenacity – Cornelia Phillips Spencer – kept the flame of light and liberty alive. Her remarkable campaign, marked by newspaper columns and visits to key state leaders, resulted finally in an appropriation from a destitute state. In 1875, on the day that word came from Raleigh of the action of the General Assembly, she climbed the stairs of South Building behind me and rang the bell, signaling that this mighty University would not die.

In his inaugural address in 1915, Edward Kidder Graham opened a great new chapter in our history, declaring that the university is the “instrument of democracy” for realizing the state’s aspirations. Graham linked the University’s work with good roads, public health, city and county planning, rural economics, sociology and civic problems.

It was during this period, the University received the bequest of Mary Lily Kenan Flagler Bingham, one of the largest such gifts ever made to a state university at that time, creating the Kenan professorships. Three decades later John Motley Morehead established the Morehead Scholarships. These gifts linked North Carolina above the status of a good regional university, helping it become a great national university for the people of North Carolina.

To read the history of this place is to study the giants who bestrode it – Kemp Battle, Frances Venable, Edward Kidder Graham, Harry Woodburn Chase, Frank Porter Graham and two modern giants who are still living with us, presidents Bill Friday and C.D. Spangler, Jr.

I am blessed that four of my predecessors still live in Chapel Hill – Bill Aycock, Ferebee Taylor, Chris Fordham and Paul Hardin – who, along with Nancy Sitterson and Carmen Hooker, remain such an integral part of the Carolina family. And all of us owe a debt of gratitude to interim Chancellor Bill McCoy, who brought strong leadership and stability in the wake of the tragic death of Chancellor Michael Hooker, and former Provost Dick Richardson, who demonstrated uncommon devotion to Carolina during his tenure, especially in those closing months.

Today, we again have before us a defining moment. I speak, of course, of the $3.1 billion bond referendum for higher education that North Carolina’s voters will consider on November 7th.

Indeed, this is a defining moment for all of higher education in North Carolina, for the future of this state. This is about maintaining our commitment to access and opportunity for all North Carolinians.

For Carolina, the referendum is about being able to accept our fair share of the expected enrollment surge over the next decade. It is about modernizing 120 lecture halls and classrooms so 21st century students can learn in a 21st century environment.

It is also about providing modern research space for our faculty who produce the new knowledge that will affect the lives of every North Carolinian, every American. I have visited the laboratories of faculty who are doing cutting-edge research that has the potential to cure diseases and improve all of our lives, work that is hampered by the physical limitations of old buildings not suited for today’s science. The good news is that these faculty are just as loyal to Carolina as were the faculty who stuck with us during the dark days of the Great Depression. They have faith that the peoples of North Carolina will once again rise to the challenge and invest in the future.

When I see how much our faculty in chemistry and biological sciences, for example, have done with inadequate buildings, creating world-class teaching and research programs, one can only imagine what they can accomplish when freed from such limitations.

The bond bill is the key that opens the lock to the future. Almost half a billon dollars would come directly to this campus. My pledge to the people of North Carolina is to take that investment and triple it in terms of private support to this University through our upcoming campaign.

The bond referendum and our campaign set the stage for what can be a profound transformation of the University in the new century, a defining moment of major proportions.

In his short time here, Chancellor Hooker helped us revitalize the intellectual climate at Carolina. He strengthened this University’s connection with every corner of the state. And – I think this was his greatest – he dared us to think big. He articulated the vision of Carolina being the best public university in America. Some said it was an impossible reach or that it was too focused on journalistic ratings. Others questioned the qualifier public. Why not try to be the best among all universities, they said.

In my earliest conversations with the search committee it was the audacity of that vision that caught my attention. As the authors of one book on management have written, those institutions that become dominant in their field do so by adopting “big, hairy, audacious goals.” This vision certainly fits that definition.

Chancellors can articulate visions, but it takes all of us – students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends – to make it happen. So allow me to use the balance of my time making the case for a new articulation of the vision.

First, let us agree that we will cling proudly to that word public. While we will compete with private as well as public universities for students, faculty and resources, we shall never depart from our roots as the university for the people.

Second, let us avoid bowing before the altars of the false gods of journalistic ratings. We must not allow ourselves to become preoccupied with comparisons to other universities. By so doing, we run the grave risk of losing what sets Chapel Hill apart and makes it so special.

To be sure, we cannot avoid altogether the attention paid to surveys, and we can hardly resist mentioning them when we rank near the top. Some of these exercises have scholarly credibility. For example, a recent University of Florida analysis laid out nine performance measures when examining public and private universities: total research expenditures, federal research expenditures, endowment assets, annual giving, number of faculty in the national academics, faculty awards, doctoral degrees, postdoctoral appointees and freshman median SAT scores.

By those standards, Carolina was one of only four public universities, along with Berkeley, UCLA and Michigan, to place in the top 25 of all nine categories. But those are just nine measures. At Carolina, we should aspire to the highest levels of excellence in everything we do – in educating our students, advancing the frontiers of knowledge, and serving the public that supports us.

Numbers alone fail to capture the essence of a great university – no matter how well intentioned the logic that led to their calculations in the first place. Other more profound characteristics are harder to pinpoint. Ultimately, it is these intangible criteria that should capture our attention.

What then makes a university stand out amongst all its peers? What makes it preeminent? How will we define this for Carolina?

We must lead. We must aspire for the highest levels of performance and service.

Carolina has always been a leader, beginning with the very creation of public higher education 207 years ago. We must continue to be out front in the critical new areas of discovery that will mark the new country. And we must constantly reconnect the process of discovery with engagement across the state and nation. Edward Kidder Graham articulated this clearly in 1915, and Chapel Hill led the South with its early example of engagement. Thus, we will set our course for the future by drawing deeply upon the wells of our own tradition.

Let me suggest that there are several distinctive and characteristic ways in which Chapel Hill has led and will continue to lead in the future.

First, this University has always had the courage of its convictions. It has embraced certain core values, even when those values were not fully understood by the popular culture. In 1925, President Chase was under fire for espousing the teaching of evolution. A young Frank Porter Graham writing from London, rose to his defense, writing to local newspapers: “[Chase] has raised the university standard to be seen by all our people. Freedom to think, freedom to speak, and freedom to print are the texture of that standard .. It is the cornerstone and motto of the first American university to open its doors in the name of the people . . . Lux, Libertas is cut with native chisel deep in the stones quarried from local soil.”

Howard Odum’s pioneering work in social science research challenged the values and mores of the old South, and in do doing, led the South out of its past and into a brighter future. In the 1950s, we again showed the South the way, opening our doors to students of all races and beginning a journey toward the creation of a diverse culture. Carolina students were the first to fight against the Speaker Ban Law that threatened First Amendment rights in this state and threatened to kill free inquiry on campus. The First Amendment is alive and well on this campus, and you can hear it.

This University will continue to lead in the 21st century – leading the discussion of the critical and social and ethical issues that mark our time, defending freedom and subjecting the dogmas and dictums of our time to the light of truth and reason. We shall also lead by including students in our discussion of values, so that their experience on this campus may add to a profound and transforming development of their own character, remembering always that this is why we were created two centuries ago. The greatest names, to mention just three, in our academic pantheon – Odum, Venable, Williams – are remembered not just as scholars, but as teachers.

Second, this University has developed a culture of unwavering commitment to excellence. We must constantly reaffirm that commitment.

To meet this standard, every academic program we offer should be at the very highest level of excellence. A truly great university will have no identifiable areas of weakness. Any programs in our repertoire must be aimed at being consistently in the top tier as judged by the appropriate national peer group, such as the National Research Council. That is a very high standard, but an essential one for a university with such lofty aspirations. The corollary is equally clear. We must move resources to shore up any faltering programs to keep them at the top level.

We must maintain strength in all of the core areas in arts and sciences from which the university’s great reputation initially sprang. Our pioneering work in the social sciences established Chapel Hill as a national colossus in these fields. Our strengths in the humanities are legendary, and our library holdings in several areas are without compare. We must continue to build on these strong foundations with the goal that Carolina’s great history will guide the excellence we pursue in the future. For example, Chapel Hill has always been the place to come to study the American South. We must commit ourselves to the proposition that it always will be, even as our region determines its proper role in the global age.

Carolina’s historical strengths in the basic and health sciences present great opportunity for leadership in such critical fields as genomics, nanotechnology, computational, environmental and materials science and emerging technologies. Our potential is limited only by inadequate physical spaces for science.

Francis Collins, the Carolina graduate who has so ably directed the nation’s Human Genome Project, has called the efforts to sequence the human genome a milestone for biology like no other. Carolina must seize the initiative and emerge as a leader in genomics, and I am pleased to say that we are on the way. We already have successfully convinced some of the world’s top minds that Chapel Hill’s collaborative culture is worth the move. And we have just in this week allocated 18 new faculty positions to our genomics initiative that will bring together the College of Arts and Sciences and the schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health and information and library science. That exciting development illustrates perfectly how fortunate we are to have an academic culture that fosters interdisciplinary work between and among the health, natural and social sciences. Now, more than ever before, we also need to draw upon the humanities as well, as these emerging fields raise new value-laden questions about the nature of life itself. Only a truly great university can bring all of the resources needed to examine these issues from all perspectives. We intend to be that university.

We must also find ways to extend the reach of research beyond campus. Our technology transfer activities and alliances with private industry must become increasingly sophisticated. Names like Micell, Xanthon and Inspire are a source of pride because they represent success in spinning off our research to the national marketplace. In the process, we have used advancements in carbon dioxide and genomics technology, as well as drug development, to help create jobs, bolster North Carolina’s economy and bring products to consumers in new ways. Such success is credit to our faculty’s ability to touch lives of people through discovery.

Leading requires collaboration and cooperation with other institutes. We must continue to pursue active partnerships with our peers in the Research Triangle – Duke, N.C. State and N.C. Central – and we should look boldly for opportunities to work with our sister UNC campuses as well as with North Carolina’s excellent community college system.

Most critically, Carolina has always been known as an institution that provided an unsurpassed student experience, earning the moniker of “public ivy.” We have taken the sons and daughters of mill workers and farmers and turned them into leaders for the state and nation.

The truly great University has an electricity about it, a force field of inquiry and discourse, that one literally feels when walking on its campus. It is a place where serious questions are being raised – where undergraduates are drawn into the process of discovery and engaged in a discourse that leads them in their individual paths of character development and citizenship, and it is a place that nurtures and celebrates the arts.

I have already alluded to the faculty-led Task Force on Intellectual Climate which said, and I quote, “The essence of a university is defined by its intellectual life,” the task force’s report began. While it was sobering in its assessment of that climate in 1997, it was visionary in its case for change. Most of its recommendations have been or are being implemented. First-year seminars are introducing our freshmen to the intellectual life of the University in small classes taught by the most distinguished faculty. We have established the Office of Undergraduate Research, the Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars and the Carolina Center for Public Service. Later this fall, we shall break ground on new residence halls that will further integrate learning and living. We are still a work in progress in fulfilling the suggestions of the task force, but we should all be pleased with the improvements so far and the serious commitment to the vision.

We are well under way in implementing the Carolina Computing Initiative – a first for a major public university – as a means of transforming the learning environment for students and for faculty. We are placing computers in the lap of every undergraduate and making tools available to arts and sciences faculty that will help them integrate technology into their classrooms. Having done that, now also it is time to put the world in their laps, to work toward the day when every Carolina undergraduate will have the opportunity to pursue a meaningful international experience. We must extend the international reach of this University if we are going to continue to lead. Consider the possibilities, for example, if every undergraduate had the opportunity to study abroad.

Chapel Hill helped lead the South into the 20th century. We must continue that legacy by creating, fostering, and sustaining a diverse community at Carolina. When I first met with students in August, I urged them to talk with others from different ethnic or social backgrounds to broaden their own experiences, to come out of their individual comfort zones, and, in the process, build a more diverse and understanding community, one person at a time. This is only a critical first step. Our community here must reflect the real world, and we must provide opportunities for students of different cultures and backgrounds to live and work together in such a way that the campus becomes a true model for a multicultural, pluralistic society. America’s most intractable problems still revolve around race and class. Our leadership – drawn from the wisdom of our past and the experiences we can learn from it today – is still sorely needed across the region and nation.

As I have walked our brick paths and talked with faculty and staff in their laboratories and offices, with students in quads, residence halls, and the Pit, and with our alumni across the state, I have discovered something utterly unique about Carolina.

As a newcomer, perhaps I can see it more clearly. Not only is the sky bluer here than anywhere else in the world – (and the fact that people really believe it to be so is part of what I am talking about, and is God not a Tar Heel fan?) – there is an atmosphere, a spirit on this campus that I have not seen or felt on any other campus in America.

I have seen it in the eyes of our alumni, our students and our faculty. I also have seen it in our staff, who continue to amaze me with their devotion and dedication to Carolina.

I am almost afraid to describe this, lest by calling attention to it, we might somehow damage or destroy it. Some might call it optimism. It includes a special love of the place, a reverence for this history and tradition of the place, not just the physical place, but the spiritual place of a university that has truly been a light on the hill – a light for truth and social justice.

We have a wonderful history, a noble tradition. I can feel it when I walk on this campus in the still of the evening or in the midday, when it is alive with students crossing Polk Place. I can feel it now, and I am in awe of it.

A university is a living organism that must be constantly recreated and regenerated. But we are not building from scratch – as did Davie – or steering through crisis as did Spencer and Graham. We are, rather, standing upon their shoulders as we enter a new century.

We have before us the potential of a new defining moment for Carolina – the possibility of being not only the first, but the best, the leading, the pre-eminent public university in America.

It starts with the bonds, it continues with a massive outpouring of support from alumni and friends, and it finds fulfillment in our dedication, our aspiration to lead, to be the best – not in any sense of pridefulness or arrogance – but in the humility and dedication to service without any recompense, as in the words of Micah, to do justice and to love mercy.

In that spirit, I accept the challenge of leading this great University into a new age.

Lux. Libertas. Light. Liberty.

“Hail to the brightest star of all . Carolina, priceless gem.”

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