The following remarks were delivered before The Ohio State University Board of Trustees on August 22, 2023.
Remarks to the Board of Trustees
Thank you, Chair Fujita.
Wow. What a true honor. I can’t tell you how humbled I am by the support I have received. I’m speaking on behalf of myself and my wife, Lynda. This is the greatest honor of my career, to be appointed president of this great university. Ohio State is a land-grant institution. It is the state flagship. The university’s motto—as all of you know—education for citizenship. All this speaks to service to the greater good—the education we provide, the discoveries we make, the partnerships we have with families and organizations in our communities. Throughout my career, I have been driven by a sense of service at the highest level. And I was drawn to Ohio State because it operates at the highest levels in academics, research and scholarship, clinical care, the arts, athletics and so much more.
Ohio State is a large and complex organization. This is the type of environment I worked and lived with for many, many years. What I look for, and what I have often found, are those comparatively simple and seemingly small commonalities that unite us. In higher education, itself a complex space, as we all know, and at Ohio State, we all share the mission to educate and be educated. We are continuously striving to master the art of teaching and learning. There is no greater, no more honorable pursuit, and it is a lifelong journey.
And for me, it started all the way back to my days in rural Rhode Island where my mother was an English teacher. I saw the passion that she had. My grandmother, my sister, my wife’s mother—all of them educators. And for me to attend the Navy Fighter Weapons School, Top Gun, in 1985 as a young, 26-year-old lieutenant, that was the beginning—not about being the best of the best—but really understand what it means to be an educator. I wore the patch of Top Gun for my entire career. I never left the teaching and learning space. And as I had the privilege to move thorugh the U.S. Naval War College, the United States Naval Academy and the University of Nebraska, my passion for education has grown only greater year by year.
Ohio State is a big place, but its strength is that it is also a place where people can find their niche, their area of study and expertise, their communities within the larger Buckeye community. It’s home to 66,000 students, some 8,000 faculty and about 32,000 staff. There are 600,000 living alumni. Remarkable. It includes one of the most renowned academic medical centers in the world.
My point—and it’s why Ohio State was such a natural choice for Lynda and me—is that Ohio State has almost unparalleled potential to bring people together to address the most complex challenges facing our state, our country and our world.
I feel like I have been preparing my entire life for an event that I honestly did not see coming. Ohio State offers one of the highest-profile jobs in American higher education, and higher education needs respected spokespeople to advocate for education and lifelong learning. I know that education across our nation is somewhat under attack, and I believe The Ohio State University is that institution that can change the course of that dialogue. And I am excited about that potential.
Lynda and I are honored and excited to be welcomed into this community. I want to thank the Board of Trustees and the members of the search committee, in particular Dr. Jan Box-Steffensmeier and Dr. Phillip Popovich—both of whom I’ve had the opportunity to speak with, and I thank them for their support.
I also want to express my gratitude to Peter Mohler, who as chair Fujita just noted, will serve as acting president until I begin on January 1. Peter and I have had some time to get to know each other, and I can tell you—having met hundreds of thousands of people in my life—he and I already have this kindred spirit that was lit immediately. We just felt instantly connected. I can’t wait to see what you will do as acting president, Peter.