President's Report

The following remarks were delivered during the public session of The Ohio State University Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, August 19, 2021.


Thank you, Chairman Heminger. Good afternoon, everyone, and a special, warm Buckeye welcome to our new board members, Mr. Tom Mitevski and Mr. Tanner Hunt, who I think is on all the way from Alaska. Thank you for joining us.

I also would like to officially welcome Dr. Gilliam to our Buckeye family. In her role as executive vice president and provost, Dr. Gilliam will be focused on our vibrant community of scholars that support the generation and sharing of knowledge. How appropriate it is that her first duty at one of our board meetings would be to recognize our two distinguished university professors: professors Ozkan and Chamallas. I would like to thank Dr. Bruce McPheron who stepped down this month as provost to return to the faculty of his home college, CFAES.

The university announced a number of additional new buckeyes in the last few weeks. 

Dr. Jeff Risinger has joined us as Ohio State’s senior vice president of talent, culture and human resources, pending board approval today. Dr. Risinger brings a deep background shaping cultures and leading higher education, most recently from Texas A&M. I would like to thank Mr. Paul Patton for his service over the past nine months as interim senior vice president of talent, culture and human resources.

Pending board approval, Mrs. Cindy Leavitt, an accomplished IT leader with three decades of experience in higher education and corporate America, will become our next vice president and chief information officer. She comes to Ohio State from Temple University, where she also serves as CIO.

In our colleges, we are pleased to welcome a pair of new leaders. Dr. Carroll Ann Trotman is our new dean of the College of Dentistry, effective this week. We welcome her from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. She will build on the accomplishments of Dr. Patrick M. Lloyd, who announced last year that he would step down.

Dr. David G. Horn, associate executive dean for undergraduate education in the College of Arts and Sciences, has stepped into the role of the college’s interim executive dean. Dr. Gretchen Ritter, who served as vice provost and executive dean since 2019, will become the chief academic officer, provost and vice chancellor at Syracuse University in October. We wish Dr. Ritter, and also Dr. Lloyd, all the best in their future endeavors.

We are about to close a very busy summer of engagement with Buckeyes throughout the state, nation and the world.

I was thrilled to attend my first Ohio State Fair and ride in my first Pelotonia. Team Buckeye — which I was the honorary rider of — the superpeloton, raised more than $2 million for cancer-fighting research at The James. Overall, Pelotonia saw 10,500 participants who raised $13 million. Our gratitude goes out to every rider, volunteer and donor. Congratulations!

Earlier this month, we celebrated our 2021 graduates at summer commencement — and welcomed our Class of 2020 to campus for an in-person graduation celebration at Ohio Stadium. Our thanks go to Nina Day and Coach Ryan Day, who spoke with passion and spirit about mental health and taking care of yourself and each other.

Speaking of athletics, a record 26 current, former and incoming student-athletes represented Buckeye Nation and their countries at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Buckeyes took home four medals overall, including two gold, one silver and one bronze. We are looking forward to cheering them on here in Ohio and at Ohio State this coming year. 

That’s also the same day as the start of our autumn semester classes which begin next Tuesday. 

As Buckeyes return to our campuses, we are committed to providing many traditional Buckeye experiences for our community, with the most up-to-date information as we move forward with regard to keeping everybody safe.

Ohio State’s “Welcome Week” will be an exciting return to the traditions that we have loved and missed. We will kick off the fall by inviting 13,000 students who are new to campus to convocation. Welcome Week will also include the Student Involvement Fair and the 24th-annual Community Commitment Day in Columbus.

We are looking forward to seeing all of our Buckeye student-athletes back in action as well, and tonight, women’s soccer opens against BYU. And, continuing on Saturday, we’ll be back in the ‘Shoe with TBDBITL. We will continue to work closely with city, state and federal officials to monitor the virus and help ensure that we can return back to our college experience, in and out of the classroom, in and out of the ‘Shoe, and all the other activities throughout fall and beyond.

To that end, the university has been planning for months for the robust, in-person reactivation of our campuses.

I’m proud to say that about 75% of our faculty, staff and returning students are fully or partially vaccinated against COVID-19. We are looking to provide opportunities in the community for people to get vaccinated through our “Buckeye Vaccinate Tailgate” tour in partnership with Kroger. It has made three stops in Mansfield, Newark and Piqua this month, providing Ohio State swag, selfies with Brutus and — most importantly — vaccination shots.

I am especially proud of our team for pulling together these community events and delivering on our land-grant mission. In particular, I’d like to give a shout out to senior vice president Melissa Shivers, who organized, in concert with the rest of our community, these tailgates. 

I have a quick, short video that captures the spirit and excitement these events, if we could play that video now.


Thank you.

I just want to let you know that our focus on safety extends to physical and mental well-being of Buckeyes as well.

Last month, I joined Governor Mike DeWine and presidents from Ohio’s public universities at the statehouse to introduce a set of zero-tolerance, anti-hazing principles. These include automatic dismissal of any student convicted of criminal hazing and debarment from attending another Ohio public university in accordance with the law.

Earlier this summer, I asked Dr. Melissa Shivers, senior vice president for student life, and Dr. Bernadette Melnyk, chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing, to co-chair a commission on how we can further promote mental health and well-being. I look forward to working with our Ohio State University Commission on Mental Health to enhance the support we offer our students, faculty and staff. 

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or reach the crisis text line by texting 4HOPE to 741741. Additionally, Ohio State’s wellness app is designed for students and offers tips and guidance useful for all members of our community.

Ohio State is equally committed to the physical safety of our off-campus neighborhoods. We continue to make progress on the 15 recommendations from our Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force, with 13 fully or partially implemented.

I just want to say a few words to wrap-up in terms of excellence in academics, research and entrepreneurship

Ultimately, we want Ohio State to be the absolute model of what a land-grant university should be in the 21st century. 

Earlier, I mentioned that Dr. Gilliam will lead our efforts to significantly increase the number of net new tenure-track faculty. These new faculty members will be critical to maximizing the academic experience for our students as well as advancing our powerful research enterprise. We plan to recruit 350 net new, tenure-track faculty over the next decade.

Dr. Gilliam will also be responsible for guiding our RAISE initiative — short for Race, Inclusion and Social Equity — led by Interim Director Dr. Trevon Logan. As part of this initiative, focused on hiring, retention and research, we will include new faculty whose work addresses social equity and racial disparities across disciplines including health care, STEM education, the arts, social justice and public safety, environment, resources and leadership.

At the same time, we are working with the Task Force on Racism and Racial Inequities to issue a summary of its findings and recommendations.

And our cross-disciplinary teams of Ohio State scientists and scholars have already received funding through two rounds of our Seed Fund for Racial Justice, investigating new avenues and opportunities to address anti-racism education, stress and emotion management, infant mortality, and many, many more topics. We also want to applaud the Wexner Medical Center’s Anti-Racism Action Plan, on which Chancellor Hal Paz reported during the Wexner Medical Center board meeting earlier this week.

Ohio State continues to be at the vanguard of research and discovery.

We’re on track to set a new university record of over $970 million in research expenditures this year. The work of our Enterprise for Research, Innovation and Knowledge is led by Dr. Grace Wang. As you know, we have an ambitious goal of doubling our research expenditures over the next decade. And, with Dr. Wang as our leader, I have no doubt we will accomplish that with all of the talented faculty, including our outstanding faculty we heard from today.

Dr. Wang emceed the beam topping ceremony for our new Interdisciplinary Research Facility, a milestone for the university’s Innovation District, and we were joined at that topping off ceremony by the governor, Governor DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, JobsOhio President and CEO JP Nauseef and other community partners. This extraordinary facility will help advance our convergent-research goals — and be co-located next to our Energy Advancement and Innovation Center. 

In late July, we hit another milestone. We became a member and the first regional partner of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, based at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. That same day, we announced that Ohio State was awarded not one, but two of the 11 new National Science Foundation institutes focused on artificial intelligence research applied to the environment and edge computing. This will bring to The Ohio State University and our partners $40 million over the next five years, and they’re renewable.

This exciting news helps supercharge the work of realizing AI’s full potential — whether to improve personalized health care, boost smart mobility, enhance food security and augment the creative arts.

I also want to note a really outstanding thing that happened this summer, and that is an item that is on our consent agenda today: the Dr. Rattan Lal Endowed Professorship. In 2019, Dr. Lal became the first Ohio State scientist and the first soil scientist ever to win the Japan Prize. A year later, he won the prestigious World Food Prize, referred to as the “Nobel Prize in food and agriculture.” Dr. Lal, as outstanding as he is as a scientist, is an even better human being. He donated his entire prize money for both awards to establish a $1 million endowed professorship, which will be housed in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. His generosity to our university and his commitment to agriculture on a global scale continues to inspire.

Just as important is our work to bring amazing Ohio State research to market and quickly make an impact.

The university invested $20 million in Rev1’s Fund II, which aims to support high-growth companies in Ohio and beyond. Our corporate partnerships team also signed master research agreements with two companies: Chemical Abstracts Services and Kroger. These agreements, new for Ohio State, eliminate the need to negotiate a new agreement every time a new research project is envisioned.

Another great example of how we are moving with urgency and effectiveness is the establishment of the President’s Research Excellence Program, which includes two types of grants. Accelerator grants of up to $50,000 empower small teams at Ohio State to pursue novel, high-risk/high-reward research projects. The program was announced in late February and, by the first week of June, awarded funding to the first 19 teams. I really want to give a big shout out to Dr. Grace Wang and Dr. Peter Mohler for your great work getting this program off the ground so quickly. It’s also an example of shared governance because this idea actually came from our President’s and Provost’s Advisory Committee, which was referred to earlier, PPAC. So, we took that idea — it was a great idea — and we got it right into practice within six months.

Additionally, we’re excited about the news of three more Ohio State startups acquired in the past year. Cayuse LLC, an IP company; CareDx, a precision transplant medicine company that acquired TransChart, an Ohio-based provider of electronic health record software that was started by our own Dr. Ronald Ferguson, faculty emeritus in our College of Medicine.

Another keystone area of excellence comes in our service to those in the communities where they live.

One of the most important — and fundamental — ways we serve is to make an Ohio State education more accessible and affordable. We have committed to becoming the first university in the nation to offer a zero-debt bachelor’s degree at scale within this decade. This is especially vital for our low-income students, whose four-year graduation rate is 11% lower than our average.

We are confronting, head on, the barriers to equity in higher education. And, starting this fall, for example, due to the generosity of the Honda partnership, new $5,000 scholarships are being awarded to students majoring in electrical and computer engineering who are active in the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and similar organizations. That’s just one part of the recent expansion of our 20-year partnership with Honda, which also includes co-ops, internships and research.

Affordability is very important to our graduate and professional students, too. We have increased the graduate student stipend by $4,000 per year beginning this month. These steps comprise the next iteration of our founding mission to ensure the benefits of higher education can be shared by all.

And our mission extends beyond the borders of our campuses and into the clinical care we provide.

Last month, we celebrated the opening of Wexner Medical Center Outpatient Care at New Albany — an example of the university’s longstanding commitment to provide Ohioans who live local, and maybe outside of Columbus as well, resources and expertise from our clinic. That same week, the “Best Hospitals” rankings were announced, with the Wexner Medical Center ranked in 10 out of 15 specialties. We are also recognized as high performing in 13 of 17 procedures and conditions.

Providing this level of excellence to families in central Ohio is the reason we are expanding our reach through outpatient care — and expanding the breadth of our services in Columbus with the new inpatient hospital.

On Tuesday, we were joined by Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner and Columbus City Council President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown at the site of the new hospital tower. It’s an inspiring vision. It’s the biggest project ever undertaken by The Ohio State University, and it will bring together clinicians, researchers, students and families to be part of a national model for how we deliver transformative health care and training.

Supporting the university’s successes across our academic, research and service missions, we also had another strong financial performance this past fiscal year that supports all three of these activities.

We heard highlights from Senior Vice President and CFO Mike Papadakis in the Audit, Finance and Investment Committee — and our gratitude goes out to him and his team and the members of our committee for their careful and vital stewardship during these challenging times. FY21 outperformed FY20 and, driven by ever-more efficient work, continued positive momentum in the health system and our strong investment performance.

The long-term investment pool increased by $1.4 billion over last fiscal year, a 29% return, and outperformed the policy benchmark. A thank you and appreciation to our new CIO, Vishnu Sirinivasan, whose efforts, combined with the important time, talent and treasure of our alumni, friends and supporters, will help propel us to our aspirational vision for the future of Ohio State.

To close my report, I want to say once again that it is the dream of a lifetime to lead this institution.

We have so much to look forward to — a return to the activities and traditions that we love on our campuses and the promise of even greater progress in pursuit of our shared aspirations. I am personally looking forward to my investiture in November. Planning is underway, and I appreciate the opportunity to further detail — where I will have the opportunity to further detail — our vision and programs.

Finally, let me thank the members of this board, not only for your service, advice and guidance over the last few days but over the last year and for what you will do in the future — and to the entire Ohio State community, for all that you do. Go Buckeyes!