President's Report

The following remarks were delivered during the public session of The Ohio State University Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, November 18, 2021.

 

Thank you very much, Chairman Heminger. Good afternoon. I would like to also acknowledge Tanner’s first meeting with us in person as our undergraduate student representative. Welcome, Tanner!

Thanks to Buckeyes like Tanner and Carly Sobol, our graduate-student trustee, as well as our faculty, staff, partners and supporters, Ohio State is thriving.

Reactivating our campuses and returning to so many of the activities and traditions we love has been a success thanks to our students and the entire university community. Ohio State’s vaccination rate for the entire community is currently over 92% — which is exceptional. We had a terrific Homecoming Weekend, Parent and Family Weekend, Saturdays in the ’Shoe and more. Sadly, this Saturday will be our last home football game. I am also very proud that our fall break was able to happen once again this year. It is a sign that we are prioritizing time for students to build resilience, relax and renew.

During halftime of the Buckeyes’ win over Penn State late last month, we were pleased and excited to announce the Jeffrey Schottenstein Program for Resilience, made possible by a $10 million gift from Jeanie and Jay Schottenstein and their family. This leading-edge and highly relevant initiative will focus on holistic and skills-based care to fight stress and adversity. The timing and importance of this effort to support mental health and resilience cannot be overstated. Thank you so much to the Schottenstein family for their generosity — and we will continue to share details as this vital program is developed and launched.  

Along with our football Buckeyes, our athletics teams have had a terrific fall. Just a few highlights:

  • Our women’s hockey team opened its season as the second-ranked team in the nation, and coach Nadine Muzerall had her 100th career win.
  • Field hockey’s Emma Goldean, women’s cross country’s Addie Engel and men’s soccer’s Laurence Wooten all earned All-Big Ten Conference honors.
  • Women’s soccer advanced to the NCAA tournament for the 15th time. Buckeyes on the men’s and women’s tennis teams won ITA All-American doubles championships and women’s volleyball has been ranked in the top 10 for a school-record 12 straight weeks.

We have also found ways to get more Buckeyes from around the world involved. The university has launched a livestream of the Skull Session before home football games. We have had more than 15,000 live views since making this exciting, pre-game tradition available online. 

Congratulations to all our student-athletes, coaches and Athletics Director Gene Smith and his staff on a great fall. 

Our number-one priority remains the safety of our campus community. We have worked with The Ohio State University Police Division and the Columbus Division of Police to increase the presence of law enforcement, security personnel, lighting and security cameras off campus. In September, we announced an additional $2 million a year over the next decade — in addition to our annual investment of $32 million — bringing our total to $34 million to enhance safety on and around campus. Each week, we provide a safety update video along with regular Ohio State News alerts, which are also available to parents and families through text messaging. We have seen a significant decline in major crimes in the off-campus area, and we will continue to communicate broadly and frequently on Ohio State’s efforts and enhanced resources.

Throughout the fall, and as we look ahead, we continue to make academic excellence a priority.

We welcomed one of the brightest and most diverse classes in our history this fall.

Among the record number of enrolled Buckeyes in Columbus, 64% of new first-year students were in the top 10% of their high school class — and 94% were in the top 25%. We also had record-high minority student enrollment at all campuses.

Our Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics was rated first out of 39 such departments in the U.S. for scholarly research. Our AEDE department is located in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Congratulations to Dean Cathann Kress and her faculty and staff.

Dance professor Nyama McCarthy-Brown has been selected as a 2021 Dance Teacher Award honoree. Dr. McCarthy-Brown is a renowned performer, scholar and author — a testament to the critical importance of the arts and creative expression in helping to shape our world. Dr. Wondwossen Gebreyes has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine’s 2021 class of inductees. He serves as a professor of veterinary preventive medicine and executive director of the Global One Health Initiative — and is on the leading edge of molecular epidemiology research. This semester, he’s doing an American Council on Education fellowship at Michigan State University.

And congratulations to Dr. Ümit Özgüner, who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Intelligent Transportation Systems Society. Dr. Özgüner was recognized for his pioneering contributions to intelligent vehicles. 

Buckeyes are leading the way in so many different areas of importance in the knowledge enterprise that that impacts lives everywhere.

The U.S. Department of Energy has selected Ohio State as one of 10 “Connected Communities.” Ohio State is convening partners to form an interdisciplinary team that will develop a pilot cluster of campus buildings and energy assets as a microgrid controlled by AI tools. Our team will receive a $4.2 million grant. 

Last week, we were joined by Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, congressmen Troy Balderson and Mike Carey, trustees Lou Von Thaer and Alex Fischer, and National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan for the groundbreaking of Ohio State’s Energy Advancement and Innovation Center. This hub for faculty, students, alumni, entrepreneurs, industry experts and more will focus on the next generation of smart systems and sustainability solutions. It is part of the first phase of our Innovation District — and it was wonderful to welcome all of our friends and guests, including Dr. Panchanathan.

Ohio State is home to two new artificial intelligence research institutes, part of 11 established by the National Science Foundation this fall: our AI Institute for Future Edge Networks and Distributed Intelligence (AI-EDGE) and AI Institute for Intelligent Cyberinfrastructure with Computational Learning in the Environment (ICICLE). Together, we will receive a total of $20 million over five years. We are excited to see the NSF recognize our centers as leading institutes for AI research. 

Ohio State also has been awarded a $15 million grant from the NSF to lead the creation of an interdisciplinary institute and establish a new field that has the potential to transform biomedical, agricultural and basic biological sciences. The entity, called the Imageomics Institute, is part of the NSF’s Harnessing the Data Revolution initiative — a national collaborative research network dedicated to computation-enabled discovery.

In terms of some other strategic priorities, we are so excited that these are just a few examples of how Buckeyes are impacting lives in our state, nation and world.

Locally last month, Collin’s Law, Ohio’s anti-hazing act, went into effect. Ohio State has been a strong supporter of this legislation, in addition to the Inter-University Council of Ohio’s Anti-Hazing Principles, which I joined Governor Mike DeWine and my fellow presidents to unveil this summer.

We continue to work closely with our city and state leaders on issues important to our community. The STEAMM Rising Columbus program is a new collaboration between Ohio State, Columbus City Schools and Columbus State Community College. I joined Mayor Andrew Ginther, Columbus City Schools Superintendent and CEO Talisa Dixon and Columbus State President David Harrison to announce STEAMM.

That, of course, stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics and medicine, and the idea is to develop talent from grade school to college — ensuring that talent thrives in our city, our university’s Innovation District and beyond.

This spring, I will be teaching my first course at Ohio State, entitled “Pathways to Net Zero Carbon Neutrality.” Students will work in small teams to develop a strategic technology energy plan to reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero and estimate the cost of achieving that by 2030, 2035 and 2040. As I’ve said before, I am always impressed by our students’ thoughtful and innovative solutions to our most challenging and pressing problems. 

Finally, when we consider service to the community, I cannot think of a better example than Buckeyethon. The student organization raises funds that support children fighting pediatric cancer and blood disorders at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The group’s dance marathon was held earlier this month, and I was excited to be there. And I was there for the unveiling of the amount raised this year, which was $1,025,812. Buckeyethon has raised a remarkable $13 million since its founding. 

At the same time, our faculty, staff and students at the Wexner Medical Center are focusing on research and clinical advancements that positively impact many patients in our communities.

Our medical teams have received four federal awards totaling $55.5 million in funding in the past few months — including a five-year, $17 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The award will fund the creation of a knowledge bank to support the study of drugs and medical treatments for children and pregnant and lactating women. These awards follow a record year for the College of Medicine, which set a high in National Institutes of Health funding in FY2021 at $195 million, and they garnered a total of $301.9 million in research funding for the college.

All of this is taking place as our health care professionals continue to be on the front lines of response and treatments. Their dedication is phenomenal, and we were pleased to provide a special recognition bonus to more than 15,000 medical center employees this month. Thank you to our Wexner Mdical Center co-leaders, Mr. Mark Larmore and Dr. Andrew Thomas, for helping to lead this effort.

On our consent agenda today is approval of the Robert F. Wolfe and Edgar T. Wolfe Foundation Chief Clinical Officer Chair in the Wexner Medical Center. This generous gift supports a chair position for the medical center’s chief clinical officer, a position held by Dr. Thomas. Upon Dr. Thomas’ retirement — and we all hope that won’t be for some time! — it will be renamed the Robert F. Wolfe and Edgar T. Wolfe Foundation-Dr. Andrew M. Thomas Chief Clinical Officer Chair. What an outstanding example of support for Ohio State — and a well-deserved recognition for Dr. Thomas.

Finally, and also on our consent agenda, is approval for the naming of Jane E. Heminger Hall at our College of Nursing. Gary and Jane contributed a significant gift to make this gateway to Ohio State’s health sciences campus a reality. Thank you, Jane and Gary, for your philanthropic leadership!

I am thrilled to see this amazing new facility come together for the benefit of nursing students, faculty, staff and, ultimately, the individuals and families they serve.

In terms of resource management, in Q1, we reaffirmed our AA credit rating and raised $715 million in the bond market. Proceeds will be used to build the $1.9 billion hospital tower. Revenues in Q1 are up — $1.9 billion versus $1.88 billion over Q1 2021 — and expenses are down.

To close, tomorrow we will hold the university’s Presidential Investiture ceremony — and I look forward to sharing more about our ambition to be the absolute model of a land-grant university in the 21st century.

I have enjoyed all the Investiture activities to date, including a wellness event with our staff advisory committee and Chief Wellness Officer Dr. Bernadette Melnyk; a distinguished faculty recognition event with executive vice presidents Dr. Melissa Gilliam and Dr. Grace Wang; and last night, clearly the highlight, our students hosted an Investiture Sweet 16 Celebration, once again demonstrating their unique Buckeye spirit.

Veronica and I enjoyed performances by five a cappella groups and a jersey from the women’s lacrosse team — of course, number 16. Our USG, IPC and graduate-student council issued an executive resolution, and the Morrill Tower — of course, the 16th floor — invited us to a pizza party. Ice cream was specially made by students and faculty in CFAES and emceed by Student Life. My favorite was called Sloopy Scarlet Smash. It was awesome! Veronica and I were very touched, and it reminded us of why we are here to do what we do. 

Being part of this incredible community continues to be the honor and thrill of a lifetime. Thank you to the board and everyone at our university for what you do for Ohio State.

That concludes my report. Go Buckeyes!