2022 State of the University

The following address was delivered to the Ohio State community on Thursday, April 21, 2022.

Read Ohio State News for more information about the address and the university's progress toward becoming the absolute model land-grant university for the 21st century.

Welcome, everyone, to the 2022 State of the University address!

I would like to acknowledge Senate Secretary Ben Givens and the members of the University Senate for bringing us together. I also want to thank Chair Gary Heminger and all of our trustees for your support, especially our student trustees, who are here with us this afternoon: Tanner Hunt and Carly Sobol. Thank you also to Governor Mike DeWine and Mayor Andrew Ginther for your constant support of Buckeye Nation.

I am grateful that we are joined by the current and incoming leaders of our student leadership organizations; members of the Alumni Advisory Council; elected officials; and many nonprofit and business partners.

Finally, my great thanks to all students, faculty and staff with us in person and watching virtually.

My first State of the University speech was delivered virtually. So, it is definitely progress that we are here together, in person.

Although it has been a long, hard pandemic, Buckeye Nation managed COVID-19 with spirit and resolve. My heart goes out to everyone in our community who suffered a loss during the past two years. And I thank everyone who helped to keep this community safe — especially our frontline health care workers at the Wexner Medical Center, whose heroism has been humbling.

Last year, I laid out a very ambitious 10-year vision for The Ohio State University and said that I wanted us to become the absolute model of the 21st-century land-grant university.

What does that mean? Those of you who joined me for the Patterson Lecture will know how proud I am of the history of Ohio State. To me, the equity and service embedded in our mission and history offer us a guide for the future.

The 1862 Morrill Act that established the land-grant colleges said that we were created to — I quote — “promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes.”

All over the world, higher education had been reserved for the wealthy and connected. But for the first time, in the United States, universities were created to allow people from ordinary backgrounds to do extraordinary things.

President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act during the Civil War — a hopeful act in a dark time. So, it seems appropriate to borrow a phrase from Abraham Lincoln’s glorious Gettysburg Address in considering what it means to be a land-grant university: we are a university “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Over the years, The Ohio State University has served the people of Ohio and the nation well. We should be proud that we never restricted admissions to women and historically underrepresented populations. From the beginning, we were open to — and I quote — “all persons over 14 years of age.”

Of course, the very first day in 1873 that we allowed students to sign up for classes, President Edward Orton Sr. nearly fainted when he considered the full implications of “all persons:” that he was going to have to allow the Townshend sisters, waiting in line with the young men, to enroll.

As a university, our history is one of steadily expanding access — including most dramatically with the founding of our regional campuses — and of increasing service through research and outreach.

As a country, however, one hundred and sixty years after the Morrill Act was signed, the United States is still working hard to fully live up to its founding idea of equality of opportunity.

And it is more obvious than ever that the road to a fairer, healthier and wealthier country runs straight through higher education. In the ten years leading up to the pandemic, the U.S. economy generated over 18 million net new jobs. Eighty-nine percent of them went to people with at leasta bachelor’s degree.

As economist Thomas Piketty has said, what really matters for a nation’s economic prosperity is “education — and relative equality in education.”

Universities themselves are the great equalizers: students from low-income families and students from high-income families who attend the same college have pretty much the same income in adulthood. That is the American dream in a nutshell: If you study hard and work hard, you have just as good a shot at a great life as anyone else.

The problem is that many of the nation’s very best colleges and universities make relatively little room for low-income and first-generation students. They seem to be concentrating privilege, rather than equalizing opportunity.

We should be very proud at Ohio State at our success in fighting this trend. We graduate more low-income students than the entire Ivy League — all eight universities combined.

That makes Ohio State something none of us should ever forget: important.

And I believe we can do even more to become a university of the people, by the people, for the people. As a 21st-century land-grant university, we need to move even closer to our founding ideal of democratic access and service.

I thank our trustees, faculty, staff and students for everything you already have done to help me realize this vision. The progress, frankly, has been breathtaking. And we have had some very big wins this year that deserve to be celebrated.

Chief among them, of course, was helping Ohio beat out 40 other states to become the location for Intel’s new semiconductor campus — a $20 billion initial investment that is expected to generate more than 20,000 direct and indirect jobs — and that will put the United States, once again, back in the business of manufacturing the world’s most advanced semiconductors.

Another big win: our Scarlet & Gray Advantage program announcement — a bold plan to give every undergraduate the opportunity for a debt-free education. Since rising student debt is a complex national problem, we are piloting the Scarlet & Gray Advantage program this fall with 125 students, who will help us adjust to the nuances.

The ultimate goal is to do this at scale — so that, without the burden of student loans, Ohio State graduates can say yes to every great opportunity life throws their way — graduate school, a job they are passionate about, service, homeownership, a family.

Since we launched this initiative at my Investiture, our amazing Buckeye donors have responded with tremendous enthusiasm, helping us raise $84 million — blasting through our first-year goal of $58 million.

Another big win is our record $1.2 billion in research expenditures in fiscal year 2021. In last year’s State of the University, I set our sights on doubling Ohio State’s research expenditures within a decade, with the ultimate goal of amplifying the life-transforming impact of our research, innovation and creative expression. With Executive Vice President Grace Wang at the helm of our Enterprise for Research, Innovation and Knowledge, we are well on our way.

Other big wins include the elections of a number of our faculty to the National Academies and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Last month, the Dan David Prize — which is akin to a MacArthur “Genius Grant” for early to mid-career scholars in history — was awarded to Associate Professor Bart Elmore, an expert in the environmental history of capitalism. Professor David Brakke, the Joe R. Engle Chair in our Department of History, and Professor Krzysztof Stanek of our Department of Astronomy were both awarded Guggenheim Fellowships.

We are once again ranked near the top nationwide in the number of Fulbright Scholar and Fulbright student awards earned by Buckeyes, and four Ohio State undergraduate researchers in STEM fields were named Goldwater Scholars.

We are also so proud of our student-athletes, whose wins inspire all of us and whose discipline extends to academics, where many of them excel. Our dance, pistol, synchronized swimming and women’s ice hockey teams all won their national championships. Men’s gymnastics, women’s swimming and diving, and women’s basketball won or shared their Big Ten championships.

Seven current, former and incoming Buckeye women’s ice hockey players competed in the Olympics in Beijing — four of them returning with medals. A record 26 current, former and incoming students represented Buckeye Nation in the Tokyo games, taking home four medals.

And the fame of the Ohio State Marching Band keeps spreading — recently with a Saturday Night Live skit that called TBDBITL “like, the biggest band in the world!”

They are!

Congratulations to all of our Buckeyes who remind the world that we have greatness to spare here!

Today, I want to offer you updates on the progress we’ve made on the five particular kinds of excellence that are essential to our becoming the model land-grant university of the 21st century: excellence in academics, research, service, talent and culture, and operations.

I am going to start with talent and culture, because after the upheaval of the pandemic, we all need kindness from each other, and we need to continue to foster a culture of kindness and well-being at The Ohio State University.

While the isolation imposed by COVID-19 has been tough on everybody, it has been particularly tough on children and college-aged students — in fiscal year 2022 alone, Ohio State will have contributed more than $150,000 in pandemic relief funds to students to help directly support expenses incurred related to mental health needs, which is why we created a Commission on Student Mental Health and Well-Being last year — headed by Senior Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers and University Chief Wellness Officer and Dean of the College of Nursing Bernadette Melnyk.

We are now implementing the commission’s five recommendations — including enhancing the services currently available for those who are struggling — and getting our students to not hesitate when they need help.

Sometimes, however, the best way to encourage help-seeking is to have a single role model speak up.

At Ohio State, we have the incredible example of Harry Miller — a great student, a gifted offensive lineman, a selfless volunteer — who announced last month that he would be medically retiring from football to address his mental-health struggles.

Harry has said about the epidemic of anxiety and depression among his peers: “the dilemma is that nobody has to say something, but that is precisely why somebody has to say something.” Harry, thank you for saying something.

We are so fortunate to have another member of our Buckeye community willing to say something: entrepreneur and philanthropist Jeffrey Schottenstein, who experienced depression and anxiety as a freshman at Ohio State — and who felt isolated and alone in what are extremely common struggles. To change the culture surrounding mental health, The Jay & Jeanie Schottenstein Family Foundation has given us a $10 million gift to fund The Jeffrey Schottenstein Program for Resilience.

Led by Dr. K. Luan Phan, the chair of our Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, the program will focus on well-being, crisis prevention and research on social, cognitive and emotional resilience.

During the COVID-19 crisis, when our health care professionals were stretched to their emotional and physical limits, the Wexner Medical Center created the Buckeye Paws program, which uses visits from certified therapy dogs to relieve the stress. I am pleased to say that we are taking these canine all-stars — including Radar, Crockett and Shiloh — and bringing them to the wider Columbus campus, and eventually our regional campuses, so they brighten the day of more of our faculty, staff and students.

Beyond building our own capacity to withstand stress, each one of us has an obligation, as a member of this Buckeye community, to treat its other members with respect. Harry Miller has talked about receiving terrible texts and tweets after tough football games. Frankly, the lack of compassion for someone who clearly gives his all is just stunning.

Fortunately, I have seen the opposite in the class I have been teaching this spring, “Pathways to Net-Zero Carbon Emissions.” When one of our students was injured this semester, the rest of the class quickly rallied to support him in ways that made me even prouder to be a Buckeye.

Beyond that, this community is proving how much it cares about our collective future. The University Senate has passed a resolution for the university to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. We are going to use donor resources to determine the cost and develop a plan to zero out our carbon footprint by 2040, at the latest.

It also has been inspiring to see the ways that our students, faculty, and staff have thrown themselves into supporting Ukrainian refugees, as well as Ukrainians remaining in country — countering cruelty with kindness.

While we support free speech for everyone — and while The Ohio State University is exactly the right place for impassioned disagreements about all kinds of complex issues — this isn’t the place for any form of disrespect or discrimination directed at any member of our Buckeye community. We are grateful to Governor Mike DeWine and Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner for leading a statewide effort to address instances of antisemitism on college campuses, as well as an executive order defining antisemitism.

To remind all of us of our best selves, we have launched a Shared Values Initiative and surveyed our faculty, staff and students to figure out what it is that Buckeye Nation stands for. Overwhelmingly, those shared values are: excellence and impact; diversity and innovation; inclusion and equity; care and compassion; and integrity and respect.

Compassion, inclusion, care — they grow out of an effort to understand others. They broaden our horizons as individuals and strengthen our own well-being. They increase our sophistication and awareness as a community. And they are the foundation of every other kind of excellence.

So, let’s reach for a generous approach to our fellow Buckeyes every day.

As we strive for academic excellence, Intel reminds us of the degree to which economic growth here in Ohio depends on the human capital we develop. At the announcement, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said that he wants there to be a “thoroughfare” between Ohio State and Intel, with the best students we educate headed his way. And we are thrilled that he has agreed to be our commencement speaker this spring.

This is a knowledge- and technology-intensive age, and businesses like Intel require highly skilled people for high-wage jobs. It all depends on talent.

We have a head start on paving the thoroughfare, in that we already offer a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology program at our Lima, Mansfield and Marion campuses — and coming soon to Newark. The program is focused specifically on educating leaders for advanced manufacturing.

However, to fully meet the needs of Intel and its suppliers, a regional, multi-institutional approach is required. We are working with Columbus State Community College to define specific 2+2 programs for technicians, engineers and business professionals.

We also hosted a two-day workshop at the beginning of the month with leaders from 12 regional universities and community colleges, helping us envision a Midwest network of support for our new semiconductor industry — through collaboration in workforce development, experiential learning, research and the sharing of core research facilities.

Given the rate at which quantum technologies are advancing and the fact that they clearly are going to transform many sectors, the United States also needs to develop a quantum-literate workforce.

With our QuSTEAM initiative and a $5 million award from the National Science Foundation, we have brought together scientists and educators from over 20 universities to develop a research-based undergraduate quantum curriculum that can serve as a national model.

I am so happy, also, that professors in our College of Public Health and our College of Arts and Sciences have come together to create a groundbreaking new interdisciplinary minor in public health and the arts. During this pandemic, we have seen some great public health communications, and some not so great. So, teaching students to use the power of art to persuade people to take care of their health is crucial.

Of course, as we partner with other institutions to develop the workforce of the future, we are not forgetting that the number one industry in Ohio is food and agriculture. A new collaboration between our College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College will help to educate the talent for agricultural industries.

As we develop the workforce of the future — we are making sure it is both diverse and dynamic.

We are very proud to have just been named a member of the Kessler Scholars Collaborative, which offers personalized support for first-generation college students.

With our RAISE initiative — short for Race, Inclusion and Social Equity — we are recruiting new faculty to consider the racial inequities in our society and history — and to better represent our diverse student body — so all of our students can begin to imagine themselves in roles they might not otherwise consider.

As Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, has said, “It’s hard to be what you can’t see.”

I recently met a seven-year-old ice hockey enthusiast named Eloise de Freitas, whose enthusiasm was fueled by Ohio State defenseman Sophie Jaques — whom she drove six hours to see in the Frozen Four. “She looks just like me!” Eloise exclaimed — and doubled down on her own time on the ice.

If you can see it, you can be it.

By the way, Sophie was recently named the 2022 Arthur Ashe Jr. Female Sports Scholar of the Year for exemplifying scholarship, athleticism and humanitarianism. Congratulations, Sophie!

Thus far, we have created 15 RAISE faculty positions, beginning in autumn 2022 or later, that will expand research into disparities in cardiovascular health, the built environment, the impacts of climate change and other topics.

With the Provost’s Tenure-Track Fellow-to-Faculty Program, we are also creating a pipeline of academic talent for our RAISE program — by offering two-year fellowships and career support to new postdocs, who then advance to become assistant professors.

Clearly, with our Scarlet & Gray Advantage program, we are removing financial barriers to degree achievement. We also are removing the obstacles thrown up by life, by focusing on an individualized education that allows tremendous flexibility, so our students can get the education they need, when and where they need it — just-in-time learning.

We see a lot of room to expand Ohio State Online in the just-in-time sphere, with certificate and licensure programs and professional master’s degrees that allow those already in the workplace to improve their game or to switch to more promising fields. Our Fisher College of Business has really stepped up on this front, creating five new online programs for next fall.

I also want to help every Ohio State student get just what they need when they need it in terms of education — lifelong. I envision doing this with an education cloud where students can personalize their education, earning micro-credentials that they can stack as they progress through Ohio State — and then long after they graduate, as knowledge in their field expands.

As part of this effort,we are working to develop the technological infrastructure that — along with our wonderful advising staff — will allow us to provide on-demand support to Buckeyes throughout their lives.

The third kind of excellence we are reaching for — and realizing — is research excellence. Because of the great work of our faculty and staff, Ohio State has been chosen to lead a number of major federally funded cross-disciplinary research centers. We promised to add two in fiscal year 2022; we have already added eight.

In December of 2021, Ohio State was named as the leading university partner for a $160 million effort funded by NASA to develop the next generation Starlab commercial space station, with Nanoracksas the leading commercial partner. Ohio State researchers, led by principal investigator Professor John Horack, will make contributions in materials and manufacturing for spaceflight; artificial intelligence; space-based remote sensing; and, of course, feeding space-station crews.

Our magnificent College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences will operate the ground-based control laboratory for agricultural research aboard the Starlab and work to advance in-space agriculture. This is another reminder that agriculture is growing more technology-intensive, as it grows more sustainable.

Out of 11 new research institutes in artificial intelligence that were created nationwide by the National Science Foundation last year, Ohio State was awarded the leadership of two:

The Artificial Intelligence Institute for Future Edge Networks and Distributed Intelligence, or AI-EDGE, led by Professor Ness Shroff, is deploying AI to design the next generation of edge networks — 6G and beyond — that are secure, efficient and reliable.

The AI Institute for Intelligent Cyberinfrastructure with Computational Learning in the Environment, or ICICLE, led by Professor D.K. Panda, is focused on creating a national AI infrastructure that functions like a utility, accessible and usable by anyone.

We also are leading a $15 million NSF-sponsored Imageomics Institute, headed by Professor Tanya Berger-Wolf, which is creating a new field of study in which computation and machine learning allow scientists to extract meaning from an enormous amount of biological image data.

The National Institutes of Health awarded our College of Medicine and Professor Lang Li $17.1 million to establish a new Center for Maternal and Pediatric Drug Research designed to be a knowledge repository for the nation — and funded professors Jennifer Bogner and Cynthia Beaulieuwith $16 million to bolster our research into rehabilitation treatments for traumatic brain injuries.

I am so pleased to announce that we are launching a new Gene Therapy Institute to benefit so many people around the globe suffering from diseases caused by missing or mutated genes. Led by Dr. Krystof Bankiewicz and Dr. Russell Lonser, the institute will double down on our strength in the field, including research being conducted by over 50 faculty in six colleges.

I was in a meeting with Dr. Francis Collins — the longtime director of the National Institutes of Health and acting science advisor to President Biden — when he pointed to research conducted on spinal muscular atrophy at Ohio State and Nationwide Children’s Hospital as an example of the power of gene therapy. Previously, children with this genetic disorder were unlikely to survive past the age of two.

With one infusion of the gene therapy developed by Dr. Brian Kaspar of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Dr. Arthur Burghes of the Ohio State colleges of Arts and Sciences, and Medicine, and their collaborators, the children are effectively cured.

We also have exceptional research by Dr. Bankiewicz and his collaborators on another genetic disorder — AADC deficiency — which causes severe developmental disabilities and motor problems. Their novel treatment has allowed children to walk, talk and laugh for the first time. And that is life-transforming.

Now, our new institute offers us the opportunity to be the world leader in gene therapy.

I am also proud to announce a new Ohio State Center for Quantum Information Science and Engineering, whereour scientists and engineers will use the properties of quantum mechanics to transform communications, computation and sensing.

Last year, I announced the launch of the President’s Research Excellence Programtoprovide seed support for curiosity-driven and cross- and interdisciplinary research — allowing our researchers to get the initial results that will make their work more competitive for federal funding. Today, I am pleased to share that we have given 34 accelerator grants of up to $50,000 to small teams for the riskiest ideas, and seven catalyst grants of up to $200,000 for larger interdisciplinary groups doing convergent research.

These high-risk, high-reward projects have important societal, economic and health implications down the road. For example, one collaboration between the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and the College of Pharmacy will use artificial intelligence to develop plant-based chemicals for controlling the mosquito vectors of terrible diseases such as malaria and zika.

The goal, always, is to get the remarkable research, scholarship and creative expression developed at Ohio State out into the world, where it can serve and influence others.

We are thrilled, for example, that the Ohio State Innovation Foundation has licensed the chemical looping process and oxygen carrier particle invented by Distinguished University Professor Liang-Shih Fan. Together, they offer a cost-effective way to convert fossil fuels and biomass to greener forms of energy — generating hydrogen or electricity from them, while isolating the CO2 produced before it can be released into the atmosphere.

Professors Jianrong Li and Stefan Niewiesk of our wonderful College of Veterinary Medicine developed a COVID vaccine platform, which the Ohio State Innovation Foundation licensed to Biological E. Limited, a major vaccine manufacturer based in India that supplies its vaccines to over 100 countries.

Professor Melissa Bailey of our College of Optometry — just named the Ohio State “Innovator of the Year” — has launched two spinout companies recently. One offers a mobile app for vision screening and the second brings to market bifocal soft contact lens technology that in clinical trials resulted in meaningful improvements in vision.

Currently, there are about 100 operational startups that have spun out of Ohio State. Having started a handful of companies based on my own research — I can tell you that it is not easy, moving an idea along toward commercialization.

Encouraging entrepreneurship fits perfectly into our land-grant mission to disseminate research to benefit the communities around us. Last year, I announced the launch of the President’s Buckeye Accelerator Program to empower our students to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Over 30 student teams went through the accelerator’s first “boost camp” program, which helps them build skills, mentorship, community and establish fundraising networks. Earlier this month, we selected six student founder teams from the boost camp group for a year-long accelerator and awarded each team $50,000 to develop their concept.

Another way we are contributing to entrepreneurship is by investing on a large scale in the physical infrastructure for creativity, discovery, education and entrepreneurship. We currently are developing a Framework 3.0 plan to answer our need for space for research, innovation, and graduate student and faculty housing.

It has been exciting watching our Framework 2.0 plan become reality over the past year. We had one groundbreaking, for our Energy Advancement and Innovation Center, where we are joining forces with Ohio State Energy Partners to focus on artificial intelligence, smart systems and sustainability.

We had three beam topping-off ceremonies:

  • One for our Jane E. Heminger Hall in the College of Nursing;
  • A second for the Outpatient Care West Campus;
  • And another for our Interdisciplinary Research Facility, which will help us create a true ecosystem focused on life sciences and health.

Right now, two-thirds of Ohio State’s spinouts are in biomedicine and the life sciences.

And we had one opening: for the Wexner Medical Center’s outpatient care facility in New Albany.

The Energy Advancement and Innovation Center, the Interdisciplinary Research Facility, and Outpatient Care West Campus are all located in our rapidly developing 270 plus-acre West Campus Innovation District. It is going to be a hub for research, innovation and entrepreneurship in high-growth sectors of all kinds — including in the arts and humanities.

We are so pleased that under the leadership of Mayor Andrew Ginther, the City of Columbus is investing in the success of the West Campus Innovation District by offering job-growth incentives, by contributing $18 million for sewer and water lines, and by using tax increment financing for other infrastructure improvements.

As with Intel, the talent we educate will be a key draw for the businesses that come to our Innovation District. That is why, in return for JobsOhio’s investment in the district, we will graduate 22,500 students by 2036 in STEM fields.

We are also so happy to see the progress in our Arts District, where the Timashev Family Music Building — one of the most acoustically and technologically sophisticated facilities for performance and instruction in the world — is just about complete.

The district’s new Theatre, Film and Media Arts building will open next year. By uniting theater and film into a single Department of Theatre, Film and Media Arts under the leadership of Dr. E.J. Westlake, we have made sure that our faculty and students are part of a large and vigorous artistic community that studies and creates all kinds of performance-based art.

The entire Buckeye community is so happy that we have returned to in-person performances and exhibits, including our Outdoor Showcase Series, our Opera Theatre, our Jazz Festival and our Marching Band Hometown Concert. I really enjoyed the Spring Forward Concert held earlier this month at the Barnett Theatre.

The outpouring of appreciation for someone we lost this year, Professor Chuck Csuri, reminds us that the pioneering work we do in the arts can change the entire world. The founder of our Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design, he has been called the “father of digital art and computer animation.” He transformed the fields of animation and special effects for television and films — and the digital tools he invented have had important applications in architecture and design, flight simulators and the visualization of scientific phenomena.

Professor Csuri, you have left us an amazing legacy.

This leads me to the fourth kind of excellence we are devoting ourselves to as a model land-grant university: excellence in service to the citizens of Ohio, the nation and the world.

The Wexner Medical Center is a service organization by definition, and a great one. A 2021 brand experience survey ranked the medical center as one of the 10 most trusted health systems in the United States.

The Wexner Medical Center also has become a force for community revitalization. I recently had the privilege of touring the Near East Side neighborhood with the PACT group — or the Partners Achieving Community Transformation, which include Ohio State, the City of Columbus and the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority. The goal is to help rejuvenate the historically Black neighborhood surrounding the Ohio State East Hospital. It had experienced severe disinvestment, declining from 68,000 residents in the 1940s, to 16,000 in 2009.

The creation of PACT enabled the community to set its own priorities for revitalization, and the Near East Side is now thriving.

One of the most important priorities established by the community in 2010 was improving the neighborhood’s schools. The Wexner Medical Centerhas done a brilliant job of establishing Health Sciences Academies in them. All elementary school and middle school students on the Near East Side learn what white coats mean in health care and get their own white coats that they wear during science classes. The idea is simple: to help children to make the connection between the Ohio State East Hospital and their own opportunities.

Now, we are making the same connections between the West Campus Innovation District and Columbus city children with our STEAMM Rising initiative. This partnership between Ohio State, the City of Columbus, Columbus City Schools and Columbus State Community College is establishing pathways to bring local children all the way from kindergarten, through Columbus State and Ohio State — and into great careers in science, technology, engineering, the arts, mathematics and medicine.

As a first step, we are inspiring Columbus City School district teachers — approximately 100 a year for five years — with a two-week summer institute on our Columbus campus, taught by Ohio State faculty. The teachers asked for a “design thinking” approach, so we will introduce them to a variety of STEAMM activities on campus, and then consider together how those activities can be brought back to their schools and shared.

In terms of service, OSU Extension is a constant inspiration. This year, Ohio State Treasurer Robert Sprague honored 59 county extension offices with the Compass Award for promoting financial literacy — for their “Real Money. Real World.” program. The program uses an interactive spending simulation to teach 12- to 18-year-olds to make the kind of smart decisions with their money that they will need to make as adults.

The last-but-not-least form of excellence we are reaching for is operational excellence — because it is key to every other goal.

We are optimizing our operations to make the best possible use of our resources. We set a goal this year of $90 million in operational and capital efficiencies, and achieved $69 million by the halfway point. These are funds that we can apply to key priorities in research, education and outreach.

Our fundraising campaign passed the $3 billion mark in February, thanks to the generosity of more than 638,000 unique donors. And we demonstrated great fiscal strength overall, including with strong investment performance, and positive momentum in our health system, allowing us to outperform fiscal year 2020.

Of course, operational excellence depends largely on talent: recruiting and building a team around a shared vision, holding them accountable for progress, but letting them run to reach their goals in their own ways. In the past year, we have welcomed three new deans: Dean Carroll Trotman of our College of Dentistry, Dean David Jenkins of our College of Social Work and Dean Ayanna Howard of our College of Engineering. And we have made important strategic hires in my cabinet, including Provost Gilliam, Ms. Elizabeth Parkinson as Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communications, and Dr. Jeff Risinger as Senior Vice President for Talent, Culture and Human Resources.

They will help to guide and execute our land-grant mission and to maximize the full potential of Ohio State.

For me, one of the wonderful things about taking on the leadership of Ohio State has been getting to know a grandfather I never met — Charles Johnson of the Buckeye class of 1896 — who died, sadly, of double pneumonia, at the end of the last pandemic in 1920.

Many of you know that he played right guard on the Buckeye football team. So, when Veronica and I are cheering at the ’Shoe — I am cheering for him, too.

However, I feel that I understand Charles best when I see how much Ohio State does as a land-grant university to spread opportunity — and when I envision how much more it can do.

Charles was a mechanical engineer, and like a lot of Buckeyes today, he worked in the hottest industry of his era: creating the technology to electrify America at the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. Right before he died, he rose to assistant director of engineering there.

The alumni association recently sent me a framed copy of his obituary as a very kind gift. The article noted his abilities as an engineer and an executive and his genial personality. But most notable, was the fact that he was — I quote — “always an advocate of the square deal for everyone.”

That advocacy took the form of him helping his colleagues who had less education — mainly his female and Black coworkers — learn the skills to get onto the technical tracks at Westinghouse. He actually created an informal school for them he jokingly called the Casino Technical Night School, after the restaurant where they all met.

I think Charles learned what a square deal really is here at Ohio State — where it always has been our mission, as a land-grant university, to help people from ordinary backgrounds do extraordinary things.

Buckeyes do the extraordinary every day, within the amazing collection of schools, campuses, centers, museums, extension offices and hospitals that make up The Ohio State University.

One of my roles here at the center is to amplify this entire community’s efforts, and to align those efforts where they should be connected — so that opportunity emanates from this university in waves — so that the benefits of everything we do here in education, discovery, invention, scholarship, creative expression and service brighten not only our own prospects — but the prospects of the entire state of Ohio and the nation.

Without question, The Ohio State University is a force to be reckoned with. It has been a great year, and I think the next one will be even greater.

Thank you. And Go Buckeyes!