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Opening remarks, January 31, 2019 Meeting of the Board of Trustees

As prepared for delivery by President Tim Killeen

My congratulations to our new Trustees as they begin their new terms this morning. I am deeply grateful to all of you for volunteering your time and unique talents to help guide Illinois’ flagship university system. Your role is critical to the future of our universities, our students and our state, and one that has been filled by a surprisingly small number of women and men before you, considering the University of Illinois System’s long history.

I did a little digging and found that before today, only 273 members have served in the 152 years since the very first board took office in 1867. That only counts members like those of you who were appointed by the governor or, during an earlier system, elected by voters, as well as the more than two dozen governors who themselves served as ex officio members by virtue of their elected positions. So it doesn’t include well over 100 dedicated student trustees who have served since the legislature approved a law in 1973 providing student representation from every campus. The list of 273 is capped by the three distinguished trustees that our new members are replacing, and we have submitted resolutions you will vote on later today honoring Tim Koritz, Jim Montgomery and Pat Fitzgerald for their years of insightful leadership and dedicated service.What the trustees before you have built, and what all of you will continue to build on, is truly remarkable.

The U of I System is known literally around the world for excellence. It is an original land-grant institution that has grown into a system of three best-in-class universities that meet every student’s needs while also meeting the needs of our state: Together, they have left an indelible imprint on our state, our nation and our world. They change the lives of students one-by-one and while collectively supplying the highly skilled workforce of tomorrow, with a global alumni network that has grown to 740,000, bigger than the city of Denver. Every year, they are joined by more than 22,000 new graduates--enough to populate a new city the size of Charleston, East Moline or Park Forest. But the U of I System is more than just the state’s largest educator, serving half of all students enrolled in public higher education in Illinois.\

It is also is a leader in research discovery--a place where the nation turns to solve its most vexing challenges and an engine that drives economic growth. In fact, we are ranked 25th in Reuter’s latest rankings of the world’s most innovative universities, the institutions doing the most to advance science, pioneer new technologies and create new markets and industries.But we never stop trying to do even more.

And when we stepped back a few years ago to map out our plans for the future, we followed a wise tip from President Lincoln, whose signature on the Morrill Act launched the U of I System: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree,” he said, “and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” So we spent 15 months developing and fine-tuning our plans. We sought out input from every stakeholder, and heard from well over 1,000 of them through town hall meetings on each campus, one-on-one sessions with leadership and messages on a university website. The result is the System-wide Strategic Framework that the board authorized and approved … our North Star that is guiding us to an even brighter future. It is centered on four solid pillars, all hewed in the core values we have carried from the very beginning that have made us the global leader that we are today: A bedrock commitment to students and their success Expanding on research discovery that packs global impact. Marshaling our vast resources to foster progress and prosperity for our state and nation And making the U of I System the model for higher education in the 21st century It has been our springboard to remarkable progress ever since on each and every front, and here are just a few of the many highlights from the last year alone:

Let’s start here at UIC:

  • Last fall, this fast-growing campus enrolled a record 31,683 students, an all-time high for the fourth straight year, with increases in African-American and Latino enrollment that added to UIC’s standing as one of America’s most diverse universities.
  • In July, the board approved an historic merger that will make the more than century-old John Marshall Law School part of UIC, creating Chicago’s first-ever public law school.
  • The UIC Pavilion, home to big events from Flames basketball to commencements, became Credit Union 1 Arena under a $9.3 million naming rights agreement that also provides $750,000 in scholarship funding.
    UIC’s standing as the place to turn for Chicago history grew when Richard M. Daley donated a large collection from his record 22 years as mayor to UIC’s Richard J. Daley Library, which was already home to a collection from his father’s long tenure as mayor.

It was also a year of progress and achievement in Springfield.

  • Almost exactly a year ago, UIS officially opened its first-ever student union, a nearly $22 million facility that has become a central hub for student life and an important new drawing card for the growing campus.
  • UIS added to its legacy of social justice when another client of the university’s Illinois Innocence Project was found not guilty in a retrial on arson-related murder charges and freed after 22 years in prison.
  • Head baseball coach Chris Ramirez turned a spotlight on UIS when he earned the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s NCAA Division 2 Coach of the Year award after setting program records with 47 wins and a 29-game winning streak.

 And here’s a look at a few of 2018’s most memorable moments in Urbana-Champaign:

  • With the biggest undergraduate applicant pool yet, the class of 2022 that began studies last fall brought record numbers of students from underrepresented backgrounds and first-generation college students … as well as a 10-year high of Illinois residents.
  • Last summer, the Carle Illinois College of Medicine — the world’s first engineering-based medical school —welcomed its inaugural class of students. The pioneering med school is the university’s first new college in more than 60 years, and promises new, groundbreaking additions to Urbana’s rich legacy of innovation.
  • The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, a unique and vibrant home for the performing arts and a leading entertainment venue that attracts visitors from across central Illinois, kicked off its 50th anniversary season last fall.
  • Urbana reaffirmed its land-grant missions of affordability and accessibility by announcing its Illinois Commitment program … which will allow admitted in-state students with a family income of $61,000 or less to attend tuition-free starting next fall. UIC and UIS also are supporting Illinois undergraduates by matching funding under a new statewide scholarship program that seeks to halt an outmigration to out-of-state colleges.

 And here are just a few of our System-wide highlights.

  • Across our three universities, enrollment grew to nearly 86,000 students last fall, setting a new system-wide record for the sixth straight year and keeping us on pace to reach our ambitious goal of topping 93,000 students by 2021. We expect to move even closer next fall, based on freshman applications that are up 5 percent at UIC, 10 percent in Urbana, and 18 percent in Springfield. And, later today, you will vote on a key pillar of our enrollment strategy--a recommendation to extend an in-state tuition freeze to a fifth straight year, the longest since the 1960s.
  • The current fiscal year also brought our second straight full-year state appropriation, helping to restore financial stability on the heels of a two-year budget impasse. In fact, it provided a 2 percent increase for day-to-day operations, just the second increase in a decade that has seen our annual funding shrink by more than $160 million. The state budget also provided our first capital funding since fiscal 2010 to support much-needed construction, renovation and repairs.
  • It was also a year of record-setting philanthropic support. Our partners at the University of Illinois Foundation had their best fundraising year ever, with nearly half a billion dollars in new business for the fiscal year that ended last June. The Foundation’s success is tied to the historic fundraising campaigns launched last fall at each of our universities that seek to raise a combined $3.1 billion over the next five years. It is our most ambitious fundraising initiative ever and is already at more than 60 percent of its goal just a little over a year later .
  • The state capital funding I mentioned earlier included $500 million to help support construction of our Discovery Partners Institute here in Chicago and our Illinois Innovation Network. 2018 was a year of remarkable progress for DPI and IIN, with the opening of a DPI office on Wacker Drive, the hiring of Bill Sanders as DPI’s inaugural director, partnering with OSF as our first corporate partner and adding Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University as our first international academic partners. IIN also locked in hubs at the U of I System’s universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield; at the home of our regional medical campus in Peoria; and in DeKalb through a partnership with Northern Illinois University. DPI and IIN are historic initiatives that will write the next chapter in our legacy of contributions to progress and economic growth.
  • Our world-class faculty are keys to success and already are stepping up to join the effort, with more than 900 volunteering to share their talents in the experts groups that will guide development. And we are working with legislators to maximize economic benefits for the state, through an initiative we are calling Illinois Prosper that would provide incentives for businesses that locate near universities and partner with them on research and education.
  • Speaking of economic impact, the U of I System already packs a real wallop. A study released last fall shows the system pumps $17.5 billion into the Illinois economy annually and supports 171,000 jobs … one in every 46 jobs across the state.
  • Last fall, we also turned the world’s attention to Illinois when former President Barack Obama accepted the Douglas Award for Ethics in Government from the U of I System’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs in September, and spoke to students at Urbana’s Foellinger Auditorium.
  • The System also launched important new initiatives in 2018 to support our universities. We hired the first cohort of professors under a $60 million program that will bring in up to 45 world-class faculty over the next three years to build on our standing as a global leader in education and discovery. We also are putting the finishing touches on another program that will add hundreds of new early-career faculty over the next 10 years to ensure our faculty ranks keep pace with enrollment growth.
  • Just last week, we kicked off a unique initiative that recognizes the importance of the arts and humanities, awarding nearly $2 million in grants for projects that will serve both students and the public good.
  • We also have developed a plan to ensure that our facilities match our academic excellence. We have identified 340 projects totaling $4 billion that will be completed over the next 10 years … from repairs and remodeling to new classroom buildings and laboratories. Here is a brief video we have produced to highlight the initiative.

In the year to come, the waves of momentum we are riding will keep pushing us ever closer to the ambitious goals of our Strategic Framework. My thanks to all of you,and to our talented team across the system and beyond, for everything you do to keep stirring the waters and guiding us on our way.