Speeches & Writings

Welcome remarks

Delivered Sept. 25, 2018 at welcome reception with Washington University students

I am thrilled to be here, coming to Washington University for the third time in my career. In 1994, I was a graduate student in Arts & Science — I lived on McPherson, Forsyth, and Waterman and spent almost all of my time in the Social Science Computing Facility in the late-Eliot Hall. You’re not missing anything, Bauer Hall is much better. In 2000 to the faculty. And now, in 2018, as chancellor.

It’s so great to be back home. The past four years for me and my family in Ann Arbor have been a fantastic experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve another great institution. But, there is no place like here — and no place like home.

I appreciate so many of you making the effort to be here today. I’m really looking forward to getting to know the WashU community again. I see lots of familiar faces, but also many new ones. It may take me a little time to make a personal connection, so I hope you won’t be shy about reaching out if you have anything on your mind. Drop me an email, message me on Twitter, or engage in conversation on campus or off.

You are all part of an extraordinary community. When I taught here for 14 years, I was always impressed with the the unique blend of intellect, commitment to one other, and the interest in making the world a better place among the students on this campus.

It is certainly daunting to follow in Chancellor Wrighton’s footsteps. He has been a remarkable leader, and WashU is a strong institution because of it. You all have contributed to that success and you are what makes WashU such a special place. There is so much to be proud of. And one of the most exciting things for me about this transition is to learn about all of the wonderful things happening on our campus and beyond.

At the highest level, my goal as chancellor is to build on that success. My commitment to you as your next chancellor:

  • To work tirelessly to ensure this university is very best place place for students, faculty, and staff to achieve their greatest potential.
  • To ensure this is a community where everyone is valued and respected.
  • To recruit those with exceptional talent to join our community regardless of previous opportunity.
  • To be a tireless advocate for this university in front of any audience that will listen.
  • To stand up for academic freedom and free speech, and the importance of scholarship, research, and the arts across the disciplines.
  • To work doggedly to develop the resources necessary to achieve relentless excellence and greater levels of public service.

I am often asked about my list of priorities. It is simply too early to have anything set in stone — in fact, a first and important place to begin is listening and learning. I’m particularly interested in learning more about you and how the university is empowering you to succeed and what opportunities we may have to build on the great work that is happening across our campuses.

One of the things that I learned here as a faculty member and then again as dean at the University of Michigan, is that students are the leaders of any academic community. When facing a crisis or conflict, student voices have consistently lead the way. We have a lot work to do together on this campus and in this community, and I look forward to working with all of you as we chart a course together.

One of best part of the last few months has been hearing from so many of my former Washington University students. For many years I taught the infamous Political Science 363 — Quantitative Political Methodology — to every political science major. It certainly wasn’t the most beloved class, but it was great to get to know each major coming through the department each year.

I anticipate spending a lot of time with all of you in the years to come. On campus, in the dining halls, in the classroom, at special events, and rooting on the Washington University Bears on the field of play. My wife. Stephanie, daughter, Olive, and our Boston Terrier, Danny, look forward to inviting you into our home and into our lives in the years to come. And I hope some of you choose to take the course I’ll be offering next academic year. I’m still working on the details and topic, so please keep your eyes open.

You might be wondering what I’ll be up to over the next three or so months, before I am here for my first full day in the office on January 2. Lots of things happening at once:

  • I continue to serve the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at U-M through November 4. Just welcomed our newest faculty and students and am in the process of bidding farewell to my faculty and staff colleagues and my leadership team. So far I’ve attended three home football games at the Big House, and one on the road, with three more home games to go!
  • Here in St. Louis as much as possible — just about every week, to listen, learn, and get ready for the start of the year.
  • And from November 4 through Thanksgiving, a real vacation for me and my family, and then we’ll move to St. Louis.

Before I close, I am going to ask for your help. I need:

  • Your advice, counsel, and wisdom, shared regularly and often.
  • You to embrace my wife Stephanie and daughter Olive as they re-engage with St. Louis and the university.
  • You to continue to support the university in the many ways you are already doing.
  • You to be patient. Patient as I learn more about the university and its role in community. I need your patience as we smoothly transition leadership over the coming academic year. And patience when I forget a name, step into a pothole that I may or may not have known existed, or accidentally drop a “Go Blue” at an inopportune time.

I am so excited to get to work. The leadership team here is outstanding, and I am honored to be working with Chancellor Wrighton, Provost Thorp, Vice Chancellor White, the deans, and the rest of the team, focused on the core mission of education, scholarship, patient care, and public service.

I’m just one person whose life has been touched in so many ways by Washington University. I will serve as your chancellor to make sure this university continues to transform the lives of those who we have the privilege to serve.