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Last modified: Thursday, April 15, 2004

Herbert's inaugural address: Extending the Reach of Knowledge

Photo by: Chris Meyer

Print-Quality Photo

NOTE: This is a synopsis of Adam W. Herbert's speech delivered today (April 15) at his inauguration. An expanded version is available at the Indiana University Office of the President Web site:

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In an inaugural speech delivered just after he was installed as the 17th president of Indiana University in the IU Auditorium today (April 15), Adam W. Herbert honored the history of Indiana University, reaffirmed its commitments, recognized new challenges and presented a vision for the future.

Herbert acknowledged the unique identity of Indiana University. "Ours is a community characterized by personal warmth reflective of Hoosier hospitality," he said, "a lack of pretentiousness, a focus on the individual, a genuine concern for the students we teach, a commitment to the life of the mind, a profound dedication to deepening our understanding of the human condition, and a determination to be of service to the citizens who support our enterprise."

He saluted the university's founders for their foresight and resolve in establishing the Indiana Seminary in 1820 on the edge of the frontier. And he underscored the 21st-century challenges facing the university today. "We are adapting to a highly competitive global economy. The majority of states in the union, including our own, are emerging from a very difficult national economic period. The nation is engaged in an escalating war against terrorism."

Herbert used an allegorical reference to a story about the British architect, Sir Christopher Wren, who designed St. Paul's Cathedral in London, to frame his vision for Indiana University. "While supervising the construction of one of the world's most magnificent cathedrals, he began to question some of the stonemasons. Asked what he was doing, one mason said, 'I am cutting stone for 10 shillings a day.' Another responded, 'I am carrying stones to build a wall.' A third worker replied, 'I am helping Sir Christopher Wren construct one of London's greatest cathedrals.'

"The opportunity before us today," Herbert continued in a call to the university community to share his vision, "is to shape and lay the stones that will serve as the foundation for expansions and additions, new spires and buttresses for this magnificent cathedral of learning."

Herbert then presented six "building blocks," or priorities, essential for constructing the vision:

  • Clarifying the mission for each of our campuses and for the university as a whole
  • Ensuring that our curriculum reflects our faculty's values and priorities
  • Preparing our students to live, work and learn in a world increasingly characterized by global diversity
  • Enhancing our research agenda
  • Making strategic investments in areas of excellence
  • Helping to build a knowledge-based, 21st-century Hoosier economy.

While vigorously emphasizing that IU's eight campuses are one institution, Herbert's first priority, already in place, is a "Mission Differentiation" project, an internal analysis of assets that will assist in clarifying the mission for each of IU's eight campuses, as well as for the university as a whole.

"Each of our campuses has unique strengths built upon faculty skills and disciplinary emphases that have evolved in response to the values of the university and the needs of those we serve," he said. "The collective strengths and characteristics of our campuses define who we are as an institution." Herbert called the project "historic" and said, "Our Mission Differentiation process is a liberating opportunity for each campus to propose a realistic vision of what it can become in the broader context of the need of the state and the constituents we serve."

Herbert's second priority stressed that it is important for every university to affirm its collective identity in curricular terms, a process, he said, that has been undertaken at the nation's finest universities.

He reminded the audience of an ancient foundation. "The intellectual roots of institutions such as ours can be traced to the probing questions about the nature of truth and knowledge that Socrates posed to strangers in the Athenian market place. They hark back to Plato's Academy, where instruction in philosophy, geometry and other advanced subjects was formalized and the very purpose of the Academy was debated: should it conserve and transmit what were perceived as timeless values, or was its task to encourage the kind of critical thinking that could lead to the transformation of society's values?"

In order to prepare students for participation in today's world, and to avoid resting upon our laurels, he urged the entire IU community to "make 2004-2005 a year in which we engage in a comprehensive and thoughtful examination of the IU undergraduate experience," a pursuit that will be led by the university's senior vice president for academic affairs and the University Faculty Council.

Of his third priority, Herbert cited IU as an international citizen, an identity first nurtured by Herman B Wells, IU's 11th president. "President Wells believed that the university was not just in Bloomington or even the state of Indiana," Herbert said. "The world, he argued, is our field of engagement. I share that commitment."

Acknowledging the "challenges of contemporary world conflicts," Herbert urged a strengthening of resolve to continue IU's long history of international engagement. He emphasized the need to develop additional overseas study programs in order to serve a wider range of students. He also stressed continuing commitment to the many ongoing faculty and student international activities. "Just as we will work even more aggressively to enhance the diversity of the community of scholars on our campuses, it is important that we also educate our students to appreciate global diversity," Herbert said. "In a world rife with conflict, distrust, anger and bitterness, the need for better communication, cross-cultural understanding and open dialogue has never been greater. The young adults of tomorrow will be citizens of the world. We need to help them prepare for that obligation."

Herbert went on to stress the expansion of research, theoretical and applied, as a fourth priority. "The 21st century is quickly emerging as one in which the life sciences are taking on particular significance," he said. "We are clearly on the threshold of unlocking the secrets of human diseases that will make good health and longevity the birthright of all humanity. IU must continue to be at the forefront of this rapidly exploding frontier."

But in so doing, Herbert said, it is important to remember the role of the arts and humanities in nourishing the human mind and soul. "One of our challenges is to identify new ways to expand support for research endeavors in these frequently neglected areas of such import to humankind. We must ensure that our scholars receive the necessary support to maintain IU's leadership in arts and humanities scholarship and creative work," he said.

Herbert then announced a goal to help IU in this effort. "It is essential that we continue to strengthen our research productivity. In addition to increased scholarly publications, works of art, concerts and other forms of creative scholarly activity, our goal must be to double Indiana University's externally funded research grants and contracts by the end of the decade."

"The transition from being an excellent university to a truly distinguished one is among the most difficult stages of institutional development," Herbert said in explaining his fifth priority. He said that limited resources prevent IU from being world class in every aspect of intellectual inquiry, and he added, "I will work closely with faculty in an effort to become increasingly more strategic in our major academic investment for the future, with priority focus on areas that offer the greatest potential for true distinction over time."

Herbert used IU's pre-eminence in information technology as an example: "We must duplicate this level of strategic investment and creativity in other areas of promise." Herbert said that he would emphasize strategic investments that encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, and that he would commit fully to the vision of a research corridor spanning the state from Bloomington through Indianapolis to West Lafayette.

Herbert also said that in raising IU to the next level, a major commitment must be made to faculty excellence through additional efforts to retain current faculty and attract additional world-class colleagues, funding graduate and undergraduate students, and on all of our campuses "maintaining a long-term goal of bringing the salaries of both faculty and staff more in line with those of our peers, against whom we compete for their services."

Of his sixth and final priority, Herbert said, "Indiana's universities and the knowledge they produce are this state's greatest assets in the effort to build a 21st-century economy."

He continued, "Our task is to generate and apply that most valuable of resources in ways that enable our state to realize its full potential. Indiana University's commitment to serving the needs of Hoosiers includes educating the next generation of knowledge workers, enhancing quality of life through cutting-edge healthcare, a wide array of arts and cultural activities, and developing intellectual property that can be translated into new companies, processes and products."

Herbert noted that IU is making significant progress. "The IU School of Medicine is three years into a new era of research in genomics," he said. "IU scientists in Bloomington and Indianapolis are unlocking the secrets of our most feared diseases, such as cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. We have opened the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute here in Bloomington. It is one of only three such facilities in America. Initiatives such as these will enable the university to achieve our goal of becoming one of the top five cancer centers in America and the best in the Midwest within the next five years."

Herbert offered other examples, as well, such as the increasing number of patents generated through IU's Advanced Research and Technology Institute and the IU Emerging Technologies Center, which has been so successful that a second incubator is planned. And he said that economic development continues to come from IU research in information technology.

Herbert finished his sixth priority with an acknowledgement of the role humanities and the arts play. "Recognizing that quality of life is an essential dimension of economic development," he said, "we will explore and support new ways to enrich the lives of others through continuing investments in the humanities and performing arts. We will utilize the abundant cultural riches of Indiana University to enhance the lives of all Hoosiers in a manner that transforms our state into a cultural oasis."

In conclusion, Herbert said, "Today we reaffirm our longstanding commitment to extend the reach of knowledge through free inquiry and scientific discovery, to educate leaders and thinking citizens, to improve the human condition through research and service, and to elevate the human spirit through creative activity."

Noting that the generosity of friends has placed IU second in the Big Ten and seventh among public universities in private support, Herbert said, "As we prepare for the exciting opportunities that await us, it is essential that IU expand this circle of generous supporters. Our quest for distinction demands that through the end of this decade, the university must increase private support each year by at least 10 percent over the previous year. With this level of support, our own resolve, our exceptionally deep reservoir of intellectual capital and our clear determination to fulfill the high expectations that are placed upon us, I am even more confident about the future we will share."