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September 12, 2011

Dear Members of the Tufts Community,

I want to extend a warm welcome back to school to all of you, and especially to the students, faculty and staff who are beginning their first semester at Tufts with me. I have been in my new job for a little more than a month now, and each day, as I explore our campuses and meet new colleagues, I am reminded of what a remarkable community this is. It reaffirms how fortunate I am to be serving as president of this distinguished institution.

I hope you all have had the opportunity to relax and recharge over the summer and are ready to join me as we begin to shape a vision for the Tufts University of tomorrow.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming extraordinary students, at Matriculation for the undergraduate Class of 2015 and at many different orientation events for incoming graduate and professional students. As I’ve met our new and returning students, I have been singularly impressed by their aspirations, their talents and their desire to use their Tufts educations to make a difference in their communities and beyond.

Once again, our new undergraduates are in a class by themselves. Lee Coffin, our dean of undergraduate admissions, tells me that these students will enrich our campus life with a diversity of experiences and perspectives.

This year’s applicant pool was the largest in the university’s 159-year history. We received 17,130 applications, 11 percent more than last year. Clearly, Tufts is a destination of choice. They’re also academically strong, with the highest mean SAT scores in both the math and writing sections of the SAT of any class in history. We have awarded members of the class just over $15 million in need-based financial aid, an increase of $1 million over last year. I’m sure that our faculty would concur that they have a remarkable group of students to teach and mentor—and to learn from.

Summer is always a busy season for our Facilities Services department as we prepare for the arrival of each new class. We use that time to improve and enhance our physical plant to create the best environment possible for teaching, learning and working at Tufts. On the Medford/Somerville campus in mid-August, we “topped off” the steel framing for the new Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center. When it opens a year from now, the Tisch Center will serve to strengthen our commitment to a healthy lifestyle while enhancing our competitive athletics programs. This project is but one visible sign of the generosity of so many alumni, parents, friends, corporations and foundations who made gifts in support of our faculty, students and campuses during the successful $1.2 billion Beyond Boundaries campaign.

I must say that the triumphant end of the campaign in June was surely Tufts’ crowning achievement this summer. The university raised $434 million for scholarships and other support for students in all our schools and established more than 630 new endowed and term scholarships. Donors also gave $386 million for faculty recruitment and research and $137 million for new facilities. I am inspired by our extended family of philanthropists and their continued commitment to Tufts.

Also on the Medford/Somerville campus, renovations were completed at Bendetson Hall, home to Undergraduate Admissions, and at the Mayer Campus Center. You’ll notice the bright blue, newly resurfaced Vouté Tennis Courts outside the Fletcher School and a new façade at Capen House, home of the Africana Center. On the health sciences campus in Boston, energy-efficient windows were installed on the west elevation of the School of Dental Medicine building, and renovations were completed on the fifth and sixth floors of the Arnold Building to accommodate the growth of the Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology. On the Grafton campus, the pathology curriculum is poised for a major upgrade with the renovation of the Pathology Suite, which doubled the size of the amphitheater used to teach veterinary students and residents and incorporates new learning technologies. Less visible, but no less important, is the progress we have made on deferred maintenance projects on all three campuses. To learn more about work completed on our campuses over the summer, visit

I am pleased to share some good news about the university’s financial performance during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. We realized a modest budget surplus. This reflected higher-than-anticipated enrollments, success in attracting grants and contracts for sponsored research and some cost savings. We also saw a healthy return on our investments, giving us some welcome breathing room as we closely monitor the volatile state of the financial markets.

At this time, we anticipate adhering to our budget as planned for the new fiscal year that began on July 1. We will continue to evaluate the external economic climate and its impact, and will rely on our managers to make prudent spending decisions. Tufts has a strong tradition of financial discipline that has allowed the university to remain robust during past economic downturns.

Still, we need to remain cautious and judicious in our planning assumptions. The recent fluctuations in the markets, both here and abroad, are a sobering reminder of how quickly the economic outlook can change. While advancing our mission, we need to be mindful of the complex and changing environment in which we are operating.

As you no doubt know from the daily reports in the news media, the constraints on budgets at the federal and state levels are affecting all of U.S. higher education. Tufts is no exception. We are closely watching the projections for federally subsidized student financial aid, research funding and other public support. We anticipate that we may need to adjust to funding reductions over the course of the year, depending on legislative and administrative actions.

In these challenging times, the quality of our faculty, staff and students will continue to be our foremost competitive advantage. I have already talked about our extraordinary students, and the same holds true for our faculty, staff and administration. It is reassuring to be surrounded by such talented and resourceful colleagues, who, I am confident, will work with me to find creative solutions to whatever challenges we may encounter.

The process for selecting the university’s next provost is well under way, thanks to the work of a dedicated search committee, led by Professor Vali Nasr of the Fletcher School. Peggy Newell is making an exceptional contribution to our academic enterprise as Provost and Senior Vice President ad interim.

We continue to augment our faculty ranks with great hires across all the academic departments, and my administrative team is first-rate. The new Dean of the School of Dental Medicine, Huw Thomas, started work the same day I did. I am deeply grateful to Robin Kanarek and Nancy Wilson for serving as deans ad interim of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and the Tisch College of Citzenship and Public Service, respectively.

Also joining the team this summer was Kevin Maguire, the university’s new Director of Public Safety, while Kim Thurler has assumed additional responsibilities and is now serving as Director of Public Relations across the university.

I have begun collaborating with colleagues on important initiatives for the year ahead. A steering committee is already at work to guide our preparation for evaluation for continued accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. We are moving ahead with an ambitious effort that will produce a state-of-the-art Student Information System. It will enhance the productivity of faculty and staff and give students at all our schools a seamless way to access their academic records, register for classes, get answers to billing and financial aid questions and conduct other business.

As I have spoken with you, it has become clear to me that this university community is truly passionate about its commitments to both diversity and sustainability. Those are commitments I share, and it is up to all of us to work together to sustain our momentum. Accordingly, over the next few weeks I will be announcing plans for two university-wide councils to review our efforts in these critical areas and recommend next steps for the administration. I will chair both of these councils, which will include members from among our faculty, students, staff and trustees.

A great deal of activity is already under way to advance our commitment to diversity. The Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering have established a new office of intercultural and social identities programs, and the leadership of A&S is committed to a thoughtful, forward-looking response to the recommendations of the Africana Studies Task Force. The new Presidential council on diversity will take a university-wide view. It will assess in particular how we can best recruit and support a diverse community of students, faculty and staff; how we can enhance a climate of inclusion across the university; and what administrative structures will allow us to deploy resources most effectively to advance our shared goals.

A conference convened by then-President Jean Mayer at our European Center in Talloires, France, in 1990 helped launch the green campus movement around the world. New technologies and a strong surge of interest within our community combine to make this the right moment for a fresh assessment of how we can put our ideals into practice. The new Presidential council on sustainability will assess strategic directions to ensure that our campus operations reflect the commitment to the environment that informs our extraordinary academic work in this arena. While taking a broad view, the council will look particularly closely at carbon management, waste and water.

We need to bring passion and our very best ideas to bear on both diversity and sustainability. In order to make that possible, these councils will not only seek expert guidance but also engage members of the university community in a consultative process. They will also present their draft recommendations for comment by the community. I believe this process will lead to recommendations that we can collectively embrace as a framework for action. I will formally launch both councils with more detailed announcements in the coming weeks regarding their membership, charge, and process.

I anticipate that this will be a stimulating and productive year. I hope to meet many more of you in the weeks and months ahead, and to continue to connect with members of the Tufts community around the world through Twitter and LinkedIn. I invite you to join me at my Inauguration ceremony on Friday, October 21, on the Medford/Somerville campus. If you cannot attend, you are welcome at any of the related Inaugural events that will take place on each of our three campuses that same week. I am also looking forward to getting to know Tufts’ extended network of alumni, parents and friends at upcoming events on campus, around the country and around the world.

From the beginning, you have made me feel that I am a “Jumbo.” Please do say hello and introduce yourself when you see me on campus. I’m here to listen: