Penn State Board of Trustees meets; President Spanier's remarks

Remarks by Penn State President Graham Spanier
March 19, 2010

To begin I want to take a moment to reflect on our loss of Emmanuel Osagie, chancellor of Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus. Dr. Osagie died unexpectedly on March 9 from complications due to an illness.

Dr. Osagie was a dynamic and visionary leader, and he made a number of transformative changes at Penn State Fayette. He spearheaded the effort to internationalize the campus, and he created events to enhance the campus culture and learning environment.

A memorial service was held on Tuesday. Dr. Osagie will be greatly missed by the entire Penn State community.

Now I'd like to welcome Steve Garban and John Surma to their first meeting as chair and vice chair. We're very fortunate to have their leadership and commitment to our mission, and I am grateful for their longstanding support.

Cynthia Baldwin will be viewing our meeting from a new seat and a new perspective as she attends her first meeting as Penn State's new vice president and general counsel. Cynthia will provide an update on University legal affairs a little later.

The admissions season is upon us, and I'm pleased to report that we are seeing another record year in the number of admissions applications received by the University. Total applications for all campuses are ahead by 6 percent compared to last year, graduate applications are up 14 percent, and we have received more undergraduate applications to date than in any prior year. This week we passed 100,000 applications in the admissions cycle.

Notably, out-of-state undergraduate applications are up 7 percent for all campuses. Out-of-state minority applications are ahead 7 percent and Pennsylvania minority applications are ahead by nearly 9 percent.

Summer and fall paid acceptances at University Park are also ahead by 9 percent, and we are well on our way to meeting our University Park and Commonwealth Campuses admissions targets.

I recently appeared before the House and Senate appropriation committees to make the case for a better Penn State appropriation. During our sessions I believe we had some productive discussions, but we continue to lose ground with our appropriation. Governor Rendell's 2010-11 budget plan for the Commonwealth proposes $333.9 million to support Penn State. This includes a base appropriation of $318 million and $15.8 million in federal stimulus money. This funding proposal is equivalent to the University's appropriation for this year and has built into it a 6 percent base budget reduction imposed last year.

We know that Penn State has many supporters in the legislature, and the state is faced with its own budgetary problems. However, for every dollar invested by the Commonwealth to support operations of Penn State, the University returns $25 in total economic impact to Pennsylvania. I can't think of any other investment that has a comparable return. We will continue to push for a fair appropriation to help fund the education of our more than 94,000 students, to ensure that our faculty and staff receive raises, and to prepare us for the financial challenges ahead.

Now I have a few research accomplishments to share that demonstrate some of the ways Penn State is contributing to the Commonwealth and beyond.

First, nearly 2 million households and 200,000 businesses can look forward to high-speed Internet access as a result of a $99 million project awarded to the Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Education and Research, or KINBER, of which Penn State is a founding member. KINBER will build and manage PennREN, the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network, which crisscrosses the state to connect many rural locations. It will ultimately make service available to educational institutions, health care and community organizations, and research arms of commercial enterprises.

The funding for this project comes from federal stimulus funds and has attracted an additional $29 million in private investment. It is estimated that this project will create 1,000 jobs.

Another public/private partnership can be found in Penn State's relationship with The Volvo Group. The Volvo Group recently named Penn State as its first academic preferred partnership in North America. Together, the Penn State Institute of Energy and the Environment (PSIEE) and Volvo will research challenging issues in commercial transportation markets around the world. The focus will be on issues such as diesel combustion and efficiency, alternative fuels, hybrid vehicle design optimization and intelligent transport systems.

There are a number of important projects under way at The Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and the Penn State College of Medicine. One example is the recently dedicated $6.6 million simulation lab that will enhance the clinical training needs of students, residents and other health-care staff.

The simulation lab creates a dedicated space for training in bronchoscopy and laparoscopic surgery, among other procedures, and will improve patient care.

I am pleased to announce a $14.8 million award from the National Center for Research Resources toward the construction of a new biological research facility to support public health research. The 20,000-square-foot laboratory will enhance our growing life science and biomedical research programs, such as immunology and infectious disease research as well as vaccine development. This facility will include microbiology and virology laboratories, cell sorting capabilities, biocontainment suites and an insectary. As there is currently no similar research space on campus, the proposed building represents the fulfillment of a significant need for space to safely study important human and animal diseases.

Better health care is at the heart of research featured on a recent cover of Nature Magazine. Professor of biochemistry and molecular biology Stephan Schuster led a team of international researchers in a study of the genetic makeup of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and five others from southern Africa in an effort to examine genetic diversity. Professor of biology and computer science Webb Miller collaborated on the research and co-authored the study, which has important implications for bringing "personalized medicine" to the developing world and could provide insight into human evolution. If Drs. Schuster and Webb sound familiar, it's because this is the team that sequenced the wooly mammoth genome and were named among Time Magazine's 100 most influential people of 2009. I'm delighted that Dr. Miller could join us this morning — Dr. Schuster is out of town.

This spring Penn State Hillel received international attention when it was chosen from among 500 organizations around the world to receive Hillel International's "Great Place to Work Award." This honor recognizes Penn State Hillel as an outstanding model for staff culture and professional development.

I'd like to commend Aaron Kaufman, executive director of Penn State Hillel, for his extraordinary efforts to keep alive the pride and presence of Jewish religious and cultural life in the Penn State community.

Aaron is here, along with Hillel's student president, Michal Berns, who has been an important part of Hillel's service to students and the community. Michal is majoring in media law and policy, and she hails from Jerusalem, Israel.

It has been said that one way to get to Carnegie Hall is to practice.

Another way is to be a talented Penn State musician. On Wednesday, the Penn State Philharmonic will perform in the fourth annual Penn State President's Concert, which is a collaboration between my office, the Alumni Association and the School of Music. In addition to providing a world-class experience for our students, these concerts have helped our recruitment efforts and provide a unique entertainment opportunity for our alumni and friends. I'll look forward to seeing at least of few of you at the concert.

I'm proud to report another student accomplishment — this one on our University Park campus. Thanks to the work of a student ecology group from the College of Education, we're experimenting with new drinking water filling stations around campus. These sensor-activated filling stations accommodate reusable drinking cups and larger containers. The group collaborated with the Office of Physical Plant to install the new hydration stations as well as to upgrade some of the college's water fountains. The intention is to reduce the use of disposable plastic bottles, which will reduce our environmental footprint and keep our campus clean.

Moving on to athletics …

A Penn State alumnus brought home a bronze medal from the Winter Olympics. Allison Baver, a Penn State Berks graduate, won the bronze medal in the speed skating short track 3,000-meter relay. Allison credited Penn State Berks' students and teachers with giving her the flexibility and support that helped her achieve her dream of pursuing the Olympics while being a student.

At Penn State's Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track, the Nittany Lion women's track and field team captured the program's second Big Ten Indoor Championship.
Senior Bridget Franek said, "I've never heard the place so loud, and I've never been so proud to be a Penn Stater."

We all had a chance to be proud after this year's Dance Marathon. I have participated in THON for the last 15 years, and each year I am overwhelmed by the collective efforts of the entire Penn State family.

There were about 16,000 people in the Bryce Jordan Center and 80,000 watching THON through the live video stream on the web, when the students revealed the total — a record $7.8 million raised for The Four Diamonds Fund. This brings the total THON has raised to fight pediatric cancer to about $69 million, which has funded research and covered the expenses for about 2,000 families with children being treated at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.

In recognition of this effort, on March 2 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution congratulating the Penn State Interfraternity/Panhellenic Council Dance Marathon for its continued efforts to raise funds in support of the fight against pediatric cancer. This is well-deserved recognition.

I want to thank all of you and your families for your support of THON. Also, I'd like to introduce Caitlin Zankowski, a senior industrial engineering major and the overall chair for the 2010 THON. Please join me in thanking Caitlin for her role in making THON a success.

In February, the Libraries received the largest gift in Libraries' history. The $2.5 million gift was given jointly by Peter and Ann Tombros and Jeanette and John McWhirter to support the new Knowledge Commons in the Pattee Library. The funding will provide for a major renovation of central and west Pattee Library and will accommodate a technology-rich learning environment with flexible space, hardware and software, and expertise to nurture the intellectual development and creativity of students.

In addition to the gift for the Knowledge Commons given jointly with the McWhirters, Ann and Peter Tombros have pledged an additional $1.4 million to enhance the Libraries' collections in the classics and Greek literature. The new gift creates the Tombros Librarian for Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, the Tombros Libraries Collections Fund to Support Ancient Greek Studies and the Tombros Visiting Scholars Endowment.

As you know we had a record December for our development efforts, and we have had a very strong start to 2010. In February we received nearly $30 million in gifts and commitments. This gives us great momentum as we get ready for the official Campaign Kick-off of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, set for the weekend of April 23.

This will take place during Blue White weekend, and there are many events planned — I hope you can all be here.

Before I take questions, I'd like to show you a brief video clip about a modern marvel that was featured on The History Channel.

That sounds like a lot of potatoes until you see all of their uses — in vodka, tater tots, Mr. Potato Head and Spud Guns. The one-hour segment on The Potato featured Keith, along with his son, David, who is a Penn State alumnus in ag systems management. The episode was 16 months in the making and provides a fascinating look at modern agriculture.

That concludes my report, and now I would be happy to take your questions.

Penn State President Graham B. Spanier Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated November 19, 2010