Inaugural speech of Michael S. Garrison
22nd President of West Virginia University
Oct. 19, 2007
Today- we commit ourselves once more to the spirit of this University.
And this commitment is enriched by the hard work and sacrifice of the generations of Mountaineers who came before us.
Mindful of those efforts, it is our obligation to take our University forwardyou and I.
It was here, where we gather today, that West Virginia University began.
Here, we recognize the passing of responsibilities from one steward to the nextand we consider the responsibilities that have been passed from one generation to another.
This University that we all love did not develop by accident. One hundred and forty years ago,
a handful of people came together here in Morgantown �€at the direction of our Governor and our Legislature �€to build this university.
And this University was destined to be, in the words of our first President, Alexander Martin, West Virginiasbrightest ornament and crowning glory.
Let us never lose sight of the fact that West Virginia University is held in trust for the people of West Virginia. Each of us hereare here to serve.
We serve our students. We serve the world. And, most importantly, we serve the state of West Virginia.
The founders of this University understood this mission of service. They lived in a time when democratic government was still a bold American experiment, one that had nearly failed just a few years before.
At the time, West Virginia itself was but a teetering infant of a state, a product of the turmoil that bloodied its land and divided its people.
The creation of this state university, then, was a visionary act.
It was a deliberate turn away from the past, and a vote of confidence in the future.
WVU was established on the clearest of principles
The principle that lives could be forever changed by education;
The principle that the pursuit of knowledge is both valuable and worthwhile;
And the principle that public institutions shouldthey mustserve the needs of the greatest possible number of citizens.
Our founders saw to it that the sons and daughters of coal miners and factory workers would walk side by side with the sons and daughters of bank presidents and corporate leaders-
All entitled to the honest pursuit of their own ambition and all contributing to the advancement of our state and our nation.
Because of this, the diversity of our University community is one of our greatest strengths.
We are enriched by the cultures, the languages, and the spirit of the people who make up WVU .
We will always hold open the doors of this University to all who dream of a better life.
Opportunity is here for all. Success is here for those who earn it.
And although times may have changed since 1867, our values have not.
West Virginia University today remains a unifying force in the lives of the people of this state.
Make no mistake about it: this University is West Virginias greatest asset.
From Parkersburg to Petersburg, from Wheeling to Welch, from Terra Alta to Tug Fork and from Fayetteville to Fairmontwe are all Mountaineers. We proudly wear the gold and blue.
Outside our bordersfrom Boston to Beijingthe Flying WV, worn proudly by alumni and strangers alike, represents what is best about West Virginia.
What is it that creates such pride, such a sense of belonging?
First and foremost, it is because of the people who have gone forth from this campus:
Because of who they are; Because of how they lead their lives; and Because of what they contribute to their communities.
Everywhere you look in this state, in this country and around the worldMountaineers are making a difference.
I am proud to be among these Mountaineers.
I am proud to be one of the 170,000-strong alumni of West Virginia University. I share the pride that unites our state.
And I am forever grateful for the change that this University made in my life.
We must never forget that one of five of our students will be the first in their family to graduate from college.
We celebrate and acknowledge this fact because it reflects the true embodiment of the mission of West Virginia University.
Each of those students represents a family that will be changedperhaps for generationsby the experiences that student is having at WVU .
Each students parents, siblings, friends and even later, that students children, become a part of the WVU family and share our Mountaineer pride.
I am humbled to be a beneficiary of that mission.
And I owe a great debt, as many others do, to the faculty of this University.
The men and women on this faculty who taught me, challenged me, encouraged me, and believed in me
You made it possible for me to do more with my life. You gave me the tools to succeed. You gave me the opportunity to grow. For this, I will be forever grateful.
Today, WVU faculty are a vital part of the global academic community.
The impact of their work reaches out across the world. Yet their research, in keeping with the land grant mission, is tied to West Virginias needs.
They enrich the lives of our students and our community.
WVU is at a crossroads in its research enterprise. It is here, where our potential for advancement may be the greatest.
We have on our faculty today researchers and teams of scientists across disciplines, who not only excel in their own work, but are national and international leaders in their fields.
We are positioned for true greatness as a research university.
We look forward to partnering with the State of West Virginiaas other states partner with their research universities- to develop a system of support that maximizes private investment, rewards discovery, and contributes to the growth of science-based economic enterprises.
Today, West Virginia University is fulfilling the commitment of 1867 to serve our statewith campuses across the state and a robust and meaningful presence in each of our 55 counties.
We lift up the health of children and adults; We drive economic and social development; and
We take education to people in their own homes and in their own communities.
This Universitylike this stateowes a great deal to each of you who offer your talents, your energy, and your dedication to the important work that we do.
The pride that we take in our work is not just based upon what we do as individuals, but what our contributions allow others to accomplish.
Every day, no matter what our job, we must never forget that we are all part of something much bigger.
Two people who embody this dedication are David and Susan Hardesty.
West Virginia University owes them a debt of gratitude for their work over the past 12 years.
We have grown in size, in reputation, and in our impact upon the state and the nation. For that, WVU is a better place.
David and Susan, thank you both very much.
At WVU , our commitment to our students means, first and foremost, that we must attract and retain superior faculty and staff.
We will have a hard time achieving any of our other goals without meeting this one.
The work of our faculty and staff must be rewarded. Let me make it clear-
My priority will be to fairly and fully compensate all who do the work of this Universityso that we can focus on the important task of moving this University forward.
In 1962, WVU President Paul Miller said:Any true University is an adventure: essentially because the civilized community, willing even to be criticized, wants the truth about itself.
And in the history of this great University, there has been no shortage of outspoken Mountaineersand thankfully, there is no shortage today.
This Administration began with conversationsconversations that involved thousands of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and people who simply love this University.
Throughout these conversations, I have listened to the Voices of our University.
Overwhelmingly, these Voices return to our essential principles: That we will be a University that changes lives for the better;
A University that promotes the growth of knowledge; And a University that serves the people of West Virginia.
To remain true to these principles, we must commit ourselves and our University to excellence every day, for nothing is more important to the future of our University, and to the future of our State.
We must never (never) lose sight of the fact that our true value is in our people.
And we must continue to engage the University communityand the citizens of this Statein determining our path.
For no one person can adequately reflect the diverse and dynamic nature of our University and of our State.
The conversations that have launched this Administration will continue, in many forms and in many places.
The Voices of this University are strong. They are wise, some wise beyond their years. And they must be heard. I invite you to listen to some of these Voices. _ VOICES _
* Voices of West Virginia University
*Robert DiClerico : Im Robert DiClerico, Eberly Professor of Political Science.
West Virginia University has provided us with an environment in which the opportunities to stimulate the intellect are richly varied, constant, and readily accessible. A critically important source of that stimulation comes, of course, from students, who bring with them a cargo of beliefs, concerns, and talents that enable us to learn from them even as they learn from us. For the community of learners who are here now, and for those yet to come, we can do no better than to heed the words expressed so eloquently by the poet John Masefield, who tells us that the university must be”a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know; where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see; where seekers and learners alike, banded together in the search for knowledge, will honor thought in all its finer ways, will welcome thinkers in distress or exile, will uphold ever the dignity of thought and learning.
Shelia Price : Im Shelia Price, Associate Dean for Admissions, Recruitment and Access to Care, and Professor of Diagnostic Sciences at the West Virginia University School of Dentistry.
Early in my life, fifth grade to be exact, I wanted to be a dentist. As a native of Boone County and a first generation college student, it seemed that a long journey lay ahead, and indeed it did. However, I received a lot of support, much of it here at WVU ; and on May 18, 1986, I became a significant firstthe first in my family to earn a doctoral degree and the first African American woman dental graduate from the WVU School of Dentistry.
In my role at the university, I am rewarded by being a part of meaningful outreach across the state that improves access to quality oral health care. Because of what West Virginia University has given me, and now allows me to give others, I have immeasurable love and loyalty for my alma mater. WVU made it possible for me to transform my dream into reality.
Gayle C. Manchin : Im Gayle C. Manchin, First Lady of West Virginia, and a 1969 graduate of WVU .
The state of West Virginia is committed to providing an exemplary educational foundation. One that allows its residents to compete with students from anywhere in the world�€right here at home. WVU models the qualities we are nurturing in secondary education. We are building an environment where students have all the opportunities they need to engage in lifelong learning, research, and entrepreneurship. At this university, the next generation of leaders in education will be empowered to transform our educational system at all levels. I am confident that they will do so.
Christopher Williamson : Im Chris Williamson, a recent alumnus and first-year student at the WVU College of Law.
When I first arrived on campus six years ago, I was a shy, awkward boy from Mingo County. Like President Garrison, I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. Throughout my life, my grandfather has been my pillar of strength, relentlessly stressing to me the importance of education. From the time I first picked up a book, it has been his dream for me to go to college and to be successful in life so I wont have to face the same hardships that he has. When I finish my studies, I want to give back and serve West Virginia. I want to improve the lives of people like my grandfather.
My grandfather is here today visiting the university that has given his grandson so much, no doubt smiling and very proud.
Gary Boyd : Im Gary Boyd, Assistant Director of Maintenance in Facilities Management.
In the 25 years Ive worked here, Ive watched generations of students graduate from WVU . We, the men and women in facilities management, literally set the stage for every student who walks at commencement. But we also work to set the stage in ways students never see. The pride that we take in our work is based not just on what we do as individuals. It is based on the mission that our work supports and on what our contributions help others to accomplish. And, last year WVU helped me to accomplish a lifelong goal. I completed my bachelors degree. And, this fall, I started my masters degree in communications.
Captain Lee Ann Campbell : I am CPT Lee Ann Campbell, a 2001 graduate, from Keyser, West Virginia.
I am an Army Aviation officer currently serving as a company commander stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia. Along with a quality education, WVU gave me the skills to be a leader and independent thinker. Here, I gained the qualities necessary to thrive in todays military. From graduating flight school, to flying combat missions in Iraq, to supporting Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts in Louisiana, I am certain that my West Virginia University education has greatly influenced my achievements. I fly the Mountaineer flag proudly in my office and at home, and all of my fellow Soldiers know that I am a true Mountaineer. Whether I am flying a helicopter in Iraq or flying the gold and blue on game day, knowing that the spirit of West Virginia is omnipresent, and knowing that I can always come home, is the greatest feeling in the world.
Judith Scully : Im Judith Scully, Professor of Law at the WVU College of Law.
I have dedicated my eleven-year journey at WVU to creating a more diverse environment at the College of Law. Ive seen firsthand how we must work together to reach our goals. While the power of one voice should not be underestimated, our voices gain power in symphony. WVU has taught me that any one of us can make a difference and when we create an inclusive community, it is sometimes possible to do the impossible.
Bob Huggins : Im Bob Huggins, head coach of the WVU Mens Basketball Team and a 1977 graduate.
Sometimes we take a long journey to get home, but finally arriving is always sweeter if the road has a few surprising twists. My career has taken me across the country, around the world, and to places I never imagined. But here I am: back where I started, a Mountaineer in my bones now coaching the young men in gold and blue. Its good to be home.
Frances Bennett: Im Frances Bennett, Director of WVU s Upward Bound program.
When I first arrived at WVU as an out-of-state freshman, I barely knew a soul. I thought I had a clear plan of what I wanted my life to beand what I should study. But then, something changed me. My professors encouraged me, challenged me, and taught me to look beyond the realm of the familiar. Staff and administrators mentored me. I developed leadership skills through public service and advocacy. Their gift to me made one thing clearI should do my best to give something back. And so now its my turn. I help first-generation students earn their degrees. I help them navigate the system, find their own path, and tap into their own unique skills and abilities. And in the end, their success is a gift to us all.
Vivian Lama : Im Vivian Lama, a student originally from Miami, Florida, but for me, WVU is home. I came here, the first in my family to go to college. I carried their hopes and dreams with me. Then, they followed in my footstepsmy mother and stepfather both enrolled at WVU and graduated. My little brother is a sophomore here now. WVU not only changed my life, it changed the future of my entire family. My family sent me here to get an education, but what we really found here was a home. President Garrison, we welcome you home.
Thank you all for being a part of this University.
Mountaineers are a people of spirit. We are energetic. We are motivated. We dont fear challenges.
And we are willing to create our own opportunities when others may simply give up.
This University reflects and amplifies what is best about this state.
We draw upon its values. We are inspired by its history. We are creating its future.
West Virginia Universitythere is no challenge that is too great for us.
We have the strength of character. And we have a clear path ahead.
This University will always remain an institution of, by, and for the people of West Virginia.
But something fundamental has changed in our relationship with the state.
We are, more and more each year, standing on our own feet in terms of how we finance and how we build our University.
We are looked to, more and more each year, not as an obligation of state government, but rather as an engine of economic growth.
And we have truly become much more than a mere ornament to this state. We are this states lifeblood.
That change, brings both challenge and opportunity.
The challenge is that some at a more independent University may grow to believe that it has a mission apart from the interests of the people of this State.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
We will always be West Virginias university.
And we will always be West Virginias hope.
Rest assured, with the leadership of our Board of Governors, this Administration understands what that means, and the obligations that it entails.
Our duty has never been more clear.
The opportunity presented to us, on the other hand, is great. We willwe mustbecome an entrepreneurial institutionan institution that is:
Quick to respond to challenges; Quick to seize opportunities; and
Quick to move in new directions demanded by the changing world around us.
We must generate from our own vast human capital the energy to meet each new opportunity head on.
We must take charge of our own destiny.
Just this week, we took a huge step in that direction, with the generosity of two very special Mountaineers, Jo and Ben Statler.
Jo and Ben, like many, many others, have had their lives shaped by growing up in West Virginia and shaped by this University.
They experienced great success in their livesbut never forgot where they came from and where that success began.
And just two days ago, Jo and Ben pledged to our University the largest single gift in its 140-year history.
Jo and Ben, please stand, so that we can all say thank you.
Universities are places of study, contemplation, and robust, but reasoned, debate.
We preserve, as we move forward, the knowledge that much of what we deal with is as complex as it is important.
The issues our University faces are not easily solved with mere slogans or superficial rhetoric.
But once we have charted a course for this University, we will not allow our passion for study to divert us from the necessity of action.
WVU will be known for its decisiveness and determination.
We cannot afford delay when the needs of our students, our community, our state are so urgent.
I want to speak directly to those of you who are students.
I am very impressed (very impressed) with your energy, your intellect, and your resolve.
Some of you are veterans, who know full well the value of the lives we lead in a peaceful and tolerant society. It is your service that allows us that privilege.
Others, are first-generation students who recognize, as I do, the life-changing opportunities this University provides.
Still others, are second, third, or even fourth generation Mountaineers whose ties to West Virginia University are a treasured part of your family history.
The enthusiasm that all of you bring to this campus makes this WVU a special place. It is who we are.
It is our tradition.
In 1911, when WVU President Thomas Hodges delivered what was a very serious inaugural address, he also said this:
I believe in the college yell. I like to hear the class yells, fraternity yells, sorority yells, and all other yells that are right and proper. But the best of all is the yell for the Old Gold and Blue, and if there be any one upon whose ears this yell grates harshly, I am sorry for him; for there is a serious lack in his makeup; and he is without power to appreciate a very fine thing.
I tend to agree with President Hodges.
Students, always remember this: at West Virginia University, it has often been you who led us in new directions.
WVU students, rightfully, feel a sense of ownership and belonging in WVU it is your home.
Students, you are the heart and soul of this University. Never underestimate the power of your ideas.
Never misjudge the power that you hold to shape your own futures and the future of this institution.
Students of this generationyou will leave a legacy here. Sooner than you imagine, you will determine what that legacy will be.
I urge you to think beyond the everyday issues of the campus. Keep in mind the special place that this University holds in the life of our state and in the lives of its people.
Imagine the world you want to live inas an alumnus, perhaps as a parent, and definitely as a leaderbecause you will be a leader. Imagine, . . .then take a step in that direction.
Do not be afraid to be bold. Do not be afraid to be criticized. Do not be afraid to take risks. Students, this University is your home.
You must own it, respect it, and, most importantly, use what you find here to create your own success
And use what you find here to create opportunities for those who follow in your footsteps as Mountaineers.
I know your character. I know that you will. Fellow Mountaineers: I want to thank you.
Thank you for the opportunities that West Virginia University has placed before me.
Thank you for the bonds of friendship and of family that have folded me into this University community.
Thank you all for the trust that you have placed in me.
I will be truly blessed if this trust is as great as the trust that I have in each and every one of you.
Together, we will move this University forward. I accept the challenge.