2019 State of the University address

Below is a transcript of the State of the University address delivered by President Richard M. Englert on Sept. 19, 2019 at the Temple Performing Arts Center.

Good morning and welcome!

First, I’d like to say thank you. You, our faculty, healthcare specialists and staff, are the most dedicated and talented professionals I could ever imagine. The knowledge you impart, the inspiration you offer and the support you provide have a tremendous impact on our students, our patients and everyone this great university serves. Thank you for everything you do for our students as they reach for greatness for themselves and for the world at large. And thank you for all you do for our patients, clients and neighbors. It’s an honor to work with you each day, and I am deeply grateful for the privilege to work side by side with you.

I would like to give a special thank you to the men and women who work day, night, weekends and holidays to keep our campuses safe and well functioning. To everyone in Campus Safety Services, to all of our outstanding healthcare professionals, and to all who maintain our facilities 24/7, thank you for always answering the call for the Temple community! Please join me in saluting all of these dedicated professionals.

It is an honor to serve as Temple’s president at this exceptional moment in our history. While many other universities are struggling in this increasingly competitive landscape, I am proud to say that Temple University in 2019 remains a school highly-sought out by students pursuing the American dream. Today, I’ll talk about how far we’ve come. How we’re tackling the challenges we face today. And what’s next for Temple University.

I first came to Temple in 1976. Many of us remember the days when Temple University was a much smaller school and the entire city of Philadelphia was no taller than William Penn’s hat on City Hall. Since then, our city and our university have grown and become world-class in so many ways.

Today, Temple is recognized as a destination for those who care deeply about a quality education, healthcare and research in an urban setting. Temple is a place where students want to live and learn, a place alumni want to return to, a place where the healthcare is among the best in the country, and a place where we are shaping the future of this city, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and of the nation.

This evolution didn’t happen by accident. Our steady progress through the years has been the result of careful planning and execution. Those of you who have been around for at least a decade may recall our 2009 Academic Strategic Compass, the result of 18 months of careful strategic planning involving a broad cross-section of the Temple community. You may remember our 20/20 plan, which envisioned several far-reaching goals, including a new 21st century library at the heart of campus by the year 2020. We nailed that one. And you may remember our Visualize Temple campus master plan from October 2014 and even our Verdant Temple landscape plan in November 2014, both of which were grounded in the earlier Academic Strategic Compass and 20/20 plan. The strategic goals of those plans set in motion many of the bold realities we see today.

Right now, you can feel that big things are happening at Temple.

You feel it when you stand under the expansive archways of Charles Library. You feel it when you look out at the towering city skyline from Morgan Hall. And you feel it when you sit along Polett Walk and Liacouras Walk and see the steady flow of students on their way to and from class. The evolution of Main Campus is obvious as you walk on the new pavers past O’Connor Plaza and Founder’s Garden, and look across at the refurbished Bell Tower high above Lenfest Circle. And if you look to the south along 13th Street, you’ll see that the Alumni Owl is now back in a new spot, polished and ready to once again watch over the evolution that is taking place here.

This evolution can be measured in so many ways.

Over the past three years, we’ve seen the largest graduating classes in our history. With more than 39,000 students this year, we remain Philadelphia’s largest university. These students choose Temple to pursue their dreams, because they recognize the value that we offer and the impact Temple-made Owls can make. These students arrived at a university campus that continues to change for the better. For example, thanks to the great work of our university administrators and faculty and the leadership of the College of Public Health, Temple implemented a Tobacco-Free initiative this fall that will give us a healthier campus. And we have stepped up for the health of our campuses and the entire planet by producing our Climate Action Plan, building green roofs, installing walkways that allow rainwater to seep into the ground and creating a community garden adjacent to campus.

Temple’s evolution is especially symbolized by the debut this fall of a facility described in so many of our long-term plans—our amazing Charles Library. With this project, we dared to dream big—much bigger than most—to dream of a library second to none in academia. The stature of Charles Library catapults Temple University and the city of Philadelphia to a higher level of leadership in learning, research and innovation. It’s so important to have collaborative places that feel inspirational. Innovative spaces that encourage people to explore and discover across disciplines. Places that encourage people to believe that they are capable of greatness so that they can, in turn, go on to do great things for society.

There is no other place like it on our campus, and I would say, no place quite like Charles Library in this city. Unlike the solemnly quiet libraries of the past, this is a stirring building, that buzzes with the excitement of the people within. Without exaggeration, I believe we are setting a new standard with what is arguably the best new university library in the world.

And to pursue this vision, we partnered with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well as with major donors, including a very generous gift from our Klein College alumnus and trustee Steve Charles and his wife Janice. Charles Library is an investment in the potential of our students, our faculty and the local community, not just today, but for generations to come.

We should all take pride in what we’ve accomplished. Congratulations to Dean Joe Lucia, the entire libraries team, our Facilities Project Delivery Group, the talented construction crews, and the outstanding vision, commitment and support of our trustees and donors. Thank you!

Like the library itself, you are all outstanding!

Today, we are five years into our 10-year Visualize Temple master plan to develop our campuses in support of our core mission. Yet, even at this halfway point, I am happy to report that—like the library—we are achieving and exceeding the ambitious goals set out in that plan and in the earlier Academic Strategic Compass. I’d like to share our progress in six areas: research, enrollment, academics, athletics, affordability and community engagement.

First, a top academic goal stated in our plans was to elevate our research capabilities as a top-tier research institution. In short order, we earned R1 Carnegie status, placing us among the most active research universities in the nation. Since then our portfolio of outstanding achievements continues to grow each year, enhancing Temple’s reputation and our benefit to society at large as we create new knowledge and apply it.

For example, just this year we were very proud to see Temple researchers, including Kamel Khalili, Domenico Pratico and John Elrod, engaged in promising discoveries in the fight against HIV and Alzheimer’s. We are very proud of the excellent work of Grace Ma in establishing a Regional Comprehensive Cancer Health Disparities Partnership and of Rominder Suri in the Water and Environmental Technology Center.

Our research activities have also spawned a number of commercialization outcomes. For example, over the past 5 years, our faculty have generated 455 inventions and had 72 patents issued. During that same period, Temple has witnessed 22 new start-up companies and an investment of millions of dollars in start-ups from non-Temple venture funds. This is a real vote of confidence in Temple ingenuity.

Our faculty continue to be at the cutting-edge of research, development and application. Temple researchers are drawn from all over the world to make these life-changing breakthroughs here in Philadelphia; here at Temple. Please join me in congratulating all of our faculty, researchers and support staff here today who are dedicated to making Temple a better place! Thank you!

Second, five years ago we envisioned growing from roughly 37,000 to 39,000 over a 10-year period. We beat that timeline. As of this fall, more than 39,000 students are enrolled. Importantly, this size includes a richly diverse and academically talented student body that reflects the region and the world.

Third, we envisioned a substantial expansion of our Honors Program and nurturing new academic achievements by our students. We’ve grown our Honors Program, under the capable leadership of Ruth Ost, and we have established the Office of Scholar Development and Fellowship Awards, led by Barbara Gorka. As a result. our students have earned a larger number of impressive accolades. Thanks to the determination of our students and the support of our faculty and staff, Temple now boasts a Rhodes Scholar, two Goldwater Scholars, and more Fulbright student awardees than we’ve ever seen before. We are so proud of our scholars! Let’s recognize our outstanding students!

Fourth, we committed to both consolidating and enhancing our Temple Athletics facilities to support our wonderful student-athletes and to match the caliber of our American Athletic Conference peers. In recent years, we have been able to make significant upgrades to our facilities, including our basketball practice facilities and McGonigle Hall.

We also built the Aramark STAR Complex and built two new fields and support facilities at the Temple Sports Complex to bring our men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey and lacrosse teams to Main Campus from the suburbs. These efforts have allowed us to attract talented student-athletes and coaches to our 19 highly regarded athletics teams and to provide the high-quality programs that our students deserve.

We have also developed a world-class Resnick Academic Support Center to provide advising and tutorial services to our student athletes. Our athletes are amazing students. Over the summer, Temple University placed a record 259 student-athletes on the 2018-19 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team. Thanks to our faculty, advisors and coaches, our student-athletes have an overall 87% graduation success rate. And, by the end of the fall semester, we anticipate that 20 of our football players will have completed their Temple degrees. Congratulations to our student-athletes!

Fifth, we committed to making Temple the best value possible. That’s why we kept the undergraduate base tuition rate flat again this year for in-state students. That’s why we’ve been so committed to our highly successful Fly in 4 program, to help more students graduate on time or even early with less debt. And that’s why we continue to advocate for robust state support from our elected officials in Harrisburg and to aggressively solicit donor support among alumni and friends. Our commitment to affordability and access is unwavering.

Community Engagement
Sixth, as an educational and economic anchor for our broader community, we remain committed to engaging the city and our neighbors in important new ways. For example, last spring, we partnered with longtime local residents to launch the North Central Special Services District. This district, with predominant leadership by our neighbors, is dedicated to the upkeep and care of the nearby community, including additional trash collection and neighborhood safety efforts.

The district coupled with our student information campaign known as the Good Neighbor Initiative is demonstrating a more engaged relationship among the university, local residents and our students that is very promising for our thriving North Philadelphia neighborhood. I highly recommend that we all read the Temple News opinion article written by our student, Meaghan Burke, this week. She said it best when she wrote: “this is a neighborhood with people who have lived here for years and will long after we’re gone, and the least we can do is be neighborly, kind and respectful.” Thank you Meaghan, for a great opinion article.

We have also been happy to sponsor Philly Free Streets for two summers in a row, celebrating the fun and vitality of Broad Street with the entire city. Additionally, our Lenfest North Philadelphia Workforce Initiative just announced that it will spend nearly $2.6 million this year to help connect local residents to employment and better paying jobs. This initiative is possible thanks to a generous grant from the wonderful Lenfest Foundation which is committed to helping our neighbors secure family-sustaining jobs. We are already starting to see positive results, including the Neighborhood Job Fair we hosted in May, which featured roughly 140 employers and more than 1,000 job seekers—the largest job fair of its kind in the city.

Moreover, many of our trustees have asked how their philanthropy could support kids who live in the neighborhood. Thanks to their generosity, we were able to surprise 200 kids with bicycles and helmets this summer as a reward for completing a bike safety program hosted by Campus Safety Services. And this fall, we’ve provided book bags, school supplies and play equipment to help our area’s school children start the school year on a great foot. Our trustees are amazing, not simply in terms of their personal, financial generosity, but also in terms of their steadfast commitment to our students and the mission of our great university.

Our previous board chair, Patrick J. O’Connor, stepped down this summer from that role after 10 years of outstanding service; our new chair, Mitchell Morgan, a graduate of Temple, continues that commitment. Both of them, as well as the new vice chair of the board, Phil Richards, have all dedicated themselves to increasing support for students, keeping tuition affordable, strengthening support for our teaching and research missions and making certain that the university is constructively engaged with our local community in the best interests of our North Philadelphia neighbors. We are so fortunate to have such committed leadership.

These achievements are amazing. But believe me, they are only scratching the surface. I know that we could only have been successful in these achievements because of all you who made this long-term vision a reality. As we look ahead, there are many important ways that we are evolving to meet tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities.

Strategic Planning
First to build on our planning efforts of the past decade, our very supportive Board of Trustees has established a Strategic Direction and Long-Range Planning Committee to work with administrators and faculty and student leaders in addressing the many challenges the university will face in the years ahead.

Temple University Health
Second, we continue to take appropriate steps to restructure the Temple Health System to ensure its long-term sustainability. In this regard, we were very pleased to announce a collaboration with Thomas Jefferson University this summer. This collaboration includes our sale of Fox Chase Cancer Center and our interest in the Health Partners Plan. Our two universities also announced our intent to work together to address the challenges of Hahnemann Hospital and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

Given all of the uncertainties that have made health care headlines in recent months, the formation of this collaborative framework is a major step forward for patients, employees and the public. We recognize that getting this right is essential, so that we can continue to provide high-quality and life-saving care to our North Philadelphia community. They do God’s work. I am grateful to Larry Kaiser and the entire medical staff for their work. We are also exploring opportunities to collaborate with Jefferson University on initiatives in areas in addition to healthcare.

Data Integrity
Third, we know that data integrity is crucial. Last year, we welcomed Alejandro (Alex) Diaz, our Chief Compliance Officer. Alex oversees our Ethics and Compliance Office, which seeks to provide all members of the Temple community the resources and guidance needed to uphold the highest standards of integrity. Thanks to this office, we now have an Ethics and Compliance Helpline that is available to assist any of you if you have questions or concerns regarding ethical behavior at Temple.

Competition for Students
Fourth, we know that we have to continue to evolve to attract students in an increasingly competitive environment. Although we have been very successful up to now in getting a larger share of a smaller pie of potential students across the United States, we cannot be complacent. We face the same challenges that every other American college and university is facing. For example, analyses of demographics tell us that the pipeline for traditionally-aged college students has been shrinking and will continue to do so for a while. This is especially true in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the country. Therefore, Temple will need to reach farther and farther away to contact large numbers of potential traditional-age students, even as we continue to work with Philadelphia schools to ensure access for local students with talent and the determination to succeed. The number of international students coming into the U.S. has also been decreasing in recent years. And more people are questioning whether an investment in a college education is worth it.

These external forces will have an effect on our enrollment in the years ahead. In addition, the number of students graduating in four years or fewer at Temple University has dramatically increased. This is a magnificent success story that has resulted in students graduating with less debt. However, it also means that our student body is smaller this year in no small part because of that success.

Put this all together and we fully understand that competition for fewer students will be more intense over the next decade. And we always have to be mindful of the overall state of the economy regionally, nationally and internationally. It has recently been reported that three out of four economists forecast a coming recession. We don’t know when, but those of us who were here during the last recession remember how it adversely affected student enrollments as well as governmental support for higher education.

Prudence dictates that we make preparations now to ensure that the university’s financial condition and tuition rates are able to sustain our core mission of providing an excellent education for our students, conducting world-class research, providing state-of-the art health care to our patients and serving our local communities, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the nation and the world.

Temple has never looked more appealing to prospective students and our accomplishments have never been greater, but it is also more important than ever to let potential students see and hear that. I encourage everyone to work together to ensure we have strong messaging and brand alignment across the entire university. Recruitment of students is the responsibility of all of us.

Academic evolution
Fifth, our academic programs continue to change in response to student, disciplinary and societal needs. Routinely, our academic departments refine and revise their courses and program offerings. For example, our faculty have recently designed new programs and emphases in such areas as engineering devices and cellular engineering, statistics and data science, human development and community engagement, mental health counseling and theater instruction. In brief, our programs continue to evolve as academic disciplines add new areas of inquiry and generate new knowledge, instruments, technologies and methodologies. Our academic units also continually design specially-tailored certificate programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. We need to continually adjust our curriculum to make sure it meets the needs of our students.

Campus evolution
Sixth, we will continue to evolve our campuses to meet the needs of our students. This fall, Temple University Japan opened its doors at a beautiful new building in Tokyo on the shared campus of Showa Women’s University. This is a significant upgrade for our Temple Japan experience, which has a rich 36-year history in the country.

Here on Main Campus construction is underway to reinvent the ground floors of Anderson and Gladfelter halls and create impressive new spaces to teach and gather for our College of Liberal Arts. This will also serve as a more beautiful and welcoming gateway at our east edge of campus. And now that Charles Library is open, our College of Public Health will have a new home in Paley Hall. In the future, we still look forward to the potential of a university quad in front of Charles Library and an early childhood education facility for our neighbors nearby.

Our mission
Finally, we will never forget who we are and what Temple is. Last year, our outstanding Provost JoAnne Epps led an effort to update our mission statement, which you should read and re-read on our website. While the update is clear and inspirational, it does not diverge from the Temple we all know and love.

In short, Temple is dedicated to providing an excellent value to our diverse student body. We remain engaged with the city and the world. We provide transformative opportunities for engaged scholarship, experiential learning and discovery of self. We strive to make the possible real. Our refreshed mission statement echoes our earlier planning initiatives in its focus on opportunity, engagement and discovery.

The Temple we know today is both similar to, and so much more than, what many of us knew decades ago. In that time, we have grown to become one of the world’s great public universities. That’s great news for our students, great news for our Temple-made alumni, and great news for all those in Philadelphia who strive to make a better life for themselves and others. Thank you to everyone here for making that possible.

With that, I’d like to close with an invitation. Today from 1 to 5 o’clock we will have our Charles Library Celebration. Everyone here is invited for demonstrations of the facility’s capabilities, for music and entertainment, and to explore the building and its surroundings. Please join us.

Once more, thank you for all you do for Temple.

I love you all!