Posted March 20, 2007

Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, will be among those speaking about the importance of the urban university at a conference to be held during President Ann Weaver Hart’s inauguration.

Speaking of assets...

As a student at the University of Pennsylvania, Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, would occasionally venture to Temple University’s Main Campus to enjoy the campus’s nightlife with friends.

“There were some great rivalries in Big Five basketball in those days,” he said. “I have a great fondness for the campus.”

But as he’s gotten older, and has seen the potential value that universities like his alma mater and Temple bring to a community, his reasons for remaining fond of Temple — and other urban universities like it — have changed, Morial says.

“I believe that urban universities are one of the great assets that their communities have,” he said. “As universities become laboratories of growth and change, the possibilities are unlimited.

Marc Morial

These universities should see themselves as an integral part of the communities and cities in which they reside.”

Ideas like these made Morial the choice to deliver an address during “Great Universities, Great Cities: A Day of Conversation at Temple University,” which will be held on Friday, March 23, as part of President Ann Weaver Hart’s inauguration.

“Great Universities, Great Cities” will examine the ways that urban universities connect with the communities that encase them, said Betsy Leebron Tutelman, chair of the Inauguration Steering Committee and a professor in the department of Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Mass Media in the School of Communications and Theater.

Because those connections are something that Morial, the former mayor of New Orleans, can speak about from experience, he was a natural fit, Leebron Tutelman said.

“We were looking for someone whose interests aligned with the conference themes,” she said. “As a former mayor, he had experience with issues of community and how a city interacts with its universities.”

In both his role as president of the Urban League and as mayor of New Orleans, Morial has had experience with all of the conference’s themes, which cover issues of community and location, health and safety, literacy and the arts.

Among the things he’ll be speaking about is how the urban universities of New Orleans, his hometown, are helping the city regain its footing after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

However, the universities of New Orleans — Dillard, Loyola, Tulane and Xavier — were taking on a leadership role in the community before the levees broke, a role that Morial encouraged during his time as mayor, he said.

“I felt very strongly that building universities and helping universities grow would help the community,” he said. “The university presidents were community leaders and participated in business and political discussion. They also encouraged senior leaders on their staffs to do the same.”

While the Urban League has no specific program that works with urban universities, the organization places business leaders in colleges and universities around the country, coordinated by their local affiliates, Morial said. Most of these placements are in historically black colleges and universities, he said.

Although Temple has changed a lot from the days that Morial came here to visit, he’s excited about the chance to be a part of the installation of President Hart.

“I’m glad to do this,” he said. “It’s a great, great offer to be a part of the installation of the new president,” he said.

Watch streaming video of Marc Morial's March 23, 2007, talk on Temple's

Main Campus