ATHENS, Ohio (Sept. 10, 2004) -- Roderick McDavis was sworn in as Ohio University's 20th president during inauguration ceremonies today at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium. He is only the second alumnus to lead the university, founded in 1804.
In his inaugural address, "The Dawn of the Third Century," McDavis said he knows a little about how William Henry Scott, the seventh president of Ohio University and first alumnus to head the institution, felt.
"Perhaps he, as I, stepped to the podium owning a very deep sense of Ohio University's history - its revolutionary history and its pioneer passion. We are surrounded by our heritage, our tradition, and, rightly, we bask in the celebration of our accomplishments."
While it might be tempting to feel satisfied at the university's progress after 200 years, McDavis said it would be unfortunate for the institution to linger too long and become complacent with its accomplishments.
"I choose to look through a telescope similar to the one that Ohio University's founders, Manasseh Cutler or Rufus Putnam, might have looked through to discover this territory," he said. "It is pointed not at the distance we have traveled, but straight ahead toward the wonder and promise of the path that lies before us."
In his speech, McDavis outlined four priorities where efforts will be focused. The goals for the university include becoming a nationally prominent research university; increasing the diversity within the institution as a whole - students, faculty, staff and administrators; securing the resources necessary for Ohio University to rise to national prominence as a research institution; and increasing partnerships in the region, the state and the nation.
McDavis pointed to a need to raise the university's national rankings as a means of achieving the first goal.
"Currently, US News & World Report lists Ohio University among the top 100 research universities and the top 50 public universities in the nation," he said. "We are gratified to have achieved such success, but more can, must and will be done to advance our position among the very best research and public universities in the United States."
In addition, he plans to appoint a university-wide committee to develop the vision to achieve national prominence; enhance the quality and availability of academic programs on the regional campuses; elevate the reputation and status of the College of Osteopathic Medicine; and work to gain more positive recognition of the institution's athletic programs.
To increase diversity, McDavis said, "We must create a more welcoming and inclusive campus environment for people of color. We need to understand that our academic curriculum must be supported by more out-of-class multicultural initiatives and activities. We must prepare our students to live and work in a very diverse world."
As a first step towards achieving this, McDavis announced the creation of the Urban Scholars Program. "Through this new scholarship program, we will actively pursue outstanding students from urban centers across the state and throughout the nation." He announced that he and his wife, Deborah, would contribute $8,000 to support the first Urban Scholar.
With the goal to improve diversity within the university's student population, McDavis said, the institution will seek scholarship recipients from urban centers not just in Ohio but across the nation.
He also plans to enhance the intellectual diversity of Ohio University by increasing the out-of-state student enrollment to 15 percent within the next five years. He also looks to increase the enrollment of underrepresented students from different minority groups, socioeconomic statuses or geographic origins; and raise the number of diverse candidates for faculty, staff and administrative positions. McDavis also plans to seek more international students who will complement the education of the entire student body
"Any limitation to our diversity is unacceptable," he said.
Even with the successful completion of the Bicentennial Campaign, which secured $221 million, McDavis said the university must continue raising private funds in support of endowed scholarships and fellowships for students, and endowed chairs and professorships for faculty. He also plans to continue building partnerships with government representatives to secure additional state support "for mutually beneficial university programs and projects."
"Nowhere is the need for imagination and creativity in building financial support more important than in the area of research. Our current research funding approaches $57 million. It is a foundation, not a destination."
McDavis plans to increase the university's external funding for research to $100 million over the next five years; develop innovative self-help proposals for entrepreneurial initiatives throughout the region, which will also be leveraged to gain state support; and develop off-campus initiatives to be used to generate new revenue streams for the colleges and the university with the help of the provost, deans and vice presidents.
Emphasizing the university's commitment to the region, McDavis said, he will continue to encourage faculty, staff and students to work closely with local, state and national elected leaders; look for opportunities to build more economic development partnerships; work closely with the Innovation Center to create more opportunities for new entrepreneurs; increase partnerships and consortia with other universities in Ohio and across the nation; and continue to develop the regional airport with commuter service to airports in urban areas.
McDavis also plans to work collaboratively with health care institutions in the region to strengthen health care in southeast Ohio and to also actively improve the quality of public schools. "We must never forget that a better educated populace leads to a better workforce for tomorrow's jobs," he said.
"We must be equally determined not to settle for what we have become, but rather to strive for what must be our destiny," he said. "Our journey must continue. Our history demands that we strive toward these goals and our destiny depends upon it."
Former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder also spoke to the crowd and hailed the appointment of McDavis as president of the university, saying education is still the key to change. "You have chosen wisely your helmsman for these times." Wilder also said, "I have no doubt his presidency will be a success because his star is still in ascendancy."
A native of Dayton, Ohio, McDavis received a bachelor's degree in social sciences in secondary education from Ohio University in 1970. He received a master's degree in student personnel administration from the University of Dayton in 1971 and a doctorate in counselor education and higher education administration from the University of Toledo in 1974. Prior to joining Ohio University, he served as provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of education at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.
A Celebratory Concert will be held this evening in honor of McDavis' inauguration at 8:45 p.m. in Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium. The concert will feature Walter Bell and the Latin-Jazz Unit with special guests Los Viejos Blanquitos.
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