The winter storm that quickly dumped snow and ice on the metro Atlanta area last Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 28) has already been dubbed “one of the worst storms in the past two decades." We have all heard stories about the incredible commute times and other problems that people were forced to endure as a result of the storm and I deeply regret that so many of our Georgia Tech folks were among those negatively impacted. I do, however, want to offer our most sincere thanks for all of the individuals and teams who worked tirelessly during the storm, and are continuing to work to get our campus up and running at full speed again.
Several events over the past year have caused me to pause and reflect on the lasting impact that a number of leaders have made in the pursuit of social justice throughout the world. The passing of Nelson Mandela is the most recent example.
An Atlanta reporter recently asked a group of Atlanta leaders what what we are most thankful for. I responded that this Thanksgiving season, I am thankful for the spirit of the Georgia Tech community in giving back.
On Sept. 18 we celebrated a century of cooperative education at Georgia Tech, a program that has helped to shape the lives of 50,000 graduates. Cooperative education has been a part of Georgia Tech for almost 80 percent of the Institute’s existence, during the leadership of all but two of Tech’s presidents. In fact, Georgia Tech was one of the first colleges to adopt cooperative education.
The National Science Foundation's recent I-Corps announcement is the latest example of the momentum that has been building over the past few years. Today, Tech Square is an innovation ecosystem bringing together needed resources, expertise and opportunities for collaboration that creates an exciting environment for innovation to flourish.
Each summer since coming to Georgia Tech three years ago, we have spent a week touring the state talking to various groups about Georgia Tech. This summer has been no exception and Val and I just returned from our 900-mile route through south Georgia. The annual event provides a great opportunity to meet with with alumni, legislators, regents, the media, industry partners, as well as current and potential students. Over a four-day period we visited 43 of Georgia’s 159 counties, were hosted at a number of alumni events, met with local community leaders and met hundreds of Tech friends and supporters at more than 20 events across south Georgia.
A year ago this month President Obama appointed the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) steering committee. I was fortunate enough to be appointed as a member of the committee, along with five other research university presidents and ten CEO’s. Much work has been done in the past year. Of particular note is the report prepared that included a series of recommendations made to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, or PCAST. That report is now being reviewed by the White House and should be released shortly.
Today we announced an exciting transformational gift from Georgia Tech alumnus Ernest “Ernie” Scheller Jr. that will result in our former College of Management becoming the Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business. When completed in 2013, the Scheller gift of $50 million will amount to the largest single cash gift in Institute history. A majority of the gift, secured partially through a $20 million challenge grant, has already been fulfilled resulting in new faculty chairs and professorships, undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, and a dean’s discretionary fund for academic support.
I recently had the privilege of speaking at Texas A&M University at Qatar as part of their Distinguished Lecture Series. As many of you know I taught and served in leadership at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, for 19 years, and it was especially meaningful to represent Georgia Tech at Texas A&M’s Qatar campus.
I am headed home from what was a spectacular event and one very special to me and thousands of others. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the last launch of the Shuttle program and it causes me to think back.
It’s now 8:00 Friday morning and I am headed into a special briefing by the center director. They just announced that the astronauts have left to get suited up, the sun is peaking through and the weather is starting to look more promising. Optimism is growing.
We will be watching the launch from Banana Creek, which is 3.3 miles from the launch pad and across the water so that there is nothing blocking the view. NASA does not allow anyone closer than 3 miles, except the emergency rescue crew which is located in a bunker about a mile from the launch pad. They say that within 100 yards you will be incinerated and within 400 yards you could not withstand the shock wave, so they keep people well away.
We just returned from an all-day tour of the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and had a great time. We took a driving tour of the Center, including Launch Pad 39A, where Atlantis is currently being prepared for launch, and 39B; the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB); and the Banana Creek viewing area, where we will be when we watch the launch tomorrow.
At 5:00 p.m. on July 6 I boarded a flight out of Atlanta bound for Orlando, Fla., for the launch of the last space shuttle mission, STS-135. During my first two-plus years as president of Georgia Tech, I have received hundreds of invitations, but this one is special and is particularly meaningful to me, as it represents an interesting turn of events.
On January 17 Georgia Tech will join fellow Atlantans and Americans in celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This is a time for both reflection and action with a number of special activities planned.
Twenty years ago, Georgia Tech began its expansion abroad, creating a new branch campus in Metz, located in the French region of Lorraine. That experiment has proven extraordinarily fruitful: it has given our students an immersive international educational experience, it has fostered new research partnerships and it has enhanced our reputation as a global university.
My thanks to the more than 800 members of the campus community who came to hear this week's Institute Address, where we introduced our new Strategic Plan. We started the process one year ago, and today we have an ambitious, overarching document that will guide academic and administrative operations for the next generation.
Commercialization of university technology is deeply ingrained in our mission at Georgia Tech, and we are eager to help multiply our successes through partnerships with government, business, industry, and our colleagues in academia. We welcome these opportunities for making a real and lasting impact and creating the economic growth necessary to support our region and our nation.
Recently, Val and I attended the 11th Annual Women in Engineering Excellence Award Banquet, where we were overwhelmed by all of the amazing young women we talked to and met. Reflecting on that experience, it is hard to believe that for the first 67 years, Georgia Tech did not admit women into its full-time programs. Thanks to the bold leadership of Blake Van Leer, Tech's fifth president, they are today a vital and important part of Georgia Tech.
As this year's campus celebration of Black History Month draws to a close this week, it's important to remember not only what we have achieved in terms of racial and other forms of diversity, but also where we began.
I hope that those of you who were in attendance at the Jan. 21 town hall in support of our Strategic Vision process enjoyed the lively conversation. Joe Bankoff's presentation - a hypothetical look from the future - was engaging, entertaining and inspiring. If the Georgia Tech of 2035 in any way resembles the result Joe proposed we will have some very impressive accomplishments to tout. His insights were both informed and candid, and I want to thank him for his commitment to this process and his support of our institution.
This Monday, Georgia Tech will join the nation in honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Campus offices will be closed and there will be no classes, yet it is my hope that our students, faculty and staff will pause to reflect on Dr. King's legacy and the ideals he pursued.
Over the past few weeks I've given several "State of the Institute" presentations, reaching out to parents, alumni, faculty, and staff. Because we thought these updates would be of interest to the entire Georgia Tech community, we've posted several of them on this Web site.
Some things at Georgia Tech never change. Since my arrival in April, I've learned that the letter "T" has been, and will always be, a highly sought-after token of school spirit, that Junior's Grill serves some the South's best chicken fingers, and that you can set your watch by the whistle's daily blasts. Some things never change - but as I begin my first fall semester at Georgia Tech, I am eager to experience the traditions that await me in the coming months. I am excited to experience my first Georgia Tech football game on September 5 as our nationally ranked Yellow Jackets face Jacksonville State University. I can only imagine the proud display of community and tradition that awaits me at my first Team Buzz community service day. I also hear there is a tricycle race on campus - the Mini 500 - and it is a "must see" event.
It's hard to believe, but July 9 marks my 100th day at Georgia Tech. The first three months have been enormously exciting and productive, and I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the things I have had the privilege to be a part of and give you a glance at what lies ahead.
In my first 100 days, I have tried to focus on learning as much about every aspect of Georgia Tech as possible and reaching out to the many people here at Georgia Tech; government, business and industry leaders, and those in the many communities we serve. In these meetings, I quickly learned that Tech is a truly incredible place, one that is making a tremendous impact, on the lives of our students, on the state's economy, and on the larger global community. One of the important aspects of my role as president is to share our story with numerous groups and individuals in an effort to communicate the many ways in which Georgia Tech enriches the lives of our various constituencies and to strengthen strategic partnerships, while at the same time, listening to their valuable feedback.
Day one set the pace when Val and I were invited to the state legislature, where I was given the opportunity to address both the House and the Senate. Since then I have met with students, faculty and staff from Georgia Tech; alumni here in Atlanta and across the country; and legislators, regents, and other city, state, and national leaders. As a continuation of this effort, this month we began traveling throughout the state to meet with current and prospective students, alumni, and local community and government leaders. As part of this process, this week we will make thirteen stops in seven cities in three days.