Drexel Convocation with Robert McCracken Peck

Remarks by President John A. Fry

Good morning. Thank you for being here.

Each new academic year brings new challenges, new opportunities and a new sense of excitement.
I’m looking forward to getting started.

Let me start by welcoming back our returning students, faculty and professional staff.

I also want to welcome all the new members of the Drexel community. This year’s freshman class is the largest and arguably the most talented in the University’s history.

One third of our new freshmen graduated in the top 10 percent of their senior class, and two thirds in the top 25 percent. No fewer than 55 were high school valedictorians or salutatorians. The class represents 42 states and 54 countries.

It also includes 50 new Liberty Scholars, outstanding Philadelphia students with financial need who will receive full scholarships. I am proud of the commitment Drexel has made to the Liberty Scholars program.

We also have an incredibly gifted new class of graduate students. They will make a big impact on Drexel’s outstanding teaching and research.

And the past year has seen an influx of talented professional staff, from the highest levels of administration through departments and operations across the University. Our strong community keeps getting stronger, and I wish you the best of luck in everything you do this year.

Last year when I addressed Convocation, I’d only been here a few months. I looked forward by necessity, taking the opportunity to lay out a plan for comprehensive investment in the neighborhoods around campus.

This year, we certainly could look back, with pride.

Our neighborhood initiatives, although they all exist on a long-term timeline, had some real successes and received amazing votes of confidence. In support of our efforts to improve neighborhood schools, PECO gave us one million dollars, and we established the Drexel-PECO Community Education Collaborative. Philanthropist Philip Lindy gave us 15 million dollars to name the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement and establish the Lindy Neighbors program. And our Employee Home Purchase Assistance program already has brought new families to the neighborhood.

These are great accomplishments. But I prefer to look forward, because this year promises achievements that will transform Drexel forever.

First, our strategic planning process continues, and we expect to complete this major milestone by early 2012. It will include an academic plan, an enrollment plan, a campus master plan for facilities and space and a capital campaign plan. With these plans in place, we’ll have a clear roadmap to guide our initiatives and allocate our resources for the next 5 years.

Second, our campus transformation will continue. We’ll see great progress this year on Westphal College’s URBN Center and LeBow College’s new building, which will be Drexel’s largest academic facility.

We’ve also seen the future of biology research at Drexel, as our outstanding students and faculty fully occupy the brand-new Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building. I had the honor of presiding over the dedication of the building last week. It’s an amazing space, and if you haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend you visit.

Finally, we’ll begin to see the impact of an historic affiliation. This year, the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University will become a reality.

Bringing these two world-class institutions together is the sort of bold move that enhances a city, a region, and the entire scientific community. The synergies between Drexel and the Academy are incredibly exciting.

We’ll be bringing together two outstanding teams of complementary researchers. All of these researchers will have access both to the extraordinary scientific collections of the Academy and to the laboratories and technology of Drexel.

Together, we’ll be much more competitive for public and private funding for scientific discovery. Our joint contributions to the natural and environmental sciences will be even greater.

The affiliation will create new opportunities for enhanced classroom and experiential learning for our students. For instance, next fall we will begin enrolling students in a new Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

And we will bring strength together with strength to enhance public education at the Academy. Drexel’s School of Education is working with Academy educators to develop new programs for students of all ages and expand teacher training programs. And our Westphal College of Media Arts and Design is collaborating with the exhibit teams at the Academy to come up with new ways to share the Academy’s resources with visitors, from media-rich exhibits to smart-phone apps.

I’m so eager to see where this relationship takes us. It’s my pleasure today to offer you a window into the wonderful sense of scientific discovery, exploration and yes, adventure, that is part of the Academy’s charm.

Our keynote speaker today is a Senior Fellow at the Academy, and the curator of art and artifacts.
He is a writer, naturalist and historian who produces both scholarly and popular books and articles about the natural world. He is among the very best at translating science and exploration into language that engages specialists and nonspecialists alike.

It is my privilege to welcome to Drexel University Mr. Robert McCracken Peck.

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