2016 Convocation with Michael M. Crow

Remarks by President John A. Fry

Good morning! It's so great to see everyone. This is one of my favorite days of the academic year. Convocation is a venerable tradition. But like most Drexel traditions, it's always being improved on. So this year we're convening in the Recreation Center for the first time. That's a tribute to the growing popularity of Convocation, and a welcome new source of elbow room and air conditioning.

This is also the first year that graduate students have joined our distinguished faculty in the procession, underscoring the prominence of our graduate programs that will welcome almost 2,500 new graduate and professional students this year.

For me, Convocation at Drexel has the feel of a family gathering. But unlike some family gatherings, this one never gets out of hand. Maybe because we don't talk politics.

Like most family gatherings, Convocation's a welcome chance for the diverse branches of our large family of faculty and students, Trustees and professional staff, and alumni to come together and feel the communal pride of being One University.

I should also add that numbered among our family gathering today are Drexel family descendants. I thank them for their legacy of generous support for scholarships, The Drexel Collection, and so much more.

Now, it’s because of all your collective accomplishments year in and year out that the unique Drexel experience is possible. And that fuels our growing recognition as one of America's great urban research universities.

So Convocation is a chance for me to thank you all personally. It's also an opportunity to greet the newest members of our Drexel family, and the incoming members of the great class of 2020, who start their first Drexel classes on Monday.

This new class is one of the most distinguished and diverse we've ever had. And as many of you know, two years ago we made the strategic decision to voluntarily reduce the number of applications, which had reached an unwieldy 55,000 a year. So we can give each applicant the personal attention she or he deserves, and make sure what Drexel offers is a good fit with their needs and their expectations.

We began this emphasis on getting the right students, and I’m happy to report that it’s working. The current one-year retention rate for the Class of 2015 is 88.7 percent, which appears to be an all-time high. And we think we’ll make more progress from there.

This year we have admitted another freshmen class well-suited for Drexel. And we're very excited about what they'll accomplish.

Convocation 2016 is also a historic milestone. It comes as the kick-off to Drexel's 125th year celebration. Even in a city as historic as Philadelphia, 125 years is a long time. Certainly, it’s long enough for a university to develop its own set of time-honored traditions.

But our greatest tradition, I would submit, has always been innovation. That tradition goes all the way back to our founder. Anthony J. Drexel. This famous banker and philanthropist. founded Drexel in 1891 as the Drexel Institute of Art, Science & Industry. And against the backdrop of America in the late 19th Century, his goals for Drexel were innovative to the point of being radical.

As the founder once put it, he wanted a Drexel education to be "not only good …. but good for something."

He planted the intellectual seed for what would later become Drexel's cooperative education approach and make us a global model for combining academic depth and excellence with intensive career discernment and preparation.

He also founded Drexel with the powerful idea that admission shouldn't be limited by race, gender, religion, or socioeconomic status. That kind of inclusion is expected on all campuses today, but it was the exception in 1891. And I like to think that the head start we got 125 years ago set the stage for our strong commitment to inclusion and the kind of civic engagement that's such a big part of who we are today. Especially here in Philadelphia.

We remain hard at work on our goal of making Drexel the most civically engaged university in the United States. The Schuylkill Yards Innovation District we announced this spring is a major step towards that goal. With our partners covering the billions of dollars of development costs, we're taking the lead in a project that will transform the gateway to Drexel into a multi-purpose innovation district with academic and commercial buildings, and a magnificent public park to be known as Drexel Square.

Schuylkill Yards will create substantial long-term employment opportunities for our neighbors in Mantua and throughout West Philadelphia. Not by chance, but by design.

And as it develops over the next two decades, it will result in new Co-op jobs for our students and research and commercialization opportunities for our faculty.

Right now, it's time to hear from our guest speaker, who's traveled across the country to be with us this morning. In his 14 years as president of Arizona State University, Michael Crow has enthusiastically taken on the mission of transforming Arizona State into the model of a public research university that measures itself by inclusivity -- not exclusivity.

Despite the familiar challenges of rising costs and shrinking public funds, he has moved mountains in terms of offering students from low income families a high-quality education, delivered in so many innovative ways. His creative use of technology and strategic partnership has bolstered Arizona State's academic reputation and landed him on Time magazine's list of the 10 best university presidents.

Suffice it to say that he is one of the most respected agents of change in American higher education today. And when they write the book, I predict he will go down as the most significant agent of change. Please join me in welcoming my mentor, and friend, and today’s convocation speaker, Dr. Michael Crow.

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