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Emeritus Awards Dinner

7 p.m. Friday, April 10 — Alumni Center

Good evening, and welcome back to campus! It’s wonderful that you have been part of the FSU family for more than 50 years!

I hope you look at Florida State University as your home, even as the campus itself has grown and changed over the years. I, too, will soon be part of the emeritus class, and I could not be more proud of our university.

I am especially pleased to be here tonight as you recognize your Commitment to Excellence award winners.

Excellence is indeed the legacy of the Emeritus Society. You have helped this university establish a strong foundation on which we can build. And let me tell you, there are some exciting things on the horizon at Florida State.

FSU is already recognized by the state Legislature as a preeminent university for meeting rigorous standards of excellence. This designation has allowed us to advance on several fronts. These include hiring new faculty in emerging disciplines and hiring entrepreneurs-in-residence to teach our students how to turn their ideas and innovations into practical enterprises.

As we chart our future, we are forging a path that is determined and ambitious. As you may know, FSU has established a goal to rise in the national rankings until we are recognized among the Top 25 public universities in the country.

I am confident we can rise in the national rankings based on the quality of our academic programs, faculty and students. Many of our colleges and schools are recognized as the nation’s best or in the Top 10.

Our faculty have distinguished themselves in many disciplines and have gained the high regard of peers around the world.

The quality of students we are attracting is already on par with the top national universities. In fact, the average GPA for students accepted into FSU’s freshman class this year was a 4.0 and their average SAT score was 1864.

These high-achieving students are much more prepared for the rigors of academic life, and so we also see our retention and graduation rates increasing.

FSU achieved its highest total to date in research funding last year, bringing in more than $230 million from federal, state and other funding sources.

In addition, our faculty transform their knowledge into products and services that can help people, our economy and society as a whole. Last year, we had 39 patents granted, 25 license deals signed and seven startup companies created based on FSU research.

Attaining our Top 25 goal also depends on our success in STEM fields, so we are moving aggressively with several strategic hiring initiatives. We are hiring some real stars in the fields of energy and materials; coastal and marine ecosystems; and brain health and disease.

National rankings are important for reasons beyond bragging rights. That’s because these rankings signal to employers, clients and others the value of a degree from Florida State University.

This is not just important to our young alumni who are just entering the workforce. An increase in the rankings also benefits you and me, even though we earned our degrees more than 50 years ago.

The best investment I ever made was when I decided to come to FSU in 1961. My business and law degrees have opened doors for me throughout my life. Now it’s great to see how my diplomas have appreciated in value over the years and will continue to do so as Florida State reaches even greater national recognition.

Our $1 billion “Raise the Torch” fundraising campaign will help us to reach our goals. Private giving will allow us to implement bold ideas that will continue to distinguish Florida State as a preeminent university. It will allow us to strengthen our most successful programs and lift other areas to higher prominence.

The student experience we offer is just as important as rankings and research. Florida State has long been a leader among universities in developing students beyond the classroom.

Today’s Florida State students are well rounded and global in their perspective. By the time they graduate, many of them have completed several internships, volunteered dozens of service hours in the community, worked closely with professors on research projects, and traveled overseas to conduct research in every corner of the globe.

Now, new studies are showing that these kinds of experiences in college will have lifelong benefits. Engaged students become engaged employees who report higher career satisfaction and greater well-being. Not only are we preparing career-ready college graduates, we are producing good citizens who can improve the world.

We would like FSU to be recognized as one of the best universities in the nation for combining academic rigor with a warm and caring environment that provides students with an array of research, creative and engagement opportunities.

This is an exciting time for Florida State University. We are on the threshold of a new era, with some challenges, but incredible opportunities.

You — part of the 10,000 alumni who fall into the emeritus category — can make a real difference in our future.

I encourage you to consider how you might be able to help us reach our goals. Then challenge your friends to do the same.

There are so many ways to give back to this university that we all love. You may choose to contribute to our fundraising campaign, or volunteer your time or talent to one of our many initiatives on campus.

Let me take this opportunity to thank you for all you do for Florida State University. You have been among our most loyal and devoted alumni for more than five decades! That’s a lot of passion and dedication that is bound to lift this university even higher.