In Celebration of Excellence:
The Inaugural Address of Frank T. Brogan

First of all, thank you very much, Dr. Zoley, to you and the members of our Board of Trustees. You are an incredible group of men and women leading us into the 21st century, and we thank you so very much on behalf of the FAU family for the job you do.

To my dear friend Governor Bush, Lieutenant Governor Jennings, members of the Board of Trustees, the Board of Governors and the FAU Foundation Board, Chancellor Austin, distinguished college and university presidents, members of the faculty, administration and student body, honored guests, and friends of Florida Atlantic University:

First of all, several points of personal privilege: President Shalala, we are deeply and profoundly excited about the possibility of intercollegiate play that will match Florida Atlantic University and the University of Miami, especially noting the fact that we both enjoy a 7-and-2 record as we speak here today. (Laughter and applause)

Now I need to point out something on a physical note. For 50 years, I thought I could do something that I just learned I can't. When my friend Senator Pruitt was joking about my pearly white smile, I attempted in reaction to clamp my mouth shut. I can't do it! (Laughter) There is just too much to smile about, isn't there, Senator Pruitt? (Applause)

And now a serious point of personal privilege: The wonderful music you heard just a moment ago was produced by these incredible young people (gesturing to the FAU Wind Ensemble and the FAU Chamber Singers, all seated onstage) who are every color of the rainbow, every nationality and every socio-economic strata, who come from different families and different backgrounds, and who all are the marvelous faces of Florida Atlantic University. Together they brought us beautiful music that celebrated our pride in our country and our pride in Florida Atlantic University as a great institution with a richly talented student body. Congratulations, ladies and gentlemen. (Applause)

We come together today to mark the beginning of a whole new era for Florida Atlantic University. The inauguration of a president gives us an opportunity to look back across this university’s 39 years of service to South Florida, to see what it has come to mean in the life of our region, our state and our nation, and to anticipate where it is going in the future.

The inaugural theme is “Celebrating Excellence,” and I have had no difficulty finding traditions of excellence at Florida Atlantic University. As a former FAU student myself, I have personally experienced the excellence of our faculty in the classroom. This is a tradition, you see, that dates back to the university’s earliest days, when a hardy band of pioneers arrived on an abandoned Army airbase in a small town called Boca Raton to found Florida’s fifth public university.

Classes then were held in crumbling World War Two barracks buildings or the stark and windowless General Classrooms South, but their location was really immaterial. Physical surroundings seemed to melt away as this young university’s gifted and talented faculty members made subjects ranging from the fine arts to the hard sciences come alive, and that has never changed. From that day to this, through good times and bad, despite the many challenges that public education in the state of Florida has faced over the four decades of FAU’s existence, this university has taken justifiable pride in the exceptionally high quality of its faculty, and I would like to begin my remarks today by saluting that tradition of excellence. The sacred bond between teachers and their students lies at the very heart of academic life, and nowhere has that bond been honored or nurtured with more dedication than here at Florida Atlantic University. To our faculty. (Applause)

As we move into an ever more technologically sophisticated future, that will not change. Technological advances are simply extending the reach of our faculty beyond traditional classroom walls, as was envisioned by this university’s founders many years before the advent of the Internet and the rise of distance learning. FAU began life as the first university to have distance learning built into its basic mission, an ambition that turned out to be a good bit ahead of its time. Today the rest of the country and the world have “caught on,” and together we are all moving forward into an era of unprecedented educational opportunity on a worldwide scale.

Vastly improved access to higher education has the ability to build bridges between individuals and entire cultures, and FAU is fully committed to this grand campaign. I am proud to say that this university ranks as the most diverse in Florida’s State University System, with minorities making up more than one-third of our student body. We began the Fall Semester with nearly 26,000 degree-seeking students enrolled, many of them the first in their families to seek formal education beyond the high school level. I, myself, was given the opportunity to be the higher education pioneer in my family, as Governor Bush mentioned, and many of you in this audience probably played the same role in your families. We were able to broaden our horizons because of the great gift of public education, which is really a very recent phenomenon. Today, students of any economic background, any age, any ethnicity, any degree of disability can pursue their dreams at universities such as Florida Atlantic University, and I would like to salute the tradition of excellence they have established.

Among the thousands of students receiving degrees at FAU’s three commencement ceremonies each year, there are literally thousands of awe-inspiring success stories, stories of people who have worked toward the goal of getting that degree for many years, often against daunting obstacles. The oldest student ever to receive a degree from Florida Atlantic University was 85 years old -- you know how proud his parents were on that particular day? (Laughter) His grandmother was thrilled beyond belief! -- and the youngest graduate was 16. Falling between those two extremes are more than 84,000 men and women who quietly set educational goals for themselves and did whatever it took to reach them. Some of them came to us as freshmen, away from home for the first time and taking their first tentative steps into adulthood. Others came to us from our community college partners, where they were introduced to the heightened expectations of higher education before moving on to university work. Still others came to us as people in mid-life, men and women who had put their college education on hold as they pursued careers, married and raised children of their own. For many years, students of non-traditional age were in the majority in our student body, and the university has always sought to help them move toward that triumphant moment when they would finally be able to walk across the commencement stage and claim that hard-earned degree. Today, as we look back upon so many generations of students of all descriptions and in all life situations, let us honor their dedication to their goals and celebrate their academic achievements, which have enhanced not only their own lives but also the world we all share. To our students. (Applause)

No tribute to the excellence of FAU’s students would be complete without mention of our Lifelong Learners, who have made FAU’s Lifelong Learning program the largest and most successful program of its kind in the country and, for that matter, possibly the world. These 25,000 men and women of retirement age, many representing the Greatest Generation, are serving as role models of the best kind for the Baby Boomers, who are rapidly approaching their own retirement years. They are living proof that learning is, indeed, a lifelong endeavor and a lifelong pleasure, and that the mind can stay young and agile with exercise, just as can the body. The students, faculty and administrators of our vigorous Lifelong Learning program have my greatest admiration, and I salute the example they are setting and their ongoing tradition of excellence. Congratulations. (Applause)

As you know, the mission of every great university rests upon the three pillars of teaching, research and public service. We now stand on the cusp of a new, exciting and tremendously promising era in this university’s research work, an era that began in 1998 when a family of almost unbelievable generosity made a record-setting $15 million gift to our science programs. I am speaking, of course, of the gift from the Schmidt Family Foundation that funded construction of the Charles E. Schmidt Biomedical Science Center, supported our innovative public-private medical education partnership with the University of Miami School of Medicine, established four top-tier research professorships in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, and provided a half-million dollars annually for the acquisition of state-of-the-art laboratory equipment. Three years ago, as lieutenant governor, I was very privileged to speak at the groundbreaking of the Schmidt Biomedical Science Center, and last year Governor Bush was the keynote speaker at the dedication ceremony of that awesome facility. Today we come to a full realization of the huge role this incredible resource is playing in giving us the institutional infrastructure we need to take advantage of what can only be described as the opportunity of a lifetime for FAU, Palm Beach County and the entire state of Florida: the decision of the Scripps Research Institute – the largest and best-funded biomedical research organization in the world – to establish a major East Coast center of operations here in our community.

As you know, Governor Bush led that initiative, and last month the Florida Legislature and the Palm Beach County Commission clinched the deal by authorizing more than a half-billion dollars in incentive funding. The newspapers have been calling this the biggest coup for Florida since the opening of Disney World, but this really goes far beyond that in importance. Scripps researchers have already achieved enormous breakthroughs in the battle against serious diseases, such as leukemia and diabetes, and that work will continue here in Palm Beach County, with FAU participating as a full partner. This, in turn, will create an environment in which the biomedical technology industry can flourish, laying the groundwork for an important new economic base for our region and the entire state of Florida. On a personal note, it is my hope that this university might someday be involved in a cure for cancer. (Applause)

This is an enormously important development that is going to change Florida’s future. Governor Bush, we thank you for your vision, perseverance and hard work in this successful effort to bring Scripps to Florida, and, again, I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you. (Applause)

There will be boundless opportunity for all of our universities in the state of Florida in the future, and I know I speak for my colleagues when I say the excitement about this acquisition and all of its positive residual impacts will be felt for many, many years.

Also on a personal note, I did read the National Assessment of Education progress scores yesterday, and I continue to be very proud of Florida, Florida's families and Florida's teachers (applause) as we continue to demonstrate as a state that no child should ever be left behind in learning and ultimately achieving their slice of the great American dream.

Cutting-edge research is taking place at FAU in many settings -- at Forseti Biosciences, our first spin-off company; at our Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences; at our newly created Center of Excellence in Biomedical and Marine Biotechnology; and within the framework of many other FAU research centers, including our recently announced participation in a new partnership led by the United States Geological Survey. These bold initiatives are taking us across the frontiers of science, and the journey will become even more exciting and yield even greater achievements in the years to come. And while we maintain our initiative in the continuing effort to be a strong and vibrant teaching university, we will blend with that the genius of additional research opportunities that will launch us into the 21st century, providing our students every opportunity to meet the demands of the most competitive global economy this planet has ever known.

To position FAU to take maximum advantage of these opportunities, we have initiated certain changes in the organization of the university’s core academic endeavors. A graduate faculty is being formed under the direction of Dr. Larry Lemanski, vice president for research and graduate studies, a more rigorous undergraduate studies program is being introduced, and admissions standards over time will be raised incrementally to make certain that we maintain our vision and our focus while still supporting struggling students academically and financially. I want every student who attends this university to be prepared to derive benefits from and make contributions to the intellectual life of the institution. By raising admissions standards we raise expectations, and by raising expectations, as we continue to prove as a state, we raise performance levels, an outcome that delivers important long-term benefits to the university, but, more significantly, to the lives of our students.

The third pillar of the university’s mission is community service, and FAU is making extraordinary efforts on many fronts to render services of real value to the greater community. The Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, generously endowed by the benefactor whose name it bears, has a long history of reaching out to help the most vulnerable members of our society – at-risk children and the frail elderly. Two years ago the Memory and Wellness Center opened on this campus, offering services to people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders and for their caretakers. Soon this Center will become part of a larger addition to the college, the Louis and Anne Green Alzheimer’s Research Center and Care Facility.

Every one of our eight colleges is involved in public service work, and those activities will increase in scope and number throughout FAU’s large service area. We subscribe wholeheartedly to the view that an educational institution must immerse itself in the life of the greater community and play an active role in solving problems of many kinds. The day of the ivory tower is gone, and with it the needless isolation of the academy. The academic enterprise realizes its greatest power to do good when it addresses the concerns of the real world. FAU recognizes the value of being a real world university and will continue to seek ways to become more and more integrated into the communities that we serve.

In recent years, much has been said about the growth of this university, and it is certainly true that FAU has expanded at a pace that can only be called remarkable. Campuses have sprung up in three counties, multi-million-dollar buildings have risen where weeds once grew and the student body has expanded at an almost exponential rate. Everyone who has had a hand in this phenomenal growth deserves to feel very proud -- seven campuses over 140 miles of coastline currently serving 26,000 students. But now I think it is time for us to step back, take a deep breath and see the university in another context. We need to work hard at being one university rather than a collection of mini-universities loosely linked under a common name. In fact, Florida Atlantic University IS one university, and its greatest strength lies in that fact. We are an extremely versatile community of scholars spread across an unusually large geographic area and studying in settings ranging from the research-intensive environment of SeaTech, to the urban laboratory of Fort Lauderdale, to the thriving young centers of learning in Davie, Jupiter and Port St. Lucie, to this sprawling campus in Boca Raton, with its growing flavor of traditional college life. We need to celebrate our diversity while treasuring our shared identity. We are all, first and foremost, members of the Florida Atlantic University community, and we should take great pride in that fact.

As I'm fond of saying, the best is yet to come for our university; the best years will begin just around the next bend in the road, and we will all move down that road together, discovering, as others have before us, that the reward is really in the journey and not the destination. As we embark upon this shared odyssey, we recommit ourselves to excellence in every aspect of the university’s functioning, and we welcome the new day that is dawning for FAU and for all of Florida.

This is a most exciting time to be a Floridian, an exciting time to be living and working in South Florida and an exciting time to be a member of the FAU family. The dedication and skill of our faculty, the inventive genius of our researchers, the vision and generosity of our donors, the support of our partners and staff and friends, and – most important of all – the flowering potential of our students promise to make this a time of great change, growth and progress for Florida Atlantic University. I feel enormously privileged, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart, to be part of this process and tremendously grateful for the stroke of good fortune that brought me back to the school I have always loved at this critically important moment. I pledge to give this university my highest and best efforts as we move into a future that will be filled with both challenge and reward, and I call upon each and every one of you to join me in the great endeavor that lies ahead.

I am blessed to have at my side a partner of great ability, great strength and great sensitivity, my wife and the First Lady of Florida Atlantic University, Courtney Brogan. Whatever I am able to achieve in the service of FAU will bear the imprint of her commitment as well as my own, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank her on behalf of the entire FAU community for the many contributions that she is already making to the life of our university. I would like to ask her to stand with her wonderful mother and father, Richard and Callie Strickland. (Applause)

Over the last several days, I have told this story many times. I have said that when I went off to Tallahassee, Florida, almost 10 years ago I lived some of life's greatest highs and also endured some of life's greatest lows. But I came home, much like a father returning after a long business trip, and brought back to my family at Florida Atlantic University the most beautiful gift that North Florida could offer. I love you, Courtney. (Applause)

Nearly 40 years ago, Florida Atlantic University opened its doors under a slogan that proclaimed it to be the place “where tomorrow begins.” Today an FAU transformed by four decades of growth and development is a more powerful engine of renewal than it has ever been before . . . and much more lies ahead. Working together, we will take this university and the people it serves into the best of all tomorrows.

Thank you so very much for joining me and all of us in the festivities of the past several days. And again I would like to thank the incredible inaugural committee, who worked to share a common vision: that these inaugural activities would not be a celebration of an individual, but would give us as a university the opportunity to celebrate the past, the present and the future of this awesome institution; to revel in the wonder and genius of our administration, our faculty and our staff and to be able to acknowledge the commitment and accomplishments of our students of the past and present and those yet to come. I would like to thank you for being here today with all of us as I experience the extraordinary honor of being inaugurated as the fifth president of Florida Atlantic University. Thank you very much. (Applause)