Once again this spring, the approach of our commencements heralds a time of celebration – a time in which we as students, parents, and educators can look back upon our efforts and take pride in our achievements. In that respect, Washington State University’s 2012 graduating class is no different than the hundreds of classes that have gone before it.
This year’s graduates, however, carry with them a unique distinction. Their time as students on our campuses coincided with years in which our state faced some of the greatest fiscal challenges in its history – a time in which we saw public appropriations to this university reduced by an unprecedented 52 percent. Yet, thanks to the professional dedication and hard work of our faculty and staff, as well as the cooperation and generosity of so many across our broad university community, our commitment to academic excellence has been unwavering. We have been able to meet our challenges without losing our focus on the opportunities before us. Given all that we have managed to overcome together in the past few years, our commencement this year actually marks some rather remarkable achievements by us all.
In the days ahead, we intend to honor the achievements of the class of 2012. On all four of our campuses, and within our online environment students will cross a threshold and enter a new phase of their lives. Their stories will continue to inspire and to impress. Among them are those who will be known for their achievements in science, academics, and business. There are those who will contribute much through their service to the medical community and in the education of other generations. But the most inspiring stories you will hear among these graduates are of those who have overcome tremendous economic and personal challenges for the hope their education at WSU represents to themselves, their families, and sometimes entire communities. And it is these students and their achievements that deserve to be honored most of all.
Much like the class of 2012, WSU is also entering a new phase. And we too have reasons to be optimistic about what we will achieve.
• In July of this year, we will unveil WSU’s new Paul G Allen School for Global Animal Health. The hallmark of this achievement is that it combines some of our best and our brightest into one unified effort that will advance the science, and policy needed to discover novel approaches to the challenge of infectious disease and further preventive health care for animals and humans the world over.
• In June of 2013, we will open the doors on our state-of-the-art Veterinary Medical Research Building, a five-story research center that will complete a veterinary research and teaching program at WSU to rival any in the world.
• With the full support of the Washington legislature, final funding has been approved for final construction of the WSU Biomedical and Health Sciences building at WSU Spokane – scheduled to be finished in the winter of 2013. The Legislature recognizes the vast economic potential at the Riverpoint campus and WSU’s role in advancing medical education throughout the state.
• In late 2013, we will break ground on the Wine Science Center at Washington State University Tri-Cities. This public-private partnership with $7.4 million from Wine Grape Growers, along with a $5 commitment from the legislature recognizes our long-term commitment to supporting the now $8 billion dollar Washington wine industry from vineyard to glass with the very best teaching, research and extension we have to offer.
• For our students, renovations to Duncan Dunn and Community Halls and Addition will be completed by this fall, while construction has begun on a new Northside Residence Hall that should be ready for students in the fall of 2013. These facilities are greatly needed as Washington State University expects to continue its mission of adding 4,000 new freshmen each year for the foreseeable future.
• Last, but by no means least, Washington State University will unveil a remarkable $80 million renovation to its football facility, thanks to an infusion of millions of dollars in new revenues from the Pac-12’s television contract. The first of a series of projects aimed at upgrading our athletic events centers to be among the finest in the league.
Behind it all, our alumni and friends have now given a record $680 million towards our goal of raising $1 billion to secure WSU’s future as an international leader in research and teaching. This historic campaign builds on our key strengths – in areas such as health, agriculture, sustainability, and global leadership to ensure WSU continues to make major contributions in these fields and many others for generations to come.
So as we celebrate the class of 2012, I hope you will join me in focusing not on the difficult and challenging era that we have faced, but on what I firmly believe will surely prove a bright new era for Washington State University.