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Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 12/08/10

Challenges and Promise

In the course of just over 48 hours last week, I saw first-hand both the great promise of this university and the great challenges that lie ahead.

On Thursday, we held the kickoff events for the public phase of The Campaign for WSU: Because the World Needs Big Ideas. I was in Seattle with an enthusiastic crowd of Cougar supporters. Meanwhile, similar scenes were being played out across the state.

Of course, the headline was the announcement of a $26 million gift from Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen in support of our School for Global Animal Health.

We deeply appreciate Paul’s generosity and his vision for his alma mater. The remarks he made from the podium and in conversations with the media and with fellow Cougars showed just how engaged he is in the mission of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health.

Philanthropy is, in many ways, an act of faith. People make a gift in the hope, in the belief, that it will be used most effectively to advance a larger cause.

On Thursday, we celebrated many such acts of faith.

During the silent phase of the campaign, we received gifts totaling $506.2 million from more than 130,000 donors. Each gift, whether $26 or $26 million, is vital to our efforts. And each giver deserves the same assurance that her or his money will be used wisely and well.

For me, the importance of private philanthropy was reinforced Saturday at a joint meeting of the regents of Washington State University and the University of Washington, which was attended by Gov. Christine Gregoire and the state’s chief economist, Arun Raha.

The fact that Gov. Gregoire and Raha—a WSU alum, by the way—would spend more than two hours discussing higher education and the state’s budget with our regents was a clear sign of the importance they place on these issues. No one who attended could doubt the governor’s commitment to higher education. However, the state’s bleak economic picture makes another round of budget cuts difficult to avoid.

On Friday, we posted information on the preliminary budget reduction plans submitted by deans and vice presidents in response to the most recent cuts in our state allocation. You can view the plans and other background information at budget.wsu.edu/plans.

We will hold a budget forum at noon today (December 8) at the CUB Auditorium to discuss the plans. You can also provide feedback through a link on the budget page. We expect to have a new budget in place on January 1, 2011.

WSU and our allies across the state will be making the best possible case for higher education funding in the upcoming legislative session. Adequate state support will remain absolutely necessary to our efforts to preserve access and quality. We must not rely on donors to pay our basic cost of operations.

At the same time, we recognize that—at this time, more so than any other time in memory—private philanthropy will be vital if we are to achieve excellence. The money we raise will support student scholarships, endowed professorships and chairs, graduate fellowships, research and academic programs, and improved facilities. Without that support, our shrinking state allocation will doom us to mediocrity.

I would like to extend my deepest appreciation not just to the WSU staff, faculty, and volunteers who made Thursday’s launch events statewide so successful, but also to the 130,000 people who have already expressed their faith in our vision for Washington State University.

With all those people on our side, I am more confident than ever in our university’s ability to achieve its goals.