The calendar doesn’t yet say so, but it feels like fall has arrived. I’m sure that’s because I’m on a college campus again, and you can feel the anticipation of a new semester. I met some of our new students and their families and friends on move-in day, and it was nice to welcome people to campus after receiving such a warm welcome myself over the past month.
As I’ve been busy getting to know the campus and the city, I have become increasingly impressed with the campus and even more optimistic about the future of the city. One thing I’ve concluded in my short time here is that despite what some say, Detroit is not on the verge of collapse. It’s on the verge of transformation. Students here have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness or participate in the reinvention of the American city. Where else can you do that?
Last week, I met new faculty at an orientation reception. We were outside of the Jacob House, and it was a beautiful evening. The highlight, of course, was speaking to our new professors, who were full of energy and enthusiasm, and couldn’t wait to begin. We entrust our faculty with our most important responsibilities – the education of our students and the creation of knowledge. They are the heart of what we do. After speaking with these talented and interesting people, I’m even more confident in our future, and I believe our newest faculty members are going to exceed our expectations of excellence.
Just yesterday, we celebrated the official start of the academic year and the arrival of our newest class of Warriors at our annual convocation. I’ve been told that ever since former President Irvin Reid started the convocation ceremony fifteen years ago, there have been sunny skies every time. I think I’ll take yesterday’s rain as an auspicious sign of a new beginning. Convocation is a great way to start the semester, and it was a pleasure to see so many students and their friends and families about to start a new chapter in their lives. Our collective advice to our new students could be summarized in two words – work hard. I could probably add two more familiar words of Wayne State wisdom – aim higher. Those students started classes today, and I hope they are already doing both. Let’s help them realize their potential, and their dreams. This is, after all, what we are here for.
Another great signal that fall has truly arrived, despite the calendar, is the start of the football season. The Warriors’ first home game is September 14 at 6:00 p.m. I’m looking forward to attending, and hope to see many of you there.
In the meantime, enjoy this special time on the campus, and the privilege of serving such an important cause.
–M. Roy Wilson, President
Let me begin by telling you how honored and excited I feel to be leading this remarkable institution. This is both a solemn trust and an enormous responsibility, and I will do all I can to honor the university’s tradition of excellence and opportunity while guiding it toward new levels of greatness. I’ll use this blog space from time to time to share some of my reflections along the way as well as updates on campus developments and plans for the future.
The academic year won’t begin for a few weeks — even though this week’s weather feels like September — but I’ve been busy, having many conversations with campus leaders, reading my way through a small mountain of briefing materials, and exploring the campus and the Midtown community. If you haven’t explored Midtown lately, with its many cultural and entertainment venues — not to mention some great places to eat — I highly recommend it. I may be president of a university, but lately, between studying and exploring the campus, I feel more like a college student. There is much to learn, and so much to be excited about.
I’ve been enjoying hearing from faculty, staff, alumni, and community members about Wayne State’s history, challenges, and opportunities. Thank you to everyone who’s offered input — you’ve given me much to think about. Your passion for this university shines through in your comments.
Meanwhile, there’s a sense of anticipation as we get ready for the return of students to campus, including a brand-new class of Warriors — students and faculty. I have August 27th — the date of our Convocation ceremony to kick off the academic year — circled in red on my calendar. If you’re free that day, please join us.
In closing, I want to thank you all for making me feel welcome here. There is much to be done, but the opportunities for this great university are limitless, and I’m eager to begin this journey that promises to be like no other.
–M. Roy Wilson, President
Wayne State was hopping last week as the campus welcomed the election of the University’s 12th President, M. Roy Wilson, M.D., M.S. I believe the chair of our board, Governor Debbie Dingell, said it best when she referred to Dr. Wilson as “the right leader at the right time for Wayne State.” I agree, and not just because Dr. Wilson will allow me to try retirement a third time.
The search committee and the Board did excellent work, and a number of top-notch candidates were interested in becoming President. But Dr. Wilson’s background and experience make him the right fit for WSU — and vice versa.
We adjusted our carefully-orchestrated plan to introduce Dr. Wilson after word leaked to the press last Saturday. And when we announced a special Board meeting, the guessing was pretty much over. But, if anything, this seemed to heighten the interest to meet the new President, and many from the campus and community had the chance to meet Dr. Wilson and hear his initial thoughts about Wayne State and the opportunities ahead.
His trip included an open campus reception on Thursday, and I was pleased to see so many people attend to welcome Dr. Wilson and wish him well. At the reception, he told a story that I found fascinating. It seems that he had entertained the idea of being a university president several years back, but only, he related to a friend, “if it could be at a university like Wayne State.” Sometimes things work out.
I’ve only spent a little time with Roy, but it doesn’t take long to see that he is a remarkably intelligent, insightful, and passionate person. He mentioned to me that he believes his presidency at WSU will be the capstone to an already impressive career. I know the feeling.
Being the president of WSU is a great job, and I considered the job of helping to pick my successor as a major responsibility. I couldn’t be more pleased with the result.
I was scheduled to retire on June 30, but I’ve agreed to stay on until Dr. Wilson takes over on August 1. Phyllis Vroom, our deputy president, also has agreed to stay on until August 1. After that, I promise I’m going to remain retired.
Last week was historical for the University, but the week before was important as well. At the Mackinac Policy Conference, the University Research Corridor (URC) — the consortium of Wayne State University, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan — released a report that shows our three universities play a critical role in entrepreneurship. The survey results are stunning: URC alumni started or acquired businesses at double the national average among college graduates since 1996. No, not all entrepreneurs are garage tinkerers with high school diplomas. Most are university graduates, and many graduate from major research universities like Wayne State.
Last week ended with more good news. On June 6, the Wayne State University Department of Athletics, in conjunction with the Ernie Harwell Estate and the Ernie Harwell Foundation, announced the establishment of the Harwell Field Project. This project will build a baseball stadium in recognition of Ernie and Lula “Lulu” Harwell. It will provide grandstands, a press box, a team clubhouse, and a foyer to recognize the achievements and contributions of the Harwells. And, of course, this project will benefit our Warrior baseball team, as well as the surrounding community and thousands of kids who love baseball.
It’s fun to report good news, and I’m confident the best is yet to come.