May 1, 2019, Inauguration address

P

resident Judy D. Olian delivered her inauguration address May 1, 2019, in the People's United Center.

Video

Inauguration live stream

Speech As Prepared for Delivery

As prepared for delivery.

Good morning, and my deepest thanks to President Schill, and to Chairman Weldon for their profound insights and overly generous words. 

I’ve learned a lot from both of you, from your principled leadership, wisdom and resilience, and Mike — from your fundraising prowess — and I’m privileged to count you as friends and mentors. 

I’d like also to take this moment to recognize my friend and colleague EVP and Provost Mark Thompson, who has been central to Quinnipiac’s trajectory over the last 21 years, as we wish him every success and happiness in his new role. 

To the Legends, you brought – literally – music to my ears! Professor Charlotte Hammond, Chief Eddie Rodriguez, and SGA President Austin Calvo, thank you for your kind wishes. You each embody Quinnipiac’s excellence and bright future – our faculty, our staff and our students. 

And to Brett Amendola representing Quinnipiac’s 50,000 alumni, thank you for bringing the spirit and pride of our committed Bobcats to this ceremony. 

Well, what a sight! I see a community gathered to celebrate its shared values and traditions. I’m thrilled and honored to be part of this community, OUR community. 

It’s a privilege to be among people who — in many different ways — are integral to the uplifting and noble pursuit of learning. Whether as a teacher, an administrator, a trustee, a spiritual leader, a staff member, or as a student — higher education is an experience that transforms a life. 

We are part of a special tradition that pursues the discovery of new knowledge, shares it widely, and values truth. It is a tradition that alters how we look at the world, forever. 

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for being here to take part in these 2019 inaugural events as Quinnipiac prepares to embark on our 90th year. 

I am so pleased to share this event with fellow presidents and colleagues from other universities, and business and civic leaders from this great state of Connecticut who join us today.  I am in awe of the Quinnipiac trustees, faculty and staff who – year-round – go out of their way to show special care, offer heartfelt advice, devise unique class content, or sacrifice long hours on behalf of this university community. And I’m invigorated by the spirited engagement and generosity of our students – you are the reasons to be optimistic about our collective future.

Profound thanks to the inauguration committee chaired by VPs Don Weinbach and Lynn Bushnell, and to our facilities teams who planned this week of celebrating traditions in painstaking detail and extraordinary creativity under the direction of Karla Natale. You have captured the character and beauty of this community that I now call home.

And special thanks to family, friends, colleagues and mentors who have come from all over — from my roots in Australia, to France, from across the country, and from all the cities and higher education institutions with which I’ve been affiliated. 

You each occupy a place in my heart, have had an indelible impact on my life’s journey, and you have each contributed to this day in more ways than you can imagine. 

Pete Liberti, my utterly wonderful partner of 33 years, has been my rock, confidant, and cheerleader, and he continues to humble me with his grace, generosity, and selflessness. Thank you!

It may seem odd to anyone not from academia to hold an inauguration at the end of both a semester and the school year. 

Yet as I finish my first year as President of Quinnipiac and begin my official term as President, it strikes me that this is the perfect metaphor for Quinnipiac. This is a university defined by constant beginnings. 

They can happen anywhere and at any time – as indeed they have throughout the nine decades since Samuel Tator and his first 11 students – who paid $100 a piece --established in a single building on St. Ronan Street what ultimately blossomed into three beautiful and vibrant campuses.

They embodied the gutsiness that defines Quinnipiac to this day. That small College of Commerce now boasts diverse graduate and undergraduate programs in a comprehensive university spanning everything from arts and sciences, law, medicine, to education and engineering, communications, nursing, business and health sciences. 

We are known nationally for our poll, and for our commitment to teaching, lifelong learning, and research. 

And we take pride in cheering for our student-athletes and the 21 Division I Athletic teams that sport the Bobcat on their jerseys. 

At each juncture in our history, the Trustees, leadership, faculty, students and staff of Quinnipiac made possible the future we now enjoy because they made daring choices, backed by action. 

That courage and vision was certainly embodied in my predecessor, John Lahey. 

Throughout his 31 years as president, John saw opportunity and potential, and turned them into action and reality. 

His vision, coupled with ambition and fearlessness, morphed Quinnipiac to the changing realities of the 20th, and now the 21st, century. 

We owe enormous gratitude to John for his leadership and tenacity.

In Samuel Tator’s day this might have been called moxie. Today, we would describe it as nimbleness or audacity – it is the spirit of the bobcat, our mascot: fierce, always moving, and surprisingly capable of prevailing in challenges much larger than its size would suggest. 

Every organization must look inwards to understand itself – who it is, what it stands for, how it is distinct from others. 

I’ve come to appreciate and embrace with enthusiasm Quinnipiac’s uniqueness, and the role it plays in the landscape of higher education – a role different than that of major research universities, or smaller colleges of liberal arts — a role essential to the health and prosperity of future generations.

Lots of institutions are ambitious, but Quinnipiac’s ambition is infused with dedication to our students’ emotional, spiritual and intellectual development, a drive to be relevant 

in our research and societal questions, a level of caring for others, and deep interest in where the puck is headed, to use an analogy we all understand here. 

And unlike other institutions, we’re able to pivot with relative ease to the opportunities of the future. That combination of comprehensiveness with focus, warmth, and embrace of change are the contours of Quinnipiac’s distinctiveness, and they drew me to this unique institution. 

Transformative energy is in our DNA at Quinnipiac – and, possibly, even in our name itself. We take our name from the Native people who long predated European colonists. 

They believed that the rock formation that defines our Mount Carmel campus was a sleeping giant. 

I’ve always loved that. Here we are, this relatively small school with this giant ambition, and we’re anything but sleeping! 

I believe we have the potential to define a piece of the landscape of higher education every bit as much as Sleeping Giant defines our local landscape. 

In doing some background research, though this may be apocryphal, I found that Quinnipiac can mean in Quiripi “turning point.” 

That seems apt. Turning points can be exciting junctures, presenting us with choices about which paths, which possibilities, which opportunities to explore. 

That really sums up what we represent in the lives of our students, a turning point, and it describes where we are now. 

The hunger to be even better, even more relevant, to embrace change, IS Quinnipiac throughout our history, and it is gratifying to see how true it is today.

You have heard this elsewhere I am sure – we have never before lived in an era characterized by the rate of change of today. 


That dizzying pace of change is in technological advances, the volume and speed of information sharing, in market structures, geopolitical forces and threats, environmental and physical risks, and the makeup and movement of societies. 

In tandem with these dramatic shifts, the university of the future cannot be a replica of what it was yesterday, or even what it is today. 

In that spirit of constant beginnings and thanks to the committed engagement of our entire community, the strategic planning process over the past eight months has resulted in an exciting vision that builds the bridges to our shared future.  

Our purpose is to graduate students who are prepared as enlightened citizens, with readiness for careers of the 21st century. As we put that purpose into action, we are guided by four strategic pillars: 

First, we will foster an institution-wide mindset of continuous learning for 21st knowledge and skill needs. 

We will develop new specializations and credentialing in the health sciences and engineering, applications of software and artificial intelligence, expansion of cybersecurity, data science and data translation credentials, and invite interdisciplinary connections across fields, research institutes and centers that increasingly offer opportunities for scholarly advances and market solutions. 

A mindset for the 21st century requires continued adaptability also from within. Quinnipiac’s faculty and staff are the essential drivers of this mindset and have long sparked a culture that is nimble and audacious. 

It is essential that we continue to support this vibrant intellectual community and invest in the scholarship and lifelong learning needs of faculty and staff, in added research infrastructure and educational experiments. 

Facilities for classrooms, labs and faculty are a vital need to enable this community to flourish.

We will also expand our partnerships with leading employers to facilitate cross-disciplinary, high impact, experiential and immersive learning opportunities that blur the divide between work and school, and enhance the immediacy and relevance of traditional curricula of universities.

Second, we will be an inclusive, excellence-driven community. 

We aspire to become a community that is built on trust, openness and civility; that invites honest conversation about difficult subjects; and that cares for and elevates marginalized members of society. 

Let us celebrate the differences within our community and welcome first-generation students, individuals with disabilities, members of under-represented groups, LGBTQ members, veterans and active-duty military, individuals from varying socio-economic backgrounds, and adults beyond traditional-age students who now make up 35 to 40 percent of those enrolled in undergraduate education.

At QU we recognize that complex problems and effective solutions are best approached 

by teams with a variety of perspectives. 

But we are not yet where we need to be as an inclusive institution — not in faculty or staff, not in students or alumni, not in programming. We aspire to be more.

I’ve said this before: I believe that education is a human right, and we will do our part. 

We will invite and welcome broader participation from segments of society that have not typically felt that they could access, or afford, a Quinnipiac education. 

We will build pipeline programs that encourage new populations of entrants into Quinnipiac, and that facilitate their integration into, and sense of belonging within, our community. 

We will reach out to community colleges, untapped high schools, to new geographies, and lead with staff who are particularly adept in working with diverse populations. 

We must prioritize fundraising for student financial aid to lower the barriers that often limit access to education, particularly in marginalized communities. 

Third, we will nurture and positively impact internal, local and global communities.


That means looking inward to take care of ourselves — our community’s total wellbeing, tending to the physical, emotional and spiritual health of our students, faculty and staff, and stewarding the financial and natural resources that we are fortunate to enjoy. 

We will build a foundation for healthy living as a life-long pursuit.

Central to this strategic pillar is a state-of-the-art Health and Wellness Center with activities and programming that support physical fitness, medical needs, mental health counseling, and ongoing wellness and prevention education as a foundation for healthy living.

We will initiate a comprehensive sustainability plan to advance responsible management of the natural resources of the campus, and build a community mindset of protective stewardship of the planet’s environmental resources.

We must also nurture broader community purpose, to reinforce an unselfish sense of duty. 

There’s nothing deserved about being lucky or unlucky — it’s just luck — and it is incumbent upon us to help others who haven’t been so lucky. 

I’m proud of the countless ways in which our students, faculty and staff demonstrate their basic decency, and care for communities in need. 

I’ve said that we give of our brains and our brawn, from the 1500 students, faculty and staff who spread out in community service projects for the Big Event, to our physiotherapy, accounting or law students conducting clinics for low-income residents who need their services, to our student-athletes who initiate food drives and engage with children at the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, or Special Olympics, and there is so much more from across the university.

Quinnipiac will help strengthen regional and global ecosystems by sharing our intellectual and technical assets, and engaging in collaborative learning and research across businesses, universities, community colleges, government and community-based organizations, and high school partners. 

We will foster upskilling among adult learners and current employees, and engage with employers to help define skill requirements and shape innovative learning models. 

Quinnipiac University is particularly committed to continued support for community projects in Hamden and North Haven, projects that align with our educational and service mission. These projects touch many of our own lives as residents of these same communities.

I’m grateful that both Mayor Curt Leng of Hamden, and First Selectman Mike Frieda of North Haven, are here with us today. We look forward to our continuing partnership.

And that leads to our fourth, and final pillar: Fostering lifelong learning and connections among our alumni, and among those who become alumni at later stages of their careers. 

Given lengthening work and life expectancies and the rate of change in knowledge requirements, graduation is truly a commencement rather than an ending. 

In today’s world, you cannot cease being an active learner. Ever. 

Our 50,000 alumni are vital to achieving the priorities I’ve outlined. Bobcats are proud of their lineage and we want to add further reasons for their connection to their alma mater.  We will provide our alumni with convenient tools and resources to be lifelong learners in their professional and personal lives, with many touchpoints to stimulate various forms of ‘return to school’, connections to fellow alumni, and participation in volunteer activities and philanthropy. 

Recognizing the diverse needs of adult populations – whether they are young alumni or those joining later — we will personalize approaches for acquiring credentials or learning badges at all career phases — online, in partnership with employers, or through accelerated formats on campus. A diploma is only the beginning. 

To support various learner populations, we will create an integrated advising center. The center will cater to the lifespan of students and alumni, from academic advising for traditional students, to professional advising in preparation for graduates’ 

first job, and lifelong career advising and credentialing for the duration of graduates’ professional and personal lives. That is the university of the future.

Our vision for the University of the Future is not without challenge. President Schill spoke of the extraordinary complexities of academic leadership today. 

Universities sit at the intersection of major societal fault lines: 

Access and affordability versus declining public support for education and research; 

merit-oriented policies versus the leverage of privilege; open discourse over a spectrum of ideas, versus intolerance of ideas that are different; and painful cleavages along economic, gender, racial, ethnic and religious divides. 

These fault lines in society are deepening, which has led some to question the very essence of the value, and the values, of universities. 

But in a time of growing income inequality, and social and political polarization, universities must double down on that they have always stood for: truths, not personal opinions; openness to ideas – the familiar and unfamiliar, the comfortable and uncomfortable; affordability to a broad spectrum of learners; and inclusive excellence. 

These are hard ideals to achieve. Yet we must, since these ideals are the very essence of democratic society. 

At Quinnipiac, we can, and we will. And if institutions of higher learning falter in their achievement of these ideals, where else can we turn to expect better?

Steve Jobs said that you can only make sense of your life when you look back and connect the dots. 

My own journey in education started before I was born – with my parents, who met at a school board meeting in Poland. 

They were married just prior to World War II, before the Holocaust separated them.

They lost each other for seven years – my father was in Australia while my mother was a refugee in Poland and then Russia – each the sole survivor of their large families. Through sheer luck, they found each other and were reunited in Australia. 

As I said earlier, luck plays a big role in life. 

My father died when I was 12 and my eldest brother passed three years later. 

My middle brother and I were raised by my mother who had been a teacher and head of school in pre-Nazi Poland. She remained that teacher — to me — till her last day.

I’ve been fortunate to be redirected in my life by other teachers, too. 

I had a history teacher in high school in Jerusalem who scared the living daylights out of me — I was not the best student — and through fear, and attentive caring, she made sure I didn’t squander, then, whatever talents I had. 

I had a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Don Schwab, who stunned me one day, asking the question: ‘Why don’t you think about doing a PhD, and here’s what’s involved …?’ 

Looking back, that’s how the dots connected for me. 

Without that question, or those teachers, and that fateful school board where my parents met, I wouldn’t be here today. 

Every one of our faculty, and staff, is that teacher, that person who can change the course of a life. 

I am a fervent believer in, and proud champion of, the transformative role of education, and of US higher education in particular. 

I came to America on an immigrant visa and received a scholarship to go to graduate school at Wisconsin. That’s how I was swept up in the transformative power of US higher education, and in the embrace of immigrants by the US.  

And that education never ends: As an illustration, here’s what I experienced in the space of just four recent days in the midst of my normal schedule: 

I attended a teach-in about women and empowerment; a discussion of sex-trafficking with an emphasis on law and medicine; a talk remembering Ireland’s Great Hunger: and a symposium on the intersection of negotiation strategies and politics. 

We are an institution of lifelong learning, and I am lucky to be a part of it. 

You have allowed me to lay out our ambitions: Distinctive programs and learning models for the 21st century, a community that champions inclusive excellence, that nurtures its own wellbeing and that of communities, and celebrates lifelong learning and connections. 

I am sure you also recognize the vast scope of all that we must create and build to realize these ambitions. 

Where we are today is due to the audacity and resoluteness of those who preceded us.

They built the bridges upon which we now stand, and they challenged us to continue to traverse them. 

As Winston Churchill said: To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. 

And change we shall. I am thrilled to be able to make a landmark announcement today that jumpstarts our ambitious plans and brings us more rapidly to realizing our collective vision. Leadership comes in many forms — by lifting others’ sights to see bigger purpose; with steadfast, principled choices; insightful and impactful strategic decisions; and in some instances, with inspiring philanthropy. It is rare that ALL of these leadership qualities are seen in the same individuals. In this case they are. 

I speak of Board Chairman Bill Weldon and his wife, Barbara, who were married while attending Quinnipiac as undergraduates, and who together have impacted countless lives and organizations with all of the forms of leadership I mentioned. 

Today, they add to that legacy with a momentous commitment of … $15 million … to support the future plans of Quinnipiac. Through this gift, Barbara and Bill are infusing our future with promise, energy and confidence. We are all indebted to them for their unwavering commitment to Quinnipiac over many years, for their leadership and vision, for lifting our collective sights, and for their personal friendship. Bill and Barbara, we are inspired by your life’s work, and humbled by your generosity. 

As I conclude my first year at Quinnipiac, I come back to where I started: Feeling invigorated by the traditions, and by the great promise of our university. 

Quinnipiac is a place of constant beginnings. 

It is gutsy in its embrace of change; it is connected to the needs of the future in its research and learning programs; it is preparing civically-engaged and 21st century-ready graduates who will advance society; it nurtures the well-being of its community and its pursuit of lifelong learning; and it is hungry to be a force of good in the broader world we share. 

I pledge to do my utmost on behalf of Quinnipiac -- honoring its past, celebrating its present, and anticipating its bright future that is uniquely its own. 

I am grateful for the generosity of Bill and Barbara, moved by Quinnipiac’s embrace of Pete and me, and nourished by the faith I have in the people who make this institution what it has become, who will build the bridges to what it has yet to be. 

Thank you, and go Bobcats!