Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White - January 12, 2020

Chancellor, The California State University
Auxiliary Organizations Association Conference
Opening Remarks (as prepared)
Long Beach, California
January 12, 2020

Thank you, President de la Torre, for the kind introduction.

Thanks also to John and Kacie for the tremendous leadership you provide AOA… and to all our business partners represented here this evening… I am glad you are able to join us tonight.

Finally, congratulations to AOA scholarship winner Palia Vang, your scholarship is richly deserved and well earned.

It's an honor to be with you tonight and to welcome you to the 2020 Auxiliary Organizations Association's Annual Conference.

It's always a great pleasure to join you in celebration of the work of the California State University's campus auxiliaries. It strikes me as all the more consequential twelve days into 2020 – AOA's 50th anniversary year.

The theme of this year's conference – “Celebrating AOA's Past and Promising Future" – is particularly apt, given this remarkable milestone. And it's in that spirit that I'd like to take a few moments to reflect upon – and express my deep and heartfelt gratitude for – all your work during my seven-plus-year tenure as chancellor.  

As I consider the role of auxiliaries at the CSU, I am reminded of a conversation I had with Cal State Fullerton's President Virjee just a few weeks ago. He asked me what – looking back upon my career – I found most rewarding about a life in higher education.

It was a simple enough question, but one that required a bit of reflection. Ultimately, I responded that, as a biologist, I can speak about cardiovascular function, cell motility, the role of genetics and the environment and all the other things that contribute to our development as human beings. But it is only through my career in academic leadership that I have come to fully appreciate the role of higher education in facilitating the emergence of the human – and you can fill in the blank here – mind, spirit, soul, potential, promise. Working in higher education, it is our extraordinary privilege to be a part of an environment that helps people from every walk of life realize their human potential, regardless of the challenges they may face.

And that's exactly what you do. Auxiliary organizations enliven and enrich the Cal State learning and discovery experience in countless, significant ways.

You create community: providing students with spaces to live, eat, meet and study, opportunities for students to find their voice and their passions, to lead and help shape the future of their campuses, to find employment, or to give back through public service.

Clubs can lead to self-discovery, of finding support and kinship where once was doubt and isolation.

Recreational facilities and athletic programs enable students to strengthen their bodies as they form friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.

Research opportunities allow students to discover new talents, interests and career paths even as they discover breakthroughs to some of California's most pressing challenges.

You help our most vulnerable students meet their basic needs, or ease their financial burden through the provision of private scholarships, so that they can focus on their studies.

The holistic services you provide are an essential complement to the work of our faculty and staff, helping to make a Cal State education an experience of a lifetime, where passions are discovered, dreams are formed and bright futures are launched.

As some of you have heard me say before, your organizations may be called “auxiliaries," but your role is to help the university achieve its primary objective: student success.

Let me highlight just a few of your accomplishments to give you a sense of the growing impact you've had on the CSU and its students over the course of my tenure.

Over the past seven years, we have continued to set new standards for fundraising. Fiscal year 2018-19 was no exception, with almost 270,000 individual philanthropists committing approximately $570 million in gifts – both numbers representing all-time highs.

Since 2012, we have raised an astonishing $3.2 billion in commitments, just let that number sink in for a moment. And our endowment has grown by more than $653 million during the same timeframe – an increase of 56 percent – and now stands at a record $1.8 billion.

Increased giving has resulted in increases in student scholarships, too. Over the past seven years, almost 150,000 students have received more than $377 million in private scholarships. 150,000 lives changed and dreams realized through this generosity and your dedicated work.

CSU research and sponsored programs have grown by approximately $100 million since 2012 – resulting in 38,000 journal publications in the past five years alone. But the true impact lies behind these datapoints of input and output, the real impact is found in the stories of our students. Students like Ariana Gonzalez, a 2018 biochemistry graduate from Cal State LA.

Here's how her CSU research experience has affected her life, in her words, and I quote:

“While on campus, I was lucky enough to be on a team conducting research on diagnostic devices and was fortunate to do research in my specific field of interest, glucose sensors.

“This research topic is immensely personal for me. At age 7, I was diagnosed as a diabetic. I still remember the day, walking out of my pediatrician's office holding my mom's shaky hand and seeing her watery eyes and worried facial expression.

“We walked across the street to the pediatrics unit of the hospital while I tried to convince my mom to take me home instead. I was admitted and diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

“After leaving the hospital, I found myself living a new life that involved constant challenge and constant learning. As difficult as it is to be diabetic, the learning fueled my interest and passion in medicine.

“At Cal State LA, I was provided the opportunity to channel that interest and passion into research on glucose sensors, focusing on how these lifesaving devices can be made accessible in regions where access to quality healthcare is lacking. I fabricated and tested various glucose sensing devices using simple materials, including paper, thread and tape.

“I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have been able to conduct research as an undergraduate. Not only did this opportunity enhance my experience on campus, it sparked my interest in the field of medicine. Today, I am applying to medical school and am determined to become a physician and help address health disparities that exist in my local community."

While Ariana's story is unique and truly exemplary, at the same time, it is the quintessential Cal State story: a gifted student finds her passion, is inspired to the heights of academic achievement – and demonstrates a commitment to use her knowledge and skills to give back, to elevate her community, to improve the lives of others. May we all draw inspiration from students like Ariana.

Auxiliary organizations are also among Cal State's most passionate and effective advocates. You support and inspire the world's largest and most powerful alumni base – one that has grown by almost one million CSU graduates over the past seven years and now stands more than 3.8 million strong.

You've worked side-by-side with faculty and staff to help us tell the Cal State story in both Washington and Sacramento. And I'd like to specifically acknowledge our student leaders on this point. They have told our story as only they can, speaking to their own journeys and challenges – and those of their peers. Those stories have resonated, moved and inspired. Our elected officials believe in us and in our mission, a belief reflected in bold investment in our work.

You house and feed our students. Most important, you do so with compassion for the most vulnerable students among the Cal State community and with sensitivity for the environment and an eye toward sustainability.

More than 11,000 beds have been added across the CSU over my tenure as chancellor, and – in partnership with our campuses – these facilities are constructed and managed in accordance with proven sustainability practices that are integrated throughout our university operations.

Similarly, dining services across the CSU are embracing innovative sustainability measures, including campus-grown, locally and sustainably sourced food, waste-diversion initiatives, environmentally friendly packaging and materials, energy efficiency and green custodial practices.

And auxiliaries play a crucial role in the CSU's Basic Needs Initiative. All 23 campuses now have a food pantry or food distribution program – most managed by campus Associated Students – to support the 40 percent of CSU students who report food insecurity. Food voucher and meal donation programs supplement the food pantries and give students, faculty and staff the opportunity to support those in the campus community facing food insecurity. And technology is providing increasingly effective tools to help these students – auxiliary-developed apps like Fresno's Catered Cupboard and Fullerton's Titan Bites alert students whenever leftover food is available after a campus event.

Of course, these examples represent just a fraction of the remarkable work Cal State auxiliaries do on a daily basis. To properly acknowledge your impact to our university and its students, I'd have to extend this speech by several hours – and no one wants to see that happen.

But, I hope I've given you a sense of the extraordinary breadth of the collective work accomplished by the CSU's auxiliary organizations – and of the myriad ways it enriches the student experience and empowers student success.

And I hope I've given you a sense of the depth of my gratitude for all that you do and for all that you've done during my tenure as chancellor.

You see, you aren't the only ones approaching a milestone. As you know, 2020 marks my last year as chancellor of this wonderful university. I haven't spoken much about my retirement. There's so much work left to be done, and I hesitate to take time away from the tasks at hand.

But I want you to know that my passion for our mission and for the work that we do together has never been stronger. Our university is more diverse, more inclusive than at any time in Cal State's history. Our student success goals are moving in the right direction.

So, given this undeniable momentum, why am I choosing now to retire?

It's not because I'm ready. If that were my benchmark, I would perhaps never retire.

It's because the California State University is ready.

My obligation – to the university and to all of you – is not to hold on to the job I dearly love – but rather to give everything I have to this role and then to pass the baton to my successor at a time that assures this institution's continued, uninterrupted ascent.

That time is now. And that – in large part – is because of your skilled and dedicated work – day in and day out – as essential members of the Cal State community, work that enriches the lives of our students, work that is driving California's brightest future, work that is changing the world.

It's the greatest gift any university leader could ever ask for. For that, please accept my deepest appreciation and my most heartfelt thanks.

Congratulations, AOA, on a half century of extraordinary accomplishment. And here's to the next 50 years.

Thank you.