Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White - December 12, 2019

Chancellor, The California State University
CSU Foundation Board of Governors Meeting
Opening Remarks (as prepared)​
Long Beach, California
December 12, 2019

Good afternoon and the happiest of holidays to you and your families.

Thank you for joining us today and for your sustained commitment to enhancing the educational excellence of the California State University.

The academic success, and indeed, the very futures of our nearly half a million students, are enriched by your continuing support.

This year, 127,400 of those students completed their CSU education and crossed the commencement stage ready to chase their dreams, embrace their futures and change the world.

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of CSU faculty, staff and administrators as part of Graduation Initiative 2025, the size of this graduating class is a CSU record. In fact, graduation rates across the board are also at all-time highs. You'll hear more about those efforts, and their impact, from Executive Vice Chancellor Loren Blanchard in just a bit.

But even more impressive than the statistics are the students themselves.

Students such as Stephen Vandereb, who graduated cum laude from Cal State San Marcos and served as commencement speaker. During his time on campus, he took advantage of volunteer opportunities, helped found an academic honor society for transfer students and won several awards for academic achievement. Impressive for anyone, but particularly for a young man who grew up in a crime-plagued neighborhood, was briefly involved with a local gang, and – at age 16 – found himself homeless and about to be a father. A truly remarkable turnaround.

Another proud graduate from the Class of 2019 is Livier Camarena Sanchez. The oldest child of immigrant parents and a first-generation college student, Livier felt lost when she first set foot on campus at Stanislaus State. But her professors and staff helped her stay motivated and find her direction – a direction that led to her receiving the CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement for her promising research in the field of biological sciences.

Livier, Stephen and indeed all of our graduates stand as living proof of the transformative power of a CSU education.

It's an education that is made possible through substantial philanthropic support – and what was a record-breaking year of giving at the California State University.

For fiscal year 2018-19, gift receipts totaled more than $370 million, with commitments totaling almost $570 million. Both figures surpass previous all-time highs. This exceptional financial support was fueled largely by comprehensive fundraising campaigns across 13 of our campuses.

The number of individual donors also eclipsed the previous standard, with 268,108 fellow philanthropists contributing to student success across the CSU.  

Their generosity – and the generosity of those in this room – transforms the lives of our students through the power of higher education, while elevating communities, our great state, country and, indeed, the world.

I was reminded of the global scale of our impact when I joined other CSU leaders at our second systemwide alumni reception in London last month.

Three hundred enthusiastic alumni were on hand – a considerable increase over last year's inaugural event – to connect and reconnect with fellow CSU graduates, while discussing ways to best support the generations of students following in their footsteps. A special thanks to foundation board member Mike Lucki for joining us in London this year.

In February, we will embark upon a journey to Asia to hail CSU alumni in Seoul and Tokyo. I invite all of you to join us and witness firsthand just how far a CSU education can take a person – a journey measured in neither miles nor kilometers but in the realization of that person's full potential.

We all know that as important as philanthropic support is to the fulfillment of the CSU mission, it alone is not enough to finance the largest and most diverse public comprehensive university in the nation.

Not by a long shot. That is why we were so appreciative of the strong budget allocation provided by Governor Newsom this year. And it's why the passage of Proposition 13, the Public Preschool, K-12, and College Health and Safety Bond Act of 2020, is so important.  

If the $15 billion facilities bond passes in March, the CSU will receive $2 billion to improve aging infrastructure to ensure safe and modern facilities for our students, faculty and staff.

Later in this meeting, Vice Chancellor Garrett Ashley will outline our outreach and educational strategies for the bond and Assistant Vice Chancellor Vi San Juan will review our university's significant infrastructure needs.

But for now, I will move on to other business of the day, namely, the executive searches currently underway.

In September, Cal State East Bay President Leroy Morishita announced his intention to retire, following four decades of exceptional service to the CSU. Trustee Jack McGrory will be chairing the search committee for the new president, with the goal of bringing finalists to the board's attention in May 2020.

Another of our remarkable presidents, Dianne Harrison of CSUN, just last month announced her decision to retire at the end of the academic year, culminating a distinguished 15-year career in the CSU, during which she has had a tremendous impact on our university and on public higher education writ large. The search committee for her replacement will soon be formed.

And, of course, you might have heard that there is also another search underway to recruit the 8th Chancellor of the California State University.

To that end, Chairman Day has appointed two committees to lead the process. 

The Special Committee to Consider the Selection of the Chancellor, composed of seven trustees, is chaired by Trustee Jean Firstenberg. Chairman Day, Vice Chair Kimbell and I are serving as ex officio members and Trustee Emerita Roberta Achtenberg is serving as the committee's senior advisor.

A Stakeholder Advisory Committee has also been appointed to serve in concert with the trustees' special committee. Members include faculty, staff, student and alumni representatives as well as Cal Poly San Luis Obispo President Jeff Armstrong and Cal Poly Pomona President Soraya Coley.

Over the past two months, the committees have conducted a listening tour across five campuses and here at the Chancellor's Office. As you might imagine, students, faculty, staff, community members and alumni shared an abundance of opinions about the qualities that they would like to see in the next Chancellor and words like “diversity," “inclusion," “student success," “respect," “innovation" and “basic needs" were well represented.

Clearly, there is much to consider. But I have every confidence that a strong successor will be appointed, one who will continue to move the CSU onward and upward.

But I want to be clear, lest you start hastening me to the door or trying to play me off the stage, I still have half a year left and no intention of slowing down. I plan crossing the finish line at a sprint, with our university's overarching goals of student success and inclusive excellence as my North Star.

Given these goals, how passionate I am about the work we do here and, of course, how obviously young and spritely I am, I have been asked why I am choosing now to retire.

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

It's because our university is.

As you will hear in my State of the CSU next month, we are in a strong, stable position. We have a deep bench of talent in our administration from here in the Chancellor's Office to our 23 campuses. Our student success goals are moving in the right direction. Our university is more diverse and more inclusive, than when I started. And our funding is as strong as it's ever been – although we will always have needs to meet.

In my view, it's always best to change leadership during times of stability and success. And so, the CSU is ready.

In closing, please accept my deepest gratitude for all that we have accomplished together – in philanthropy and advocacy – for the California State University and more importantly, for our students, alumni, faculty and staff. I look forward to seeing all of you at least one more time at our annual meeting on June 15th, 2020.