Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White – January 15, 2017

Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
Investiture of President G. Richard Olds
St. George’s University
January 15, 2017​​

Thank you Prime Minister Mitchell, Dr. MacPherson, Chancellor Modica, Patrick Adam​​s, students, faculty, staff, alumni and board members of St. George’s University… distinguished guests, community leaders, and the Olds family.

Good afternoon… it is a distinct honor to join you at the investiture of President Olds. All of us gathered today join in celebration with a tremendous champion, not only of internationally-minded training and care in human medicine, but in the constellation of disciplines and professions of public health, business, veterinary medicine and science, nursing and informatics that promote hope, opportunity and well-being.

Today, we celebrate someone who has dedicated his life to serving historically-underserved communities… Someone who believes that higher education – across all disciplines – is the path to a bright and prosperous future.

But first… I must admit that this is an amazingly beautiful campus in one of the most picturesque settings I have ever seen.

And frankly, President Olds, I’m a little envious.

President G. Richard Olds… that has a great ring to it.

Having known Dick for the past decade, I can tell you that he is a person who will give his all to this role, to this university and to the students.

In fact… when I was invited to speak on behalf of my friend and colleague… there were so many things that occurred to me about how uniquely qualified and suited Dick was to this role that it was a challenge to decide where to start.

So, it seemed that the beginning would be a great place to start.

For Dick, higher education is a part of his DNA… a proud family legacy. And after this next story, you’ll see where Dick gets his passion for justice and his steely resolve.

Dick’s father… Glenn Olds… was president of Springfield College in Massachusetts in 1964… and that campus took the then-controversial action to invite Martin Luther King, Jr. to speak at commencement.

Glenn got a call from the FBI telling him to cancel King’s speech… and King was arrested two days before the event.

But Glenn Olds never relented. He drove to the prison and threatened to broadcast the speech from jail if King was not released… King was released on $900 bail.

Dick, still a kid at that time, realized something was up when he had to give up his room to an unexpected house guest.

The next day, he came down to breakfast to see the United States’ greatest civil rights leader sitting at their family table.

In the circles of life that mark our journey on Earth, we will be hard-pressed to find a more poignant moment than to note that President Olds’ investiture is occurring today, on the occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday – January 15th.

This story reminds me of a King quote from the same year, 1964… as King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize…

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”

We should all have that audacity… the audacity to believe in – and work for – an end to hunger… with education for all… and respect for the dignity of the mosaic of human spirit.

Dick has the audacity to believe all of these things are achievable. The conviction of his belief inspires everything he does.

At the University of California, Riverside, where Dick and I joined together, he as vice chancellor for Health Affairs and founding dean of the School of Medicine, Dick always found ways to bring the arts, the humanities, the sciences and the community into the study of medicine and healthcare administration.

It sounds simple enough, but in much of healthcare this is still a revolutionary idea…

Patients are people… with complex and fascinating lives… and keeping people healthy – let alone curing people – involves much more than treating ailments.

Dick is a leader… and a champion… in medicine’s shift toward treating the person, not the disease.

As he and I worked to establish the medical school at the University of California, Riverside, the first new public medical school in California in over forty years, I saw his vision take root and thrive among the students, faculty and community… a vision of what medicine should and could be.

He challenged everyone to make a positive contribution whenever and wherever we find ourselves… but to keep an eye to our global, common challenges.

Indeed, we live in an amazing era… information can travel the globe in the blink of an eye… nearly every city, town and village is reachable in a day’s travel.

But disease, war and strife can also cross borders and reach us in ways we never experienced before.

That is why Dick’s focus on international, global issues fits so well with the times and this generation of emerging leaders.

I’ve seen the joy that Dick gets when he is able to interact directly with a group of students… either in a campus forum or in the classroom, clinic or lab.

I know he relished the opportunities he had over the years to step in and teach a class as a visiting expert.

As I understand it, he’s already taught eight classes on infectious disease – here at St. George’s University.

I’ve also heard that Dick has hit the ground running on student success and scholarship programs… while recruiting new students from underserved communities… especially those with an interest in areas of highest need.

And I don’t need to tell all of you that St. George’s University shares Dick’s commitment to solving local and global challenges by offering an excellent university education.

Your colleges of medicine, veterinary medicine and sciences, arts and sciences, and graduate programs would all be outstanding on their own.

Yet, together… as one health, one medicine… St. George’s University reaches that aspiration of addressing the fullness of the human experience… and that of our fellow travelers, the animals we depend on and care for.

The greatest medical discoveries are useless without the entrepreneurs and health administrators that connect patients with treatment options and health professionals.

Breakthroughs in health science for humans often benefit the veterinary sciences… and vice versa. In fact, one of our greatest challenges is combating diseases that cross between species.

At the same time, sociologists and psychologists are critical to understanding how and why people respond to medical advice and treatment alternatives… as well as addressing the full range of emotional, financial and familial consequences of a health crisis.

St. George’s University is in this together… one place to bring these complex topics together and explore how they connect.

Student-centered great universities have a constellation of programs and people that, through synergy and leverage, the whole will exceed the sum of the parts.

Student-centered Great University… wait, that’s your acronym – SGU!

Chancellor Modica… I can only imagine the tremendous pride and joy as you look out on the audience here today… and consider the tremendous legacy you inspired over the past 40 years.

You have created a beacon for the world, a place of knowledge and spirit.

And you have entrusted this legacy to a person who I have every confidence will continue to inspire faculty, staff and students to advance the cause of Excellence in International Education.

As Henry Kissinger once observed, the task of a leader is to get his or her people from where they are to where they have not been.

A new leader challenges dogma and inertia, and inspires a fresh aspiration in transforming the university to prepare for future institutional and societal needs.

Great leaders are both poets and plumbers… a poet to articulate vision and aspiration, to promote the university to the worldwide communities you serve… to persuade support.

A plumber to make sure things get done… to understand the business, to hire and retain talent… and then give them authority, responsibility and accountability to succeed.

But effective leaders, to transform this university for tomorrow, need the support of all of us, from the chancellor and board, to government and business leaders here and worldwide – from students and staff to faculty and alumni… we each share in the responsibility to encourage, help shape the direction and then take action.

And SGU’s success will be best chronicled by the ability of alumni to live, work, compete and prosper in our global society.

Congratulations to you and the board on a tremendous appointment.

Finally, as I look out at the audience and see Karen… my wife, my best friend and my inspiration… I know that there is someone here to whom Dick will turn and rely on… whatever the challenges… that person is his wife, Jackie.

Campus president is a tremendous and demanding job… it is our spouses, families and loved ones that make this possible.

So, thank you Jackie.

I’ll conclude with this… Today, we face a great many centrifugal forces… forces that would pull us apart and separate us into different groups.

Universities – especially St. George’s University – are centers of centripetal force… places of audacious belief that bring people together.

Whether it is bringing people together from different disciplines to share their expertise and expand horizons… orbringing people together from different nations, creeds, life experiences and socioeconomic backgrounds… St. George’s University is a place where people join together and inspire each other to succeed.

And I know that President Olds will be there… standing alongside each of you… celebrating with you as you reach your highest potential.

Thank you, and Godspeed.