Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White - May 16, 2019

Remarks by Timothy P. White
Chancellor, The California State University
Introduction of President Conoley
California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ)
56th Annual Humanitarian Awards Dinner
Long Beach, California
May 16, 2019

Good evening.

My name is Tim White, chancellor of the California State University, and it is a great pleasure to be with you tonight to introduce Dr. Jane Close Conoley…and to help pay tribute to all of these exceptional honorees.

I would first like to thank the California Conference for Equality and Justice for naming Dr. Conoley one of its “Outstanding Humanitarians" for 2019. It is gratifying to me – and to all of us at the California State University – to see Dr. Conoley recognized for her tireless dedication to improving human relations and to tackling bias, bigotry and racism in all forms.

In the many roles in which she has served – professor, dean, mentor and president (to name just a few) – Dr. Conoley has been relentless in her support of equity. She has consistently inspired her colleagues, students and members of the community to view others in the fullness of each person's complex identity…and she has strived to make large-scale institutional systems more inclusive.

The granddaughter of Irish-Catholic immigrants, Dr. Conoley grew up in a working-class home in the Bronx with her two older brothers and twin sister. Although her parents, Thomas and Marie, had little formal education, they were great believers in its transformative power – and set a high standard for academic achievement for all their children.

Dr. Conoley earned a scholarship to attend the College of New Rochelle, an elite Roman Catholic women's college, where she took to heart the Ursuline service ethos and decided to major in psychology with the goal of working with special-education students.

Later, she enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Texas at Austin, where she turned her focus to school-based mental-health programs and to teaching educators how to work with students facing abuse, poverty and other obstacles to learning.

After earning her Ph,D., she accepted a position as an assistant professor of psychology at Syracuse University, becoming her department's second-ever female hire.

The academic careers of Dr. Conoley and her husband, Dr. Collie Conoley – also a psychology professor – would eventually lead them back to Texas, then to Nebraska and on to UC Santa Barbara, where Dr. Conoley served as dean of the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education.

During these productive years, she continued to promote and write about equity in educational attainment across all socio-economic and ethnic groups.

In 2012, UC Riverside – my former professional home – came calling. Dr. Conoley served there as interim chancellor for nine months prior to being appointed the seventh president of California State University, Long Beach.

As president of one of the largest and most diverse of Cal State's 23 campuses, Dr. Conoley has been a vocal and visible champion for justice and equity on – and beyond – the Long Beach State campus. She talks frequently and eloquently about the right of every person to be treated with respect and to be offered every chance to succeed.

More importantly, she puts these values into action.

  • Dr. Conoley has launched university-wide presidential commissions on inclusive excellence and sustainability.
  • She has supported a basic needs program and a Dream Center for undocumented and DACA students;
  • She has underwritten the creation of a Student Cultural Resource Board, providing a voice to students from historically underrepresented communities.

    Her methods work.

    During her tenure as president of Long Beach State, graduation rates for all economic and ethnic groups have improved, and equity gaps are closing.

    But – perhaps inspired and motivated by her parents' high expectations and the justice-seeking ideals of the Ursuline nuns – Dr. Conoley has “only just begun" – for anyone in the audience old enough, like me, to remember The Carpenters. Her goal, like that of the California State University as whole, is to achieve zero disparities in persistence and graduation rates. I'm confident she'll achieve it.

    Indeed, we are proud to count Dr. Conoley as part of the Cal State family…and now…as a CCEJ Humanitarian Award Recipient.

    It is my great pleasure and privilege to introduce Dr. Jane Close Conoley. ​