This letter from SDSU’s retiring president, Stephen L. Weber, was originally published in the San Diego Union-Tribune’s June 26 Dialog section.
I will soon be marking my last day as President of San Diego State University. I wanted to end these 15 years as I began them: with a statement of thanks for the opportunity to be a part of this extraordinary university and a citizen of this full-of-promise community.
As an educator, I appreciated what a fine university San Diego State was when I arrived. As I leave, I depart with gratitude to the thousands of men and women who have worked to make it an even better university during the intervening years. Like San Diego, SDSU is a place where you can “push the envelope.” That is where the professional satisfaction comes from; not from presiding, but from producing. I believe that the reason San Diego State has had only seven presidents in the last 114 years is because it is a university where you can do things that have never been done before.
Needless to say, I am not the one that pushed the envelope; rather, my colleagues were the ones who moved SDSU forward. They made San Diego State the nation’s leader in improved graduation rates, the number one small research university in the country, and first in California and third nationally in its Carnegie category for sending students abroad. They brought in more than $ 1.1 billion in sponsored research since 2000 and secured more than $700 million in philanthropic support. Fueled by these accomplishments, SDSU is now attracting more than 60,000 annual applications.
I am grateful to our University Senate for its wise advice and counsel through these years; and I am grateful to all SDSU faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who collaborated to develop a “Shared Vision” for the university that became my “to-do” list.
I am grateful to our students who have supported increasing their own fees to invest in new facilities and to create new traditions. They have challenged us all to be better leaders and to expand SDSU’s commitment to sustainability. Students have also been our conscience with regard to social justice.
I am particularly grateful to the citizens of San Diego for the support they have given to San Diego State. You collaborated with us to create dynamic new academic programs. The bioscience industry helped us develop our Master’s Degree in Regulatory Affairs; the construction industry helped us develop a Construction Engineering Management program; the healthcare industry developed Nurses Now, whereby we were able to double the production of nurses. The hospitality and tourism industry guided us in developing what has already become a world-class Hospitality and Tourism program.
These collaborations took place because San Diego State strives to be open and responsive to the needs of the community, but they could not have happened had members of the community not recognized the capacity of San Diego State and its willingness to be a partner in accomplishing good things. You have helped us attract better and more diverse students. You have supported our university with record-breaking philanthropy.
All over the country, I have said that I cannot imagine a better place to be a university president than San Diego. We are urban, diverse, high-tech, Pacific Rim, and Latin America. Those are the ingredients of the 21st-century, and it is all of you who make those ingredients available to us, to our faculty and staff, and to our students. If the greatness of San Diego State lies in its capacity to push the envelope, then we must acknowledge our gratitude to San Diego for giving us the levers with which to expand our world.
I hope you will afford Elliot and Jeri Hirshman the same warm welcome you did to Susan and me. If you continue to support Elliot as you have me, then both San Diego and San Diego State will prosper.
Thank you, all, for the privilege of being part of San Diego State University and for the pleasure of being a member of the San Diego community.
Stephen L. Weber is SDSU’s seventh president. He retires on July 5 – 15 years from the day he started his presidency.