“FDU Today and Tomorrow: Shaping Our Future”

President Christopher A. Capuano

Keynote Address

Academic Convocation

September 7, 2016

Thank you and good afternoon, everyone! What a beautiful day and what a magnificent setting. It’s great to see so many faculty, staff, and trustees—and students, alumni, retired faculty, and friends—all of whom are here today to join in celebrating the beginning of a new academic year.

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful and productive summer, and I know you are as excited as I am to see our campuses come alive again with students and student activities.

Convocation always kicks off the formal start of the academic year, but this year we will celebrate much more than that. In fact, we are truly beginning the start of a new era at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

And I don’t say this just because this is my first year as president. Nor do I say this because we have several new leaders who bring tremendous talents and experiences to our University. And not because we have new faculty, new students, or even new programs. These things are certainly true and they do mark a new beginning. But what truly makes this the start of a new era isn’t just what is new today, but the opportunity we now have—what we can do together to build upon our past, to seize our momentum, and to transform our University into something greater than it has ever been before. It’s what’s coming next that excites me, and it’s what we can do together that truly will mark a new era at this great university. As Gandhi once said, “The future depends on what we do in the present”—what we do now!

I stand before you today with great humility on becoming the 8th president in the history of this extraordinary university. This university was founded nearly three quarters of a century ago by an incredible educational pioneer who saw a need, who saw an opportunity, and who saw a vision of something truly extraordinary. Dr. Peter Sammartino, along with his wife Sally and many other devoted people, brought to life an institution that would transform the lives of thousands of individuals. In fact, well over 100,000 graduates have had their lives changed by this institution. Certainly Peter Sammartino cherished the notion of global education, and our mission today is directly related to his foresight and vision. But his goal wasn’t just to teach people about the world. His goal was to teach people to transform themselves and in the process change their world. This is the university we have inherited. And this is the vision we now take responsibility for, together.

When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2016, we will usher in the year 2017, and that year will mark the 75th anniversary of the opening of this great university. I don’t think Peter Sammartino, or Colonel Fairleigh S. Dickinson, or any of the founding leaders could have imagined the growth and the impact this institution could have had on so many lives. But here we are, and as we take pride in where we are today, we have to continually celebrate the past, thank those who have built the foundation for us, and cherish the memories and the legacies that inspired our birth and our growth.

Our history is certainly connected to our present and to our future. In the words of the American abolitionist and author Harriet Beecher Stowe, “The past, the present, and the future are really one; they are today.”

So while we celebrate our rich history, we now have an obligation to continue to move this institution forward. Indeed our job today is to build our future.

As many people know, FDU is known for many things. But for me, as I talk with veteran faculty members and staff, and as I meet with more and more alumni, the one dominant theme at this institution that stands out is this theme of transformation. FDU has a well-earned reputation for transforming lives. And actually that’s not just for our graduates. All who come here, including our faculty and staff, have been transformed. Take me for example. I’m not an alumnus of this wonderful university, but this university has given me opportunities, has given me many challenges over the years, and has helped me to develop into something that I didn’t even realize was possible some 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago. And I know it has done the same for many of you.

Now we have to return the favor. We all must work together to transform this wonderful university—to take the great things we have here and make them even greater; to take the enormous potential here and to turn it into new realities; and to take a good university and turn it into one of the very best universities in the dynamic metropolitan area in which we live.

So, how we can do that?

Under President Drucker, we produced an outstanding blueprint for our future; our University-wide strategic plan aligns our strengths with current demands and needs, and provides both opportunities for renewal of existing programs and the creation of new programs that promise to further distinguish us.

Moreover, our strategic plan enables us to focus our resources on a few strategic initiatives at a time. Over the next few years, we will renew current programs to better reflect the skills needed in the 21st century workplace. We also will leverage our existing strengths and create centers of excellence in areas such as health sciences, hospitality, business, other STEM fields, public and global affairs, and the arts.

In conjunction with our strategic plan, we have a new facilities master plan and a developing capital campaign, all of which align nicely and will preserve the integrity of current programs and facilities while enhancing our living and learning environment to be among the best anywhere in the region. Our plans include a hotel and new facilities for our hospitality school and executive education, a new campus union building on the Metropolitan Campus, as well as expanded athletic facilities and a new science building on the Florham Campus.

Some of you may be thinking that this all sounds well and good, but what looks great on paper doesn’t always come to fruition. Well, while I understand some caution is always good, I can assure you that these aspirations are not dreams that we hope to see at some point in the distant future. These are real, these are tangible, and some of these will in fact happen very soon.

Just yesterday morning, I met with the leadership of a global hospitality corporation. At this meeting we moved closer to finalizing an agreement to establish a co-branding and naming relationship between this corporation and the hospitality school here at FDU, and to begin the planning phase for a new hotel, conference center and banquet facility on the Metropolitan Campus, as well as new, state-of-the-art facilities for our hospitality school and executive education programs. While we still have much to do before this project comes to fruition, we have taken an important step in our plan to further distinguish our hospitality school and the University through a partnership with a leading global hospitality corporation. And this step is a clear indication of the confidence that we and others have in our strategic plan and what we are doing here at FDU.

After Convocation this afternoon, I invite everyone to join us at our new health science facility down the road a bit, at 230 Park Avenue, for a reception and brief ceremonies to commemorate two additional strategic advances. Effective immediately, our School of Pharmacy, home to one of only two doctoral programs in pharmacy in the State of New Jersey, will become the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. In addition to the Doctor of Pharmacy, the Master of Health Science and eventually the Doctor of Physical Therapy and Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies will be added as new programming in the expanded school. In addition, the Henry P. Becton School of Nursing and Allied Health will join the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in offering undergraduate and graduate programming in nursing within our new health science facility in Florham Park.

And when you arrive at 230 Park Avenue, you will participate in a brief ribbon cutting ceremony commemorating the opening of the third floor of the facility, which was supported by a grant from the State of New Jersey—a grant of $2.8 million dollars. I encourage you to join us and to tour the facility when you arrive. You will be very impressed when you see what FDU is doing in the health sciences.

And I have yet more great news to share with you. As many of you know, we have many strong programs and initiatives in public and global affairs at FDU, including our well recognized research and polling institute—PublicMind. Building on these successes, I am pleased to announce the creation of a new School of Public and Global Affairs, which will draw from and build upon the many resources we have across the University, and which will help grow and further distinguish the University’s reputation in these fields.

This new school, which will operate University-wide, will be home to existing and eventually new graduate programs in public administration and global affairs. It will draw from resources in our current colleges and will offer programs on both New Jersey campuses and eventually in Vancouver and at Wroxton College. We will also create new specializations and build other new pieces to complement the core programs in this new school.

And helping to make this possible is a very generous gift of $2.5 million dollars, made recently by FDU alumnus James Orefice and his family. The Orefice family gift will be used to support private scholarships for students studying in the new school and to support distinguished visiting faculty who will teach in the new school. We are fortunate to not only have this gift, but also to have Mr. Orefice with us today. Jim, will you please stand and be recognized.

Thank you, Jim, and your wife, Roseann, who couldn’t be here today, for your generosity and for your confidence in us.

Not only are we growing, but, as demonstrated by these successes, it is clear that we have the support of the corporate community, our state government, and the private sector (including our alumni), all of whom see the value of what we are doing and the promise of what we can become.

Often times those outside an organization are quicker to grasp an organization’s value and potential than those within. We need to understand how much potential we have. We need to have as much confidence in FDU as those who are ready to assist us. These successes should inspire us to do even more, and we will.

There is reason for excitement and confidence as evidenced by other recent successes at the University as well. Look at our recent reaccreditation process with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. We received the best review in our history and passed the Commission’s rigorous standards with flying colors, something that few institutions these days are doing.

We also recently maintained our prestigious accreditation with AACSB International—The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, and secured for the first time full accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education for our Doctor of Pharmacy program.

We have many exciting things to talk about on our New Jersey campuses, too many to mention in fact, but I want to mention a few others. We concluded Fiscal Year 2016 with yet another surplus budget, our 17th consecutive surplus budget, and in addition to providing an across-the-board salary increase to all our full-time employees last November, and a significant amount of equalization dollars for the second year in a row, we will provide a one-time payment equivalent to 2.5% of base salary to all full-time employees and part-time staff on September 15 (next week). In addition, we will provide a healthcare premium refund of nearly 14% of individual premiums to all full-time employees on October 31.

There is exciting news at our international campuses as well.

At our Vancouver Campus, the growth and impact has been tremendous. From just a handful of students when we opened nearly a decade ago, we enrolled 728 full-time students last year and this year that number should grow even higher. Over the first decade, we have greatly enlarged the learning space and strategically expanded the range of programs in Vancouver. Overall, the campus has welcomed students from 74 countries. Our graduating class this past year alone featured more than 300 students from 36 countries. It would be hard to find a more diverse and vibrant academic community than what we have established in Vancouver.

Last year, we added to our curriculum in Vancouver with a new graduate program in hospitality management studies, in which we already have 45 students enrolled. And over the next couple of years, we expect to increase our enrollment at the Vancouver Campus to 1,000 students by adding graduate degree programs in computer science, cybersecurity, and global affairs.

In England, Wroxton College is once again hosting a large number of students; 52 students in fact arrived at Wroxton College over this past weekend—one of the largest classes to study there in recent years. In addition, I am also pleased to announce that we will be expanding the business model at Wroxton College, and next fall we expect international students to begin studying hospitality management studies there, which will be the first degree program offered at Wroxton College in many years.

We also recently completed the purchase of the North Arms just outside the front gate to Wroxton College, and this venue will be fully renovated to become a full service restaurant, pub, and important training facility for our students in hospitality management studies, as well as a place of leisure for other students, faculty, staff, and alumni who visit Wroxton College on a regular basis.

In closing, I’d like to share some brief personal remarks. I remember when I first started teaching at FDU on the Rutherford Campus in 1986. As luck would have it, the faculty were on strike my first day at work, and Professor Helen Brudner, who is with us today, said to me—you better not cross the picket line, young man.

Well, those were certainly not the last words I would hear from Professor Brudner over the many years we worked together, but I have to say that most of the words she shared with me were words of encouragement. And along the way, there were many others who encouraged me (and even pushed me at times) to think and to dream big. Our former Executive Vice President Carl Viola and our late President J. Michael Adams were among those who encouraged and mentored me, and also taught me to plan carefully and when the time was right—to go for it.

Now is that time, my friends—it is time for us to go for it. Together we will continue to plan well, engage our alumni and partners, and move this University to a higher level. Together, we will transform our University into something greater than it has ever been before.

The boundaries of our future will be entirely shaped by us. As former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”

Let us indeed overcome any doubts, move forward with confidence and determination, and build this University into something greater than it has ever been before.

Thank you and Godspeed to all of us! Our journey has officially begun.