Thursday, April 18, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 133


 
 









 

Smith lauds UH as a 'great university'

By Ken Fountain
Senior Staff Writer

Declaring that UH had achieved 1958 commencement speaker Lyndon B. Johnson's "prophecy" that it would someday become "a great university," UH
President Arthur K. Smith gave his "Report to the Community" before hundreds of local business leaders, elected officials and other dignitaries
Wednesday.


Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar

UH System Chancellor/UH President Arthur K. Smith addresses the UH community during his annual report Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency
downtown.

Smith's address, in the plush Grand Ballroom of downtown's Hyatt Regency Hotel, was the first time he has given the usually written report in a public
setting, as a way of marking the University's 75th anniversary.

Smith said that in October when he attended a meeting of the Conference USA board of directors, "the informal conversation (with his colleagues) ...
was not about our respective football teams' win/loss records, for which this year I was grateful."

Instead, the talk was about how universities around the country were facing legislatively mandated budget cuts, including faculty and staff raises. He
told them that UH was about to increase salaries for faculty and staff, that he was preparing to authorize searches for 75 to 80 new faculty members
and that UH had just received a $51 million state bond appropriation for the construction of a new science and engineering building.

"Research is an area that has not been strong at the University of Houston, but that sure is changing," he said, adding that when he took the position,
he "realized the importance of redefining the University's research priorities, and of concentrating our investments."

"No university can do everything in every area," he said. "That is why we began five years ago to position the University of Houston to achieve our goal of
being recognized as a nationally competitive, comprehensive research university within a limited number of carefully chosen fields."

Those fields include material science, computational and information science, biological and life sciences, theater, business, music and creative
writing, he said.

"We are really starting to see a return on the investments we've made," he said, noting that in the 2000-2001 fiscal year UH received $53 million in
research funding and that in November it received a record $12.3 million in new research grant awards, as well as another $10.3 million in February.

"Our strategy is working. But what is true of the University of Houston, in terms of setting priorities for research goals and investments, is equally true
for the state of Texas," he said.

"Not every university can be, will be or should aspire to become a top-tier research university. Limited additional resources must be focused on those
few institutions that have the very real potential to be competitive at the highest level," he said.

He lauded Houston community leaders for supporting UH's successful campaign during the 77th session of the Texas Legislature to pass a bill
creating the Texas Excellence Fund, which earmarked $12 million for UH during the current biennium.

"This is a bold first step in helping the University of Houston, and some other Texas research-intensive universities, strengthen our abilities to fulfill our
missions, and to reach our potentials nationally and internationally," he said.

"These additional funds are not going to thrust the University into the ranks of the highest quality, top-tier research and teaching universities," he
continued. "But they represent a beginning, and they will help us bring together more of the elements needed to help us achieve this ambitious goal."

Smith noted that early UH benefactor Hugh Roy Cullen first made a major gift to the University with the stipulation "that UH must always be a college for
Houston's working men and women, and their sons and daughters."

"We have kept faith with that vision," he said. "Most of our students still come from the Houston area. However, the faces on our campus have changed
over the past 75 years," he said, adding that UH is the most ethnically diverse research university in the country.

As an example of that diversity, Smith introduced senior communication and business major Mariel Alvarado, the daughter of Mexican immigrants and
the first person in her family to attend college. A student in the Urban Experience Program, Alvarado is on the dean's list of the College of Liberal Arts
and Social Sciences.

"As the boys in ZZ Top might say, University of Houston graduates are nationwide," Smith said.

Among those he noted were Jack Valenti, a one-time aide to Lyndon Johnson and current president of the Motion Picture Association who will give this
year's commencement speech May 11; Bruce Williamson, chief executive officer of Duke Energy Global Markets; and Kaye Stripling, superintendent of
the Houston Independent School District.

Following the address, UHS Board of Regents Chair Morrie K. Abramson, noting that April 1 marked Smith's fifth anniversary at UH, presented Smith
and his wife, June, with a bouquet of flowers and a clock framed by (in Smith's words) "a stunningly beautiful cougar" made of crystal.
 
 
 

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