Smith lauds UH as a 'great
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
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
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
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
"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
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.