Provost's Remarks

Commencement, Spring 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

Since I will be stepping down as provost and vice president of academic affairs after today’s ceremony, this will be my final commencement address.  In light of that fact, I think the time has arrived to come clean.  Instead of telling our graduates what I do know—or more precisely, instead of alluding to some of the books that I have read—I have decided instead to reveal to them what I have not yet read but without a doubt should have. 

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Commencement, Fall 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

 I hope you will do honor and justice to your degrees, not simply by enjoying the professional advancement that those degrees will facilitate, but by doing what you can to utilize the talents that your degrees confirm to improve the quality of the lives of those who are certainly less credentialed and quite likely less learned, less enlightened, and undoubtedly less fortunate than you are by virtue of possessing these degrees.

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Convocation, Fall 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

On a day when we have convened for the express purpose of celebrating the achievements of some of UNF’s finest faculty, it seems especially fitting to me to reaffirm the need, never greater than at the current time, for faculty to be fully engaged in availing themselves of their longstanding right to serve as stewards of the academic programs that are at the core of their institutions. 

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New Student Convocation, Fall 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

 Here is my advice. Contrary to what I expect you are probably intent upon doing, I strongly encourage you to strive not to succeed but to fail. Ultimately, of course, you will need to demonstrate success in order to achieve your degrees and the careers that I don’t doubt will follow. But I wish to impress upon you in no uncertain terms that you will be wasting the four or five precious years that lie immediately ahead if they are marked by nothing other than unblemished success.

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Commencement, Summer 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

The reward for your intellectual courage is that you will not be bound by rigid adherence to the familiar, the predictable, or the routinized.  As people who move with alacrity between the zero and the one, you are equipped to be connoisseurs of the emergent and to contribute to the noble enterprise that the poet Ezra Pound described as “making it new.” 

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4th Annual First Coast Worksite Wellness Conference

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It is indeed an honor to follow in this role my friends and colleagues Drs. Pam Chally and Yank Coble, both of whom have done so much to advance wellness across the Jacksonville community.  Unlike everyone else here today, while I am neither a health care practitioner nor health care administrator I am nevertheless acutely aware of the critical link between wellness and work, both my own wellness and work and that of my many co-workers and of course of the thousands of students whom we are here to educate, and thus I wish to applaud you for the crucial work you do to raise consciousness in your own workplaces regarding the vital relationship between health and productivity. 

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Commencement, Spring 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

It is my honor to address a few words to our graduates on behalf of my faculty colleagues, but before I do I would like to make a comment about my faculty colleagues themselves.  They are in attendance here today not by requirement but by choice.   They choose to attend in order to honor the students who it has been their pleasure to teach.  In doing so, they affirm that “to teach” is a transitive verb.  That is to say, teaching and learning are interdependent activities, and thus the acquisition of your degrees is a tribute not only to you but also to the mentors who helped you to reach this goal.   So permit me to compliment both our graduates and my colleagues on what I regard as your joint success, and permit me to extend particular appreciation to those of my colleagues—Anne, Dale, Bunky, Pat, Sid, Ken—who are bringing to a close long careers of dedication to the success of the countless graduates who have preceded those whom we are here to celebrate today.   

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Recognition Dinner for Anne Hopkins, Former UNF President

Monday, April 16, 2012

How fitting, therefore, that—like a finely constructed work of literature—Anne began her tenure as president with an expressed intention to transmit the university at the end of her watch as an even “greater, better, and more beautiful” institution than it was when she received it; and that as she leaves the university as past president and professor emerita it is only after ennobling not only the institution that she has served but all of those whom she has touched with her enormous zeal for perfection and her compassion for those of us who strive so earnestly to achieve it.

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Remarks at STARS Symposium

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I would like to make some observations about the place and purpose of research at UNF, particularly within the context of what appears to many of us to be a paradigm shift that we find ourselves in the midst of in higher education. 

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Commencement, Fall 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

I want to begin by commending every one of our graduates for choosing a career path different from the bold but risky path chosen by Steve Jobs.  As I am sure you are all aware, the recently deceased Mr. Jobs dropped out before the end of his first semester at Reed College, audited a course in calligraphy, and went on to establish the Apple computer company and become one of the wealthiest people in the world.  If that was the route you had hoped to take to such success, I am sorry to say that, as a result of obtaining a UNF degree, you are going to have to get there through more conventional means.

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Convocation, Fall 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

If you are someone who has worked at UNF for 10 or 20 or even 30 years I would take well deserved pride in the work you have done to transform UNF from an institution modest in scope and size to one that is now academically robust and rich; and if you are someone new to UNF I would encourage you to look forward to the future of UNF with great optimism because of the multiple institutional strengths that you will have the opportunity to build upon.  In either case, I would exhort you to welcome the paradigmatic realignments that are likely to occur in the 10 and 20 and even 30 years ahead with a sense of intellectual exhilaration secure in the knowledge that you will be engaging with these challenges from within an institution whose essential quality and purpose are clear and unwavering.  

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Commencement, Summer 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

While I am fully appreciative of the fact that a graduation ceremony is a celebration of closure, I wish to speak with you for a moment not about what lies behind you but about what lies ahead.  There is a way in which finishing is far easier than starting, because the former is scripted whereas the latter is not.  Demanding as it may have been at times, you knew what you needed to do to satisfy your degree requirements.  You knew with precision the location of the finish line and you had people standing behind you and in front of you to make sure you would reach it.  But now you must start anew in an adventure without mentors, sequential courses, academic roadmaps, advisors, or neatly delineated syllabi.


Commencement, Spring 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

What your diplomas will attest to is that you have cultivated your imagination, cultivated your civility, cultivated your expertise, cultivated your discernment, cultivated your ethical disposition, and cultivated your worldliness so that as much as you might be surprised by whatever it is that might come next, you will use that occurrence to develop more powerful tools of comprehension and to extend your humanity to those who might test it the most.

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Martin Lunther King Jr. Luncheon - Introduction of Guest Speaker, Juan Williams

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I would like to suggest that Mr. Williams and Dr. King share certain significant attributes.  Like Dr. King, Mr. Williams is an extraordinarily articulate man of words.   It is by virtue of his command of language that Mr. Williams has been so effective in his multiple roles as interviewer, reporter, writer, and educator.  Mr. Williams also uses language to exhort.  To exhort, of course, requires that one be passionate, and here again Mr. Williams has this feature in common with Dr. King.  Juan Williams’s passion, like Dr. King’s, is engendered by and has as its goal the eradication of inequality, injustice, intolerance and the inaction, both by blacks and whites alike, that permits those various forms of inhumanity to have endured long past the point that they plausibly should have in a nation that regards itself as civil, principled, and democratic.

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Commencement, Fall 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

This is an occasion on which you reasonably could expect me to say something about the daunting complexity of the world in the early 21st century and the extraordinary challenges you will face and the rewarding opportunities you will encounter when you leave UNF with your degrees in hand. While such remarks would unquestionably be highly appropriate, since they also would be precisely what you would expect to hear at your graduation ceremony there is no point in telling you what you already know. 

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Convocation, Fall 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

 This year marks the 33rd year since I received my Ph.D. and the 32nd year of employment in universities. Over the course of those three plus decades I have witnessed many changes in higher education. Some of these changes were anticipated and some came as a surprise. Some were timely and others were long overdue. These changes have occurred for a wide variety of institutional and contextual reasons, and of course, while some of the changes I have witnessed have been incontrovertibly lamentable many, I am pleased to note, have been for the better.

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Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy Caring Community Conference, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

 What I find so heartening about the Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy is that it seems to be motivated by exactly the values that governed my father’s 40 years of practice as a physician, the difference being that the scope of the Center—to serve not just northeast Florida but the State, the region, the nation, and even the world—obviously far exceeds my father’s more circumscribed area of focus on the southern tip of Staten Island.   It is precisely because of the values at its core that I regard the work of the Center to be so vital and why I am so proud to house the center at UNF.  So permit me to extend not only my welcome to you but also my gratitude for doing the important work that you do. 

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New Student Convocation, Fall, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

 When you attend your graduation in what those of us on stage and I’m sure you and your parents hope will be a mere four years from now, you are likely to hear President Delaney refer to the occasion as a rite of passage. Graduation is indeed a rite of passage, but so too is convocation. More accurately they should be regarded as two components of one continuous experience. The former will mark your exit from UNF as proud possessors of bachelor’s degrees. The latter, the occasion we are here to celebrate today, marks your entry into the institution from which you will obtain those degrees.

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Commencement, Summer 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

What your diplomas and your presence here today do attest to is that each of you has been transformed into a responsible individual who has embraced and lived up to the values of the university.

I would like to remind you what these values are.  They include a commitment to the pursuit of truth and knowledge; a commitment to ethical conduct; a commitment to advancing the well-being of the communities of which you are members; a commitment to support diversity; a commitment to protecting the natural environment; and finally, a commitment to engage with others in a spirit of mutual respect and civility.

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Commencement, Spring 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

This past semester I had the great pleasure of reading, with a group of twelve very courageous students, one of the most famous modern novels, In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust.  What required courage on the part of the students was that this novel is approximately 4,500 pages in length.  

“The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth,” Proust advises, “would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees.”  It is only in this way, according to Proust, that “we do really fly from star to star.”   

What Proust captures in this passage, it seems to me, is at least two points relevant to the event that we are here to celebrate today:  the first is the virtue of a university education, and the second is the responsibility that this education entails for those who have been its beneficiaries. 

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Commencement, Fall 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Musil, Proust, and Mann all were born in the nineteenth century and wrote their major works in the early part of the twentieth. They all died long before the founding of the University of North Florida. Yet if each of them had been asked what he thought about the pursuit of knowledge I am certain that each of them would have declared that learning is a process that you never finish. So let this last lesson prior to graduation serve as an exhortation not to revel in what you have learned already but to seek to learn what you don't yet know.

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Convocation, Fall 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

I am not blind, of course, to our economic circumstances, and it is certainly true that before the country, the state, and the university were so negatively impacted by the economic downturn UNF seemed to be growing in a very exciting and positive way. But as exciting as that growth may have been, and as cautious as we might need to be as our growth resumes in the future, that future looks particularly bright to me because I believe we have, at long last, a clearly delineated destination and a means for determining how to get there.

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Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy Caring Community Conference - Update 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

 The commitment that our university has made is to serve the North Florida region at a level of national quality, and through its leadership activities the Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy is certainly making a major contribution towards the fulfillment of UNF’s mission and purpose.

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Commencement, Summer 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

 Do not stop dreaming about how the places, the institutions, and even the people whom you love can be helped or inspired to be even better than they already are.  Do not let concerns about unavoidable constraints preempt you from defining the world you would construct if your power and your resources were unbounded.

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Commencement, Spring 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

I am hopeful that, like Odysseus and Leopold Bloom, if you spend your lives thinking deeply and acting nobly, you will create lives of great value both for yourself and others.  Those of us who are remaining behind at UNF are depending upon you to do so.  Your future and our mission are now in your hands. 

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Commencement, Fall 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

At previous commencement ceremonies I have drawn inspiration for my remarks from a number of the world’s greatest poets, including Homer, Virgil, Dante, and John Donne.  Today I would like to draw upon a contemporary American poet whom I know to be a favorite of President Delaney.   While there is no doubt that the wisdom of the venerable poets I have just cited continues to have relevance to our current circumstances, it is equally the case that some of Bob Dylan’s most memorable lines also have an uncanny bearing on the world you are about to enter as UNF graduates.

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Upbeat Pink Concert - Musical Tribute to Breast Cancer Survivorship

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I am particularly pleased to be able to welcome you to this afternoon’s concert because this annual event stands out as one of the most special occasions of the year. I would like to suggest why this is so. On their surface, music and breast cancer would appear to have precious little to do with each other. Upon reflection, however, I believe that each informs and is illuminated by the other in genuinely profound ways. 

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Convocation, Fall 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

I would like to echo President Delaney’s sentiments by expressing my own gratitude for the admirable dedication and fine achievement of our faculty, both those whom we are here to honor today as well as all those others whose talents and accomplishments are no less deserving of acknowledgment and praise. And to those of you who are new to the university, I too would like to extend a warm welcome and, along with President Delaney, encourage you to take a long view of UNF’s current fiscal circumstances. We know with certainty that they will improve.

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Commencement, Summer 2008

Friday, August 1, 2008

As UNF's chief academic officer it is my responsibility on behalf of my faculty colleagues to stand between our imminent graduates and their diplomas while I subject them to what might be the final lecture of their academic careers. 

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Student Awards Convocation, Spring 2008

Friday, May 2, 2008

Academic years have a lovely rhythm to them. They begin in the fall with a surge of energy; they conclude in the spring with a sigh of relief. A wonderful transition occurs over the course of the intervening nine months. 

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Commencement, Spring 2008

Friday, May 2, 2008

For all that you may have learned during the pursuit of your degrees at UNF, I am of the opinion that you arrived here at the start of your UNF academic careers with two essential characteristics to your credit more important than anything that your professors, no matter how inspiring, could instill in you. Every one of you about to graduate brought with you a strong imagination and an active curiosity. 

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Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy Caring Community Conference, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I would like to reflect just for a moment on the concept of a center. A center does not exist in isolation. Rather, a center requires that there be entities arrayed around it, whether they are in stasis or in motion. Without such encircling entities a center is merely a point in space. 

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Commencement, Fall 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

To those of you who are eager to exchange your identity as student for that of graduate, my exhortation to you is to continue to embrace the example of your faculty mentors, not because of anything they taught you but because of their inexhaustible desire to learn.

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Fall Reception Honoring Retiring Faculty

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We are here this evening not just to wish you well in retirement, but more immediately to thank you for your extraordinary contributions to this university and to the countless students who you had the opportunity to educate over the past 35 years. 

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Convocation, Fall 2007

Friday, September 7, 2007

I would like to begin by thanking both President Delaney and the chair of our dedicated Board of Trustees, Dr. Bruce Taylor, for endorsing the exciting initiative that we are about to embark upon, and for committing themselves to embracing what I trust will be the percipient and farsighted recommendations that should emanate from the work of the special task force. I am honored to lead this important effort; I do so with the conviction that, working together, we have an opportunity to focus the university’s energy for years to come. 

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Commencement, Summer 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

It is my pleasure to extend greetings to the graduates, their families, and friends. As a professor of English I have long been intrigued by the subject of narrative structure, or how a story moves from its beginning, through its middle, to what, in the most satisfying narratives, seems to be its inevitable end. 

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Student Awards Convocation, Spring 2007

Friday, May 4, 2007

One such way we can honor the Virginia Tech students is to continue the traditions and the celebrations which contribute to a university’s energy and vibrancy and purpose. This morning’s event is one such occasion: the student award convocation. 

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Virginia Tech Vigil, Spring 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

By all means grieve. This has been a grievous event, and your grief is warranted. But do not permit yourselves to be traumatized. Trauma arrests its victims in the moment. The moment that occurred at Virginia Tech is one that you must find it within yourselves to transcend. It is only by doing so that you can help assure that another such moment will never occur again. My heart—and my hope—go out to you.

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"Borrowing Time" An Evening with Henri Landwirth

Saturday, January 6, 2007

To know Henri is to be touched by grace. It is surely grace when one person, especially one person who has lost literally everything, chooses not to horde his acquisitions or his remarkable generosity of spirit but to give of himself endlessly to those whose circumstances—whether as a result of poverty or terminal illness—preclude the ability to reciprocate.  

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