Investiture Highlights

Investiture of Dr. Tomás D. Morales

Friday, June 14, 2013
Coussoulis Arena at California State University, San Bernardino

President Morales receiving vestments President Morales shaking hands with faculty President Morales amidst celebration

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Good Morning.

Distinguished members of the Cal State San Bernardino community, Trustees, Chancellor White, university colleagues, community members, government and business partners, my friends and family.

Welcome to our beautiful campus and thank you for being here today. I'm extremely honored and humbled by your presence to celebrate the accomplishments of the entire university. I am particularly grateful for all of you who have traveled great distances to participate in these festivities.

To vice chair and CSUSB alumnus Lou Monville, as well as your fellow trustees, I deeply appreciate your confidence and support.

Chancellor White, I am happy to welcome you to Cal State San Bernardino. You were one of the first people from the Inland Empire that I met with when I came on board last year, and I am deeply appreciative of your support and encouragement. I truly value your leadership and vision for the future of our world-class higher education system.

As only the fourth president in the near 50-year history of this great institution, I am privileged to follow three exemplary leaders, each of whom has his own defining legacy as president. Our founding president, John Pfau, took office before the first buildings were constructed, literally growing the campus from the ground up. Anthony Evans followed and lifted Cal State San Bernardino to new levels, adding the Palm Desert Campus. Al Karnig advanced our presence locally, regionally and nationally, while achieving record enrollments. Each of our previous presidents raised the bar higher and helped make CSUSB the university it is today. We are fortunate to be joined by presidents Evans and Karnig along with President Pfau's daughter, Madelaine. Would the three of you please rise and allow all of us to thank you for your unparalleled service to this university.

To the CSUSB faculty and staff, I want to thank you for the kindness and warmth you have extended to Evy and me since I arrived. I knew early on that I had made the right decision to come to Cal State San Bernardino, and I am grateful for this opportunity to serve.

It is because of your dedication and commitment that we are able to advance our institutional excellence and distinction within the region and far beyond. Because of you, we joined select company when The Chronicle of Higher Education named CSUSB as one of the nation's "Best Colleges to Work For."

Our faculty are the foundation of this campus, through their teaching and scholarly excellence, as well as their outstanding research and consummate service to the university and the community. Your engagement with students is transforming lives and shaping careers.

Our staff members are working on the front lines with students in their personal, professional, social, cultural and intellectual development. You provide critical services which help our students to succeed.

To our students: YOU are the reason we are here. I congratulate you on your accomplishments thus far and encourage you to stay the course. The hard work and sacrifices that you are making now will be worth it when you walk across this stage to receive your degree. Just ask the alumni who are here and those students who are graduating this weekend.

And to the many CSUSB alumni who have joined us this morning, you are the pride of the university. Many of you are making your mark in very meaningful ways. I'm thrilled that you remain connected with your alma mater, and I hope those who follow will also do the same.

To members of our Philanthropic Foundation, community partners and friends of the university, I thank you for your continuing support of Cal State San Bernardino, and for the thoughtful insights, guidance and encouragement that you've offered me. You truly do provide powerful support that is crucial to our success.

I would like to take a few moments to acknowledge and thank the most important people in my life. First, let me introduce my mother, Elsie Maldonado, who could not be with us this morning. As a proud Latina, my mother instilled the values of education, social justice and commitment to community. With support from my father Omar and brothers Steven and Robert, she earned her high school diploma, a baccalaureate degree and a Master's degree in Social Work as an adult after raising three boys in the South Bronx. She was and still is an inspiration to me.

The love of my life is my wife, Evy. She and I grew up in the same neighborhood in the Bronx and we attended the same schools. We have been married for 41 years, just after our freshman year in college.

We have three adult children―Tom, Amanda and Omar. Our children's life partners ― Leslie, Marc and Jeanette ― are all an integral part of our family. And we have three beautiful granddaughters: Isabella Rose, Sophia Lily and Danica Noel.

And there are many other members of my extended family who are also here. Would you please stand for just a moment? [PAUSE] Thank you. I love you all.

Many more of my good friends and colleagues are here today, and I apologize if I don't acknowledge each and every one of you. But I do want to thank you for all you have meant in my life, both personally and professionally, in helping me to grow. You taught me well. Thank you.

I should also like to thank the committee who organized today's investiture, led by Dean Eri Yasuhara of our College of Arts and Letters, who is retiring this summer, and co-chair William Aguilar, who served the university as a senior administrator for 21 years before retiring in 2009. The entire committee has done a wonderful job, and I'd like to acknowledge their talents and efforts.

It is a great honor for me as I stand before you today − a product of public education who has spent his entire professional career working in and advocating for public higher education. I have seen first-hand how education transforms the lives of our students, because I experienced similar stages of evolution during my own educational and professional career.

Let me tell you a bit about my own personal journey: I was born in Puerto Rico shortly before my parents migrated to the Bronx. I am a product of the New York City school system and the beneficiary of caring faculty and staff mentors. With their support, I completed my undergraduate degree with honors. I then worked as a faculty member, academic advisor and administrator, while earning my Master's degree and Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Policy Studies from the State University of New York at Albany.

I have spent my entire career working with and for students, faculty and staff at the three largest systems of public higher education in the county. Throughout my professional life I have dedicated myself to student success, faculty and staff development, faculty and student research, effective teaching, the passage of the DREAM Act, expansion of access to higher education for all students, shared governance, diversity and inclusive excellence.

I have had the privilege of working with colleagues to transform lives, allowing students to reach their educational goals with a thirst for knowledge as lifelong learners and a commitment to giving back to their communities. So it is appropriate that the theme of this investiture is "Transforming Lives and Communities through Higher Education."

Today is much more than a presidential ceremony. It is the official turning of the page to a new chapter in the chronicles of CSUSB, and a look into our future. It is a continuation of our celebration as a university community of achievers.

For us, as faculty and staff, seeing our students reach their academic goals is the reason so many of us have chosen to dedicate our careers to education. We planned this event during the university's commencement weekend because this investiture is just a small part of the bigger picture of transforming lives and communities.

This entire weekend is about our graduates. Last night we held a moving commencement ceremony for students at our Palm Desert Campus. Tomorrow and Sunday we will hold five separate ceremonies right here in Coussoulis Arena. By the time the weekend is over, we will have transformed our students into proud alumni who will further contribute to the economic and educational vitality of their communities. And, yes, there will have been quite a bit of celebrating!

Seven out of every 10 graduates this weekend will be the first in their families to earn a college degree. For them and their family members, this is a dream come true, and one of the most important accomplishments in their lives. A college education has never been more essential than it is today: it is the foundation for success in the 21st century global economy.

We need to increase graduation rates − to make sure that as many students as possible succeed in their studies and receive that all-important college degree. This has already become one of my priorities as president. Student success is the responsibility of every person at the university, and we are making progress.

Due in part to these amplified efforts, we are seeing record persistence levels among our entire student body. As a result of the hard work of our faculty and staff, we expect to see our graduation rates increase significantly.

The job of graduating students actually starts well before they arrive on our campus. We continue to work with P-12 school districts to ensure that students are better prepared for their scholastic journey. A sound educational foundation at an early age, along with the support of teachers, families and members of the community, allows pupils to be more successful.

Along with preparing students academically, we need to encourage the development of other important personal traits − such as motivation, self-esteem and study skills − to help them succeed. Parental support and encouragement, from the very beginning, is crucial. In fact, I would argue that this factor is perhaps most important in contributing to student success. Therefore, our collaborations and initiatives with our P-12 partners are a key element in student success at CSUSB.

Today's graduates face a far more complex, diverse, technologically advanced and globally interconnected society than ever before. As colleges and universities, we must develop comprehensive and sustained institutional strategies that are embedded at every level. Our strategies must transcend college and departmental boundaries and be supported by the leadership of this institution.

Our challenge is to make sure our graduates are ready for whatever comes next. I know that our faculty are creating exciting learning experiences and our staff are developing effective academic and student support services to ensure our graduates are ready for the swiftly changing global landscape.

Like the world around us, education will continue to evolve. Student learning will not only include traditional classroom instruction, but online and hybrid courses that are delivered on tablets and smartphones. Already, online programs are critical to the mission of this university and the entire CSU system. There are still a lot of questions that need to be addressed regarding online education, but I do know that today's students learn differently.

The CSUSB student body is among the most highly diverse in the United States. Demographically, Cal State San Bernardino's student body is a window to the future. Diversity and inclusion are central to CSUSB's mission, guiding every aspect of our institution: from student access and retention, to the recruitment and promotion of staff and faculty, to our curriculum, pedagogy and academic outreach programs. It is so important that our students see themselves in the faculty, in senior administrative positions, and indeed in all levels of the university community.

I am committed to working with our faculty and staff to ensure that we are not only meeting the needs of our university community, but that we also are adapting to the changing dynamics of a globally diverse society. This is vital everywhere, but particularly here in the Inland Empire, which is one of the most culturally and economically diverse regions in the nation.

This means that we not only need to look globally for the educational opportunities that we offer our students, but also to celebrate the rich culture of our region. I am so proud that Cal State San Bernardino has worked closely with regional tribal communities and is committed to preserving indigenous cultures and languages offering programs in Serrano and Luiseño, two of Southern California's indigenous languages.

As anchor institutions, public universities are "stewards of place" that serve the public good, and our most important contributions will stem from the role we play in expanding the academic and social horizons of our students and the people throughout the communities that we serve. Through the work of faculty, staff and students, and by partnering with civic and business organizations, we will increase educational attainment, address health disparities, and promote the environmental and economic sustainability of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

CSUSB faculty, staff and students are invested in the Inland Empire. Through their values of compassion, integrity, community service and multiculturalism, they are committed to the prosperity of the region. Our students annually volunteer more than 60,000 hours of community service, the equivalent of more than 1.3 million dollars to local communities.

Among our recent volunteer projects, the university engaged returning military veterans, some of whom are enrolled as our students, through a variety of community service efforts supported by the outstanding work of our new Veterans Success Center. We are all very proud that three national publications have recognized CSUSB for its support of our veterans.

This "can-do" attitude and commitment to service-learning and civic engagement was never more obvious than in April, when nearly 300 of our students volunteered in the community as part of our inaugural "Coyote Cares Day." And it is another reason why CSUSB has been named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll seven years in a row, and we were one of five universities and colleges from across the country to receive the prestigious Washington Center Higher Education Civic Engagement Award.

These are the kinds of affirmations that are important to all of us in higher education. So it is with great pride that Cal State San Bernardino continues to be named among the best campuses in the nation by The Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report and Forbes.

Our faculty are generating more than 28 million dollars a year in sponsored research, which ranks in the top third of all CSU campuses. That scholarship and funding provides research opportunities for our students through our numerous programs, centers and institutes.

The results of these research opportunities are plain: CSUSB students are readily accepted into the most prestigious professional schools and leading Masters and Ph.D. programs in the country.

One of our most important contributions to the region is providing place-bound students in the Coachella Valley an opportunity to pursue a college degree. Our campus in Palm Desert was established with funds raised entirely from foundations, individuals, corporations and cities, and it is the only full-serving upper division institution of higher education in the region. We will welcome our first freshman class this Fall.

As is already obvious by the nature of the changes this campus has seen in its brief history, the future will bring more change. I didn't come here to drastically alter the course of what has been a successful and fruitful path set forth by all three of my predecessors. But change is certain and it is important to embrace the demographics and technological developments necessary in order to move Cal State San Bernardino forward.

We will begin the formal steps of reviewing our mission, vision and values, and putting together the pieces for the next iteration of the university's strategic plan, which will help guide us into the future. I am committed to ensuring that every faculty, staff and student has an opportunity to contribute to the development of this shared vision and strategic plan.

I am committed to growing our faculty, not only in numbers but in the opportunities for professional development. I am committed to ensuring that we have the staff support for our programs, which means growing our staff. Finally, I am committed to attracting the best and brightest students in the region and to making CSUSB a destination campus for our high achievers. The university continues to reward the top high school students in San Bernardino County through our President's Academic Excellence Scholarship program, but I know that there is more that we can do.

We all have a say in the direction we are headed. It will take the intelligence and creativity of the entire campus community to take us to the next level. Through cooperation, communication and collaboration, we will ensure that CSUSB provides a premier cutting-edge educational experience for students to succeed.

As we shape CSUSB's future together, we must continue to be our own best advocates of the values that not only serve as the foundation of this great university but also transform lives and communities through the higher education opportunities that we provide.

Thank you again for being here today. This truly is a celebration of the greatness of Cal State San Bernardino and everyone who is a part of the Coyote family.