The following is the text of an e-mail that was sent to alumni on December 10, 2008.
December 10, 2008
Dear University of Chicago Alumni:
I am writing to describe significant developments at the University of Chicago so far this year, as well as how we are planning to address the challenges created by the current national and global economic climate.
We have seen dynamic activity at the University this fall. We broke ground for the Mansueto Library, reaffirming the value of the research library at the heart of the University. Professor Yoichiro Nambu was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics and Professor Jean-Luc Marion was named a member of the Académie française, the preeminent learned body and authority on the French language. David Booth, an alumnus of the Business School, made the largest gift in the University's history, in honor of which the school was renamed the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. We launched the Neubauer Family Fellows Program with the appointment of new outstanding junior faculty. A new cohort of students arrived on campus with much enhanced financial support through the Odyssey program for College students and the Graduate Aid Initiative in the social sciences and humanities. Our new Urban Education Institute launched its fourth charter school campus on the South Side of Chicago. And Barack Obama, a former faculty member who taught in the Law School for twelve years, was elected President of the United States.
Our achievements of the past few months are part of an ambitious agenda for enhancing the University's academic programs, support for faculty and students, and civic engagement. They also take place at a time of significant and growing financial challenges for the nation, challenges from which we are not immune. Guiding us through both our ambitious planning and these economic realities is our focus on the mission and distinctive strengths of the University: our commitment to an environment of open, rigorous, and intense inquiry, and the empowering education embedded in this culture. The enduring value of a University of Chicago education has an extra salience in these volatile times. The ability to think critically, analyze changing environments, and integrate ideas is essential for understanding the complex problems we face and the opportunities for progress. Members of the University of Chicago community are providing leadership across the spectrum of institutional, national, and global challenges.
As we plan for the years ahead, we must recognize that our success is dependent upon recruiting and retaining the most imaginative, agenda-setting faculty and students who can most benefit from and contribute to our distinctive academic fabric and to the world.
Our continued investments in faculty and students and in our academic programs have led to many significant developments. The Medical Center is planning a new hospital pavilion and investment in mutually reinforcing work in patient care, biomedical research, and education that reflects our focus on complex disease and its underlying mechanisms. The Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts is in active design as a centerpiece of our arts programs on campus and in partnership with the City. We have begun major investments in complex science areas which include plans for construction of a new Center for Physical and Computational Sciences, greatly facilitated by a $20 million gift from mathematics department alumnus William Eckhardt. The Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics has been launched to create the leading intellectual destination for economics scholars and to strengthen interdisciplinary ties between Chicago Booth, the Economics Department, and the Law School. International programs in the College continue to expand and flourish. A faculty committee recently returned from China, and we will be considering its proposals to enhance the work of our faculty and students and to build connections to Chinese institutions. And in Chicago, the appointment of Ann Marie Lipinski as our first Vice President for Civic Engagement reflects our plans for deeper connections between the University and the vibrant city in which we reside.
How do we reconcile these plans and aspirations with the current financial environment? Our goal must be to preserve the momentum of the initiatives that I have outlined in this letter-investments in the lasting excellence of the University-while taking full cognizance of the current economic challenges.
The profound global financial and economic dislocations will lead us to two major steps. First, we are working with the vice presidents and deans toward significant cost reductions over the next two years. Our approach will take into account the varying needs and circumstances across the University, rather than taking "across the board" actions. Second, while we do not anticipate canceling any planned building projects, some projects inevitably will need to be delayed.
At the same time, it is important that we continue to plan with ambition and to pursue our most important priorities to the extent possible in these challenging times. As the economy rebounds, we will be prepared to accelerate implementation. Given the University's solid financial foundation and underlying health, I am confident that our cost reduction steps and ongoing preparation for investment will enable us to address the current challenge and lead to the level of priority investments necessary for the University to flourish in the future.
To succeed in these efforts will require the full engagement of the University of Chicago community, including, very importantly, our worldwide community of alumni. You have provided the University and your fellow alumni with a wide range of advocacy and support. Just as we work to ensure that our students will have the resources to pursue their educations, we are dedicated to connecting our alumni to valuable resources both through established career offices and programs and through our worldwide alumni network. We encourage you to take advantage of and contribute to this broader University community, whether you can offer internships for students or jobs for graduating students or alumni or whether you are pursuing new opportunities in your own professional arena.
This is a complex time of both excitement and of challenge. I am confident that our University will emerge stronger and with an even greater capacity to contribute. I thank you for your support and for your ongoing engagement with the University and with our alumni community.
Robert J. Zimmer