In just a few days, we’ll gather for Commencement to celebrate the Class of 2015. Of course, Commencement is also an opportunity to look back on the year and reflect on the achievements of all our students, faculty and staff.
But first, I want to thank alumni and friends like you for all you do for the University of Kansas. Whether it is through financial support, recruiting students or serving on one of our advisory boards, you play a major role in making these achievements possible.
We began the year by welcoming a freshman class that, for the third straight year, was larger than the freshman class before it. As the year went on, we’d learn our talented students included two Udall scholars, two Goldwater scholars, one Gates Cambridge scholar, and one Truman scholar, whom I had the pleasure of informing of her award via Skype while she was overseas.
This year we also saw gains in U.S. News & World Report rankings and recruited five new Foundation Distinguished Professors. Greg Cushman, associate professor of history and environmental studies, was awarded the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a prestigious honor that fosters scholarly research in the social sciences and humanities. At the medical center, a team led by Christie Befort, associate professor of preventive medicine and public health, was awarded $10 million to study obesity treatment options in rural communities.
We continued to advance our mission of building healthy communities. In March, the inaugural class of students at the School of Medicine-Salina gathered for the campus’ first-ever Match Day. And in Kansas City, we moved closer to building a new health education facility, which will enable us to train more doctors for Kansas.
We also expanded our footprint, both physically and virtually. This included growing the enrollment and course offerings at the KU Edwards campus, and by launching new online programs. We continue to move forward on a new School of Business building and the expansion of our School of Engineering.
This year we also engaged in discussions central to the university and our society. Our students became increasingly involved in the national conversation on sexual assault and violence. We’ve also continued conversations about diversity, a foundational value of our university.
Of course, these achievements often require new resources, and with support of generous donors to the Far Above campaign, we have already raised more than $1.3 billion to help us better serve our students and our state. The campaign continues through 2016.
This year has not been without challenges, and it is possible the state budget will bring new ones in the coming weeks. But despite these challenges, we continued to elevate the quality and stature of our university — and we couldn’t do it without loyal alumni and friends like you.
Commencement is primarily a celebration of our graduates. But it’s also a celebration of alumni and supporters like you who have paved the way for them. For that, I thank you.