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Faculty Promotion Dinner

October 16, 2016

Good evening.

It is a privilege to be with you tonight to celebrate this very significant moment in your careers. The reputation and, in fact, the future of an institution of higher education is determined by the quality of its faculty.  Faculty are a university’s primary asset and decisions made to provide tenure or to promote are perhaps the most far reaching decisions made by the academic community. The standards by which we measure each person must necessarily exceed the very standards by which we ourselves were judged in the past. Ever increasing levels of excellence are what frame the success of this university. You have my utmost admiration for what you have achieved, my congratulations on reaching a milestone in your careers, and my thanks for the dedication that you have shown for the furtherance of scholarship and creative activity in your disciplines, for the excellence in teaching and inculcation of a love for learning in your students, and for the tremendous engagement with the community at a professional and community level through your service.

While we celebrate your achievements in the past, we also look forward to the promise of the future – one filled with awards for excellence in teaching and research, national and international recognition, and the impact of engagement with students, your professions and our community.

As we congratulate you and thank you for all that you have done (and all that you will be doing in the years to come at UTA) it is also fitting to acknowledge those who have supported, encouraged and even guided you along the way. Career milestones such as tenure and promotion are not achieved in isolation. So if you are a family member of an honoree, or a mentor, thank you for the support you provided; for your patience; for the hours, days, weeks and years that you sacrificed so that the academic in your family could achieve success; and for the role you played in enabling success.

Universities have a lot of traditions. Among these are the celebration of the awarding of tenure and promotion. This is special not just because it marks the attainment of a milestone in a faculty member’s academic career, but because it celebrates change and acknowledges the necessity of academe to periodically re-energize its membership and sense of purpose. Each of you does this as you move upwards along the ladder of academic achievement, and in doing so you enable this institution to continue to evolve in the development, dissemination and translation of knowledge.

As we consider the depth and breadth of expertise of tonight’s honorees, we immediately recognize that here, in this room, is the source of the momentum behind UTA’s growing national reputation. Each and every one of you exhibits the kind of commitment to, and passion for, advancing knowledge that inspires not only your students but your colleagues at UTA and peers around the globe. 

Yours is the engine that is driving the University’s increasing levels of excellence in scholarship, publishing and creative activity, research expenditures, accolades and student success. You make a tremendous impact on your students, the community, and the world with your teaching, mentoring, research and creative activity. You lead the way in solving modern society’s most pressing problems, enabling us as a society to imagine a world far different from the one we live in – one where a cure for cancer has been developed, where technology is used to assist and benefit the human condition, where urban metropolitan areas such as the one we live in are sustainable, where world hunger and poverty have been eradicated, where man lives in harmony with the environment without creating a negative impact, where natural resources are treasured, and where data is used for good and the enhancement of knowledge, and one where different races and cultures coexist in harmony. Through your hard work, your ambition, your drive and commitment to excellence, we are assured of the best possible educational experience for our students, and for the continually enhanced reputation of this great university.

You are pushing the envelope every day, reaching beyond what is “a given” and reaching towards what’s next. You not only have convinced your peers of your level of excellence you have inspired them to raise the bar, to knock down barriers, to destroy silos and learn how to cross-pollinate. You lead the way, for all of us, in an increasingly complex, inter- and multi-disciplinary world.

As we sit here this evening celebrating your attainment of a milestone, we are inspired to continue to dream, to reach for the stars, and strive for what others may have thought impossible to attain. Today, we are better than we were last year, more focused on student success, on the development of new knowledge, on the furthering of research and engagement with the community. Today, due to the efforts of our faculty we continue to accelerate on our journey to be one of the “best of the best” and the Model 21st Century Urban Research University.

For many of us the achievement of a career milestone results in celebration but also a lot of deep self-questioning about the future.  Now that one has received tenure, or attained the rank of a full professor what does one do next? What targets do I have to keep me running at the same pace, or even faster and performing at a higher level of excellence? What should I plan on for my future?

I’d like to leave you with the words of an athlete and three-time Olympian Gail Devers who, when asked about next steps, said, “Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication.  Remember all things are possible for those who believe.”

I have faith in each of you and believe that the celebration today is just a beginning and that we will celebrate a lot more with each of you in the future. The best, as they say, is yet to come.

Thank you for the example you’ve already set for us, the example you continue to set for us and others, and for driving excellence in all that you do. Thank you for being Mavericks.