On August 17, I had the great pleasure of introducing President García at her fourth convocation. Below are the remarks I shared.
Good morning, and welcome to Cal State Fullerton’s 2015 Convocation!
My name is José Luis Cruz, and I have the distinct privilege of opening our president’s fourth convocation address.
I was not here for President García’s first convocation, but I made a point of watching her speech online when I was aspiring to become your provost, to be a Titan. What struck me then, and what continues to inspire me now, is her ability to foster a sense of urgency when it’s necessary to sustain a sense of purpose.
In that speech, just weeks into her presidency, she expressed her admiration for our University’s many accomplishments and her confidence that we could become—and I quote—“the model comprehensive university of the nation.”
Today, it is evident that President García’s confidence at the time was well-placed. Cal State Fullerton has made great strides toward becoming the model comprehensive university of the nation, and has done so by leveraging its history and embracing its capacity for transformational change.
Our University’s capacity for transformational change is perhaps best illustrated in one of my favorite passages in the book The Fullerton Way. According to the passage, sometime in 1959, our first president, William Langsdorf, met with Miles McCarthy in an attempt to recruit him as the University’s first science professor. During the meeting, McCarthy asked about the resources that would be available to drive the hard work of building a new campus. The president confidently explained that they were in good shape because they had “a staff car and a couple of fountain pens.” Later, Langsdorf—in what was perhaps an attempt to seal the deal—took the prospective faculty member to a hill, pointed to the emergent campus, and exclaimed, “There it is.” Interestingly, even though all McCarthy recalls seeing was “nothing but orange groves in all directions,” he rose to the occasion and accepted the offer.
This capacity to rise to the occasion was described by Lawrence de Graaf, professor emeritus of history and editor of The Fullerton Way, as a “spirit of confidence.” A spirit of confidence and—I would add—a sense of urgent purpose that President García’s remarks today will prove are alive and well in our University.
Now, I do not want to steal any of our president’s thunder—not that I could if I tried—but before asking her to take the stage, I want to talk about something she won’t. And that is how she has worked tirelessly to nurture the conditions that have helped accelerate our progress toward becoming the “model comprehensive university of the nation.”
During the last three years, I have witnessed how President García uses regular meetings with faculty, staff, students, administrators, and deliberative and governing bodies to not only keep her finger on the pulse of the University, but also ensure that her energy, strategic insight, and strong leadership ripple outward. During this time, I have also witnessed how she leverages her role in local, regional, and national organizations to advance our University’s mission and ensure that our campus efforts are informed by national conversations and inspired by promising and proven best practices.
And it’s precisely because of her strong leadership and our campus community’s commitment to urgent, purposeful, and transformational change that I am confident that no matter what gauntlet is thrown down before us, we will rise to meet it; and that in the process of doing so, we will model to other institutions across the nation how they too can deliver on our country’s twin promises of opportunity and social mobility for the diverse and increasingly underserved students that are coming of age in the America of today.
Per tradition, our president’s convocation address will review the year that was and frame the year that will be.
Please join me in welcoming to this podium, Cal State Fullerton’s President, Dr. Mildred García.