Only the Audacious Campaign Kickoff

December 8, 2017

Today is Tulane’s tipping point.

Today is about bringing Tulane to the next level.

And, today is for building the Tulane of tomorrow.

For 184 years, Tulane has been a beacon to the bold;

A siren’s call to trailblazers and pioneers;

A mecca for anyone who has ever dreamed of changing the world.

Ours is an audacious spirit, passed on from our founders to generation after generation of Tulane graduates.

It’s an attitude which flourished after Katrina, when we returned to New Orleans with an unwavering and intentional commitment to rebuild our community and restore our home.

Because no storm has ever, or will ever, stand in Tulane’s way. And today, Tulane has never been more ambitious.

From research that changes the world, to service that utterly transforms our community, Tulane has never mattered more than we do right now.  

But you know as well as I do that we’ve reached this moment in time against incredible odds.

For decades, we’ve accomplished spectacular, remarkable things-- but with only a fraction of the endowment of some of our wealthier peers.  

We’ve thrived, but always with fewer resources – fueled by the unlimited creativity, passion, and hard work of every Tulanian.

But here’s the thing --- I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of running a marathon from 15 yards behind.

It’s time for us to find out just how great we can be – and just how fast we can run.

It’s time for Tulane to take the lead.  

It’s time for Tulane to become the most daring, the most intrepid, the most enterprising university in the nation.

This is the destiny we must achieve – not just to recapture the spirit of what makes us, us – but to double-down; ignite our passions, and usher in a new era of academic ambition and world-changing research.

I imagine a Tulane where our students have unfettered academic freedom and unlimited potential to explore and create and discover.

I imagine a Tulane that, even beyond how it does now, harnesses the full sum of its parts to provide answers to the world’s most important questions.

And I imagine a Tulane where we don’t just seek to provide a 21st century education – but a Tulane where we’ve already started to prepare for the 22nd.

Friends, we can make this dream a reality.

And it starts with us.  

That journey begins right now.
And make no mistake -- the world is noticing Tulane.

Let me give you an idea of what that means.

A national poll of students recently honored us as having the #1 college city in America; #1 for students engaged in community service; #4 for happiest students; and #7, out of 382 universities, for students who love their college.

In the past three years, we’ve watched our U.S. News ranking shoot up 14 points – the largest increase of any university in the top-100.
And, we’ve watched our admissions numbers rise year after year – this past cycle, Tulane received over 35,000 applications – the most submitted applications in Tulane’s history.

As a result, our newest freshmen class is the most competitive and diverse in Tulane’s history.

To give you a sense of their qualifications: their average sat scores are 1449 – which is a 48-point increase over the last three years.

And with a big thanks to a lot of the people in this room –
Last year was our best fundraising year in history.
I could give you a thousand reasons for Tulane’s recent success, but really, it boils down to one essential truth.  

Tulanians are just different. We’re go-getters, and innovators, and forward-thinkers. And that Tulane spirit is infused in everything we do.

It’s why U.S. News ranked Tulane among the most innovative universities in the country.

Because here, we train our students to solve problems – to see the world from infinite perspectives – to merge their skills and experiences and passions in creative ways – and generate answers to the toughest questions.

It's no surprise that incoming students travel from further away to come here than do students at any other university in the country.

Because the kind of people who choose to come to Tulane are adventurers -- pioneers with different backgrounds, ideals, and experiences.

As a result, Tulane has become a vital hub of collaboration and innovation. A dynamic force of creativity and world-changing ideas.

And you can see that ripple across everything we do.

Last year, we opened a new campus on the banks of the Mississippi River -- the Bywater Institute – where our students and researchers are tackling the most vital questions of tomorrow -- like energy production, climate change, and coastal erosion.

At the Brain Institute, Tulanians are exploring the mysteries of the brain.

Joining forces from across diverse fields like physics, neurology, and public health to unlock innovative new ideas in the races to cure diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

And at the Makerspace, every student has access to cutting-edge creative technology like 3D printers, laser engravers, and design software – learning hands-on with the tools of the future.

The results have been astounding, and the Makerspace has become Tulane’s personal incubator.
It was a familiar stomping ground for the undergraduate winners of NASA’s Big Idea Challenge, as well as our PhD winners of the International Business Model Competition – a team of three who defeated 6,000 other groups from around the globe.

Tulane has always stood at this intersection of innovation and practical research.

But now, it’s time to press down firmly on the gas pedal.

The campaign is about turning these three examples into three thousand.

And it’s going to take a group effort to get us there.

If we want to take Tulane to the next level, we’re going to need more support now than we’ve ever had before.

We have a $1 billion dollar endowment.

The Harvards, and the Stanfords of the world, have at least 25-times that.

But look what we’ve done with our one.

Look how far we’ve come in just the last three years.

Think of what we can do in the next thirty.

I’ve spent my entire life working in different universities.

But Tulane is a different breed altogether.

What I love about Tulane is its collective heart -- and passion -- and resilience -- and courage -- and ambition.

What I love about Tulane is how, here -- more than any other university in the country – we have a community inspired to change the world; ours is an innovative soul, guided by an unflinching resolve, and a distinct personality shaped by a city like no other.

And most of all, I love how Tulane is unbound by some of the limiting academic ideas of the past – where physics majors stuck to physics, and English majors stuck to English, and nobody interacted or engaged across fields.

Here at Tulane, instead, we break barriers and cross boundaries.

And as a result, we make some pretty unbelievable discoveries.

Today, we start proving to the world that Tulane’s potential to soar is infinite.

We need to prove that Tulane has the audacity to win the race.  

We need to prove that Tulane is fearless in the face of any problem that needs solving, anywhere around the globe.

We need to prove that Tulane has the nerve to take its deserved place among the elite institutions in the nation – to make sure everyone out there knows: Tulane belongs among the best and brightest in the world.

So Tulane --- let’s do this.

Here’s how ambitious this campaign is going to be – we are going to raise $1.3 billion dollars.

Let’s shape our future, and make the Tulane of our dreams an absolute reality.

By looking ahead – and never compromising any of the virtues that got us here in the first place – I know we can make it happen.

So thank you.
I believe in us.  And I believe in the future of Tulane.

One last thing -- I want us to end with a “Roll Wave” – a Roll Wave so loud, they can hear us at Vanderbilt, and Emory, and Stanford -- a Roll Wave to let every university out there know: the Green Wave is rising.

So, on 3.

1 -2 -3 --
Roll Wave!