Dear Tulane Community:
“Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.”
These words from children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edelman are especially inspiring as we welcome our students back for the first day of classes and kick off a new semester, a new year and a new decade.
The turn of the calendar brings great hope and expectation. Many mark this moment as the beginning of a renewed effort toward becoming the best version of themselves by doing more “not for one’s self, but for one’s own.” In keeping with this spirit, I have resolved this year to find more ways through which my actions, both presidentially and personally, can improve our community and world. For inspiration, I need look no further than the students, faculty and staff of Tulane University.
Improving the lives of others, in this case future generations, was one of the motivations for the 15 African American medical students from Tulane who recently took a group photo, in their white coats, standing in front of former slave quarters at the Whitney Plantation in Edgard, La.
“We are our ancestors' wildest dreams,” Russell Ledet, who came up with the idea to take the photo, wrote in a Twitter post. The image of the students has since gone viral and has been covered by major media outlets across the country. Russell and his classmates are now working to get the photo on classroom walls throughout the nation to show younger generations that what these Tulane students have achieved is possible for them, as well.
Future and current generations are also on the mind of Tulane researchers who are working to find new treatments for cancer, HIV, Ebola, tuberculosis and a host of other diseases. Tulane was founded by seven young doctors united in their quest to save our area from yearly outbreaks of yellow fever. Today, researchers throughout the university are carrying on this Tulane tradition of improving their world through research and discovery.
Tulane’s dedicated staff is another source of inspiration for me. Their commitment drives our research and academic missions forward. Take, for instance, Tami Jenniskens, associate director of the Sponsored Project Administration, who has been lauded by her colleagues and supervisors for her work in ensuring that proposals for funding to support Tulane’s critical research have the best chance to succeed. Tami is one of countless Tulane employees whose behind-the-scenes work is indispensable to everything we do. She is also one of the exemplary staff members I recently had the honor of recognizing with a President's Staff Excellence Award.
With the inspiration of our students and colleagues beside us and the start of a new decade ahead of us, we might ask ourselves some questions: How will the knowledge we acquire in the classroom and the discoveries we make in the laboratory leave our community and world better than we found it? How will our efforts assist future generations? Our commitment and dedication as Tulanians will help write the story of 2020.