Dartmouth College President Philip Hanlon delivered the keynote address at the inauguration of RIT President David Munson. The full text of his speech is below:
Thank you, Dr. Haefner, and good afternoon. It is my distinct pleasure to join you today on this truly historic and celebratory occasion: the inauguration of Dave Munson as the 10th president of the Rochester Institute of Technology.
I couldn’t be more proud of my friend and former colleague than I am at this moment. And I couldn’t be more thrilled for all of you at RIT. You have gained a remarkably talented and visionary leader to preside over what I know will be a truly extraordinary period in your institution’s history.
Dave and I, of course, got to know one another at the University of Michigan, where he served as Dean of the College of Engineering while I was Provost. And I can tell you that among the 19 Deans we had at Michigan, Dave was – in the words made famous by the incomparable Tina Turner – simply the best.
I say this not just because the Engineering School thrived under Dave’s leadership and was consistently ranked among the Top 5 in the country. Not just because Dave was universally loved and incredibly well-respected by students, faculty and alumni, alike. Not just because Dave is kind and compassionate, not to mention creative and thoughtful. And not just because he happens to be a bit of a math nerd, like me.
All those things are true, but in my mind Dave was “simply the best” because I could always count on him to fill me in on the progress of the student Solar Car Team. Every year he would give me a detailed download – delivered with infectious energy and enthusiasm. He’d tell me how the team had taken theory to practice in order to make technical advancements in their vehicle … the challenges they faced working out supply chains and communication protocols along the race route … the efforts they made to raise the money necessary to build a new vehicle and participate in the international competitions … and how they had done all this as a team.
Yes, Dave loved the Solar Car Team. And not so much because he savored victories in the international Solar Car races. Rather, Dave loved the Solar Car Team because through it, he could see the future. He saw a team of talented young students being prepared for leadership and impact in the world that awaited them.
Dave thinks deeply about the world surrounding higher education, and the daunting challenges and compelling opportunities it presents. Questions like … How can analytics and other new technologies drive advanced manufacturing in this nation? How can we harness expertise in design and materials to help sustain the planet? How can games and the arts help us understand society and build stronger communities?
Dave knows that these are complex issues that will not be solved within a single discipline or by a lone scholar. They will take equal parts critical thinking and creative inspiration. They will require teamwork and partnerships, not just within our campuses but across the globe. ave saw, in the Solar Car Team, a vehicle to teach these lessons.
In that same spirit, Dave will challenge RIT to elevate its capacity to tackle the great issues of our time – through the research and creative work that occurs on your campus and by honing a student experience that equips your graduates for impact in the years to come. He will help you realize your loftiest ambitions and overcome those sometimes artificial boundaries erected within academia that limit our ability to address such complex and wide-ranging questions.
And so, at this moment of Inauguration, I thought I’d look to Dave’s past to make four predictions about your future.
First, that Dave will break down barriers between disciplines, just as he did at Michigan when he launched Biomedical Engineering, a pioneering department that sat between the schools of Engineering and Medicine. In doing so, he unlocked the potential for life-changing collaborations between engineers, scientists and clinicians across those schools.
Second, that he will blur the lines between teaching, research and practice through his unwavering support of undergraduate research, entrepreneurship and experiential learning. Dave will take the already outstanding work in these areas happening at RIT and propel it to new heights.
Third, that he will invite the world to your campus and deepen RIT’s role across the globe. One need look no further than the joint institute he championed between Michigan Engineering and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University to understand his level of ambition and conviction in this regard. This joint institute literally stood up a new university in Shanghai teaching the Michigan Engineering curriculum to a mix of students from both universities.
And finally, that Dave will seek to infuse the arts into every corner of your campus. In fact, if I know Dave, he’s probably – at this very minute – basking in the fact that the School for American Crafts found its permanent home at RIT and not at Dartmouth, where it was originally founded in the 1940s. I have no idea how we let that happen…but clearly, RIT is all the richer for it.
I still remember reading Dave’s own account of his very first visit to Michigan’s North campus, where both the Engineering College and the Arts Schools are located. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said. “Engineering and arts all in one place? Did someone design this for me?”
I can only imagine his total state of euphoria upon arriving at RIT, where you have already done so much to elevate the arts!
You see, Dave understands better than anyone that the arts, design, technology and engineering are kindred spirits. That these fields are, at their core, creative enterprises, and together offer students a low-barrier entry to the creative process – as you do, with such impact, at RIT’s MAGIC Center.
Four predictions with one thing in common – they are about connecting people – students, faculty and alumni – and creating an environment for them to do their best work. For Dave that’s what it is all about … bringing people together and fueling their passions – and doing so with his signature good nature and a heavy dose of good humor.
You know, people look up to Dave – but not because of his size. Because of his intellect. Because of his compassion. Because of his commitment to bringing out the best in those around him.
And if there’s one thought I’d like to leave you with today, it’s that under Dave’s leadership, RIT will also stand tall, proud of its heritage and evolution as an institution and more confident than ever in its direction for the future.
Congratulations, Dave. And congratulations, RIT. Be thrilled that you are on this journey together. I wish you…simply the best.