Statement at Public Board Meeting
Richard S. Meyers
May 4, 2013
Today is the last time I will be able to address the full board before leaving Fielding at the end of the year. For all of higher education globally, the great challenge before us is to define a path forward that will allow us to improve learning outcomes for our students while finding ways to deliver that education at a rate of cost increase that is less than we have experienced over the recent past. In short, we must challenge ourselves to become more effective at what we do while simultaneously being more efficient at what we do. Fielding must reduce its reliance on the current percentage of our budget on student tuition. This must be everyone's goal: faculty, staff, students, and administrators, working together.
First of all, and most sincerely, I thank the Board of Trustees for their trust and support. Collectively you are quite different from any other board I have served on or reported to. You have passion—you have deep, deep commitment to our students and to the entire university. I will miss you. I thank the entire Fielding community for my having the honor and privilege of serving you. I thank the many members of the Fielding community who have supported me over these past four yours. I continue to serve as a labor of love.
Throughout my career, my spouse Yakko has played a vital role as a partner in my efforts, often giving me incredible lucid, loving and pertinent advice and support. Without her, I would have made many (more) questionable decisions. That Fielding continues to advance forward during my time at the helm is in no small part her guidance and pushing me to greater possibilities.
When I look at this community and look backwards, I think of our time together as very successful. My goal at Fielding as it has been in other colleges and universities I have served in is to change the infrastructure enough to facilitate change that would benefit the students and the institution after I left. I feel confident that we are accomplishing this at Fielding. I see Fielding turning the corner and not only addressing the challenges before it, but putting into practice a long range strategic plan that presupposes a daily commitment to building the university for future generations of learners.
I have desired to leave the university in a secure financial position with the future planned for increased shared governance, increased programs and degrees that prepare students to be more socially responsible, international components that make Fielding of value globally, and increased recognition of the University’s unique role in higher education that will make Fielding better, and through our actions make the world a better, more peaceful place where healthy discourse and dissent can advance knowledge.
My administration has been an open one where teamwork and collaboration ruled. Whatever we accomplished or did not accomplish was a group effort. Faculty was completely involved. Thanks to them and to the entire community. In truth, this entire community is very special, and I’ve enjoyed my time with you all. I was especially blessed to have the opportunity to work with this credible group of professionals.
We need to use what we have learned to build a stronger institution and to restore the trust and confidence that so many people have had in Fielding for so many years. Hopefully, continued open administration and a clear roadmap such as the new Strategic Plan will be key factors.
Attracting and retaining outstanding faculty and staff is of paramount importance. The faculty is the reason why students come to a university. In the future, the role of content will diminish as content is provided by more avenues of technology from divergent sources. Staff are the glue serving the faculty and students with consistency. The truly engaged and talented people that come to work every day are Fielding’s greatest asset. Happily, that describes most of us.
For these reasons and more, in my time here, we have made significant progress, but have not achieved final victory. This is a work in progress.
When the history of Fielding is written, I want the pervasive statement to be, “we all did this ourselves.” Doing so will emphasize the steadfast commitment I made decades ago to the philosophy of Lao Tzu who said, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
When I look into the mirror and consider my Fielding presidency, I am proud of the many accomplishments that we have produced together and the fact that every decision that was reached during my time here was made with the best interests of the students in mind. Our students are the only reason for Fielding’s existence. This I firmly believe and will continue to guide my actions until I walk out of the University on my last day.
And after that day, Provost Katrina Rogers will seamlessly move into the presidency as Acting President and Provost. I was fortunate to have had Katrina on staff for me to make an early determination of her talents. I was proud to have been one of her mentors, or as sponsor, a word which she has used to so generously describe me. I have confidence in the future of Fielding under her guidance.