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 February News Releases

Dr. Raines Press Conference Text: "Destination Memphis"

Thank you, Mr. Watkins, Board of Regents members, Board of Visitors members, tireless search committee, faculty, staff, and students.

When Bob and I walked up to the Northwest ticket counter in Lexington, the agent said, "What is your destination today?" We looked at each other and replied, "Memphis."

We are excited about joining you to work together for The University of Memphis, the citizens of Tennessee, and the Mid-South.

Our destination is Memphis, but our university's destination must be a bridge - a bridge between the economic and the academic worlds, which means, investing in people's livelihoods and in their lives.

When the announcement was made about my appointment as President of The University of Memphis, hundreds of e-mails, cards, and notes started coming into my office. All offered their congratulations and many offered advice. Some of the advice I will take and some of the advice I will toss.

From some wise colleagues who know me well and who know the challenges in higher education, I received this sage advice, which I plan to follow:

"Mobilize the creative talent in the University and the city."
"Involve the University as a community."
"Participate in real dialogue while keeping an open mind."
"Expect accountability and integrity."
"Be passionate about the University."

You know from my interviews that I am passionate about the importance of higher education, so that advice is easy to take.

From my closest friends, the usual advice came:

"Be yourself."
"Remember your strengths."
"You are good with people and good with data, so use both."
"Invest in people."

I plan to take their advice because I believe with all my heart that if we invest in great people, they will lead us to the great causes.

Corporate leader Jim Gray and Professor Ernest Yanarella included timely advice. They reminded me that "we must prepare our graduates to enter new economic and cultural realities." As a public comprehensive university and the flagship of the Board of Regents system, we must be certain that our graduates are prepared for the globalization of our world and the learning that is necessary to function in a trans-disciplinary environment.

We must form community partnerships, where we are the "experts-on-tap." We must be experts who can be tapped to work as partners, who also recognize the expertise that already exists in the community. True partnerships flourish when we are learners together. We must be learners, knowing we have much to learn from our partners, whether in public schools, public policy, or private business. We must stand shoulder to shoulder to tackle problems together, from closing the achievement and learning gaps, to closing the community gaps. We must reach out to our neighbors around the University, while finding ways to connect to our global community. For some, the steps from Orange Mound to the McWherter Library may feel as distant as Memphis is from China.

I want every employee of The University of Memphis, from the groundskeeper to the research scientist, from the beginning instructor to the professor winning teaching awards, from the cafeteria worker to the campus planner, to take pride in saying, "I work at The University of Memphis." I hope they will feel great pride because they are respected for the quality of their work. I hope they will feel our genuine positive regard for them as individuals and as members of teams of people who make the University work.

I hope the students from small towns in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and men and women from Memphis, Nashville, and Atlanta, and international students from Malaysia, Ghana, or Canada will take pride in their University of Memphis because we are a place where there is genuine positive regard for them as individuals and for them as learners. Whether 18 or 38, we want The University of Memphis to be their learning home.

I hope the citizens will take pride in The University of Memphis because we are "their university," paid for by their tax dollars, their tuition, and their private endowments. I want them to know that we will be good stewards of their investments in us because we are invested in learning.

Finally, I also plan to take the advice of several of you who said, "Wear blue, Memphis Tiger Blue." What else could I wear? Our destination is Memphis, The University of Memphis.

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