JOHN D. WELTY: Thanks for the many memories at Fresno State

FresnoJuly 18, 2013 

John Welty is retiring as Fresno State president after 22 years.

CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE Buy Photo

As I leave the presidency of Fresno State, I am deeply appreciative for all the students, faculty, staff, alumni and everyone else who worked hard and accomplished so much for our university these past 22 years.

We've collaborated on campus and community challenges with innovation, cooperation and determination. That's why I'm confident new Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro will be writing new chapters in the university's history of successes.

Being a university president has its share of frustrations, but being president of Fresno State has far more rewards because so many of you believe in Fresno State's mission to provide opportunity to students throughout our region and our world. Even when you take issue with something, it's usually because you want to improve Fresno State.

I'm proud that more than 84,000 students have received degrees from Fresno State during my tenure. That's roughly equivalent to the fourth biggest "city" in the Valley (after Fresno, Visalia and Clovis). What pleases me even more is that the vast majority of Fresno State grads stay in the San Joaquin Valley, contributing to our communities, the regional economy and to their alma mater, too.

Over these two decades, Fresno State's student body has become more broadly diverse, better reflecting the region's multicultural population and providing new role models with every graduate who was the first in his or her family to attend college.

To ensure our students' success, we have hired distinguished academic and administrative staff to offer a broad curriculum leading to 62 bachelor's degrees, 45 master's and three doctoral degree programs, plus our advanced-study certificate programs.

That's a lot of disciplines, but Fresno State has a remarkable record of training students for a broad range of careers and preparing students to lead us — both locally and globally – into a future we keep reinventing.

We've added a spectacular library, the world-ranked Save Mart Center, science and education classroom buildings, University High School, the Smittcamp Alumni House, Bulldog Diamond, an Aquatics Center and more — literally changing the campus landscape.

We recently opened our expanded Gibson Farm Market and Foster Farms Poultry Research and Education facility, and we're working on the Jordan Research Center and Meyers Family Sports Medicine Center.

Fresno State opened its doors in 1911 to serve the community, and the community has responded generously. You invested more than $214 million in our recent Campaign for Fresno State at a critical juncture in public higher education, when declining state support requires increased private support.

Two passions of mine — community service and encouraging the best and brightest young people — have become integral to our campus through the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning and the Smittcamp Family Honors College. Both were made possible through private financial support.

You have supported our Bulldog student-athletes with scholarships, enthusiasm, attendance and facilities that enhance achievement on and off the fields of play. In my time here, Bulldog softball and baseball teams won national titles, and most other sports can count conference successes.

You may not be aware that Fresno State is a founder of Blue Tech Valley, a broad-based initiative working on solutions to the challenges of a thirsty planet. We're also involved in ground-breaking physics, wine-growing, irrigation, air pollution and cancer research. And many students who honed investigative research skills at Fresno State are now on the cutting edge of scientific discovery on the global stage and even out of this world.

Fresno State is working to preserve a local endangered Native American language, improve our public school students' performance, define health needs and encourage a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship to propel the region's economy.

Our accomplishments are rooted in a campus culture of planning, purpose and persistence supported by an enthusiastic, collaborative community, whose willingness to help Fresno State won't go away just because I am.

It has been my privilege to serve this amazing university and our entire region. The ongoing discovery, the fascinating diversity and the incredible distinction of our students and alumni are far more than this Illinois farm boy could have imagined when he moved here in 1991.

I know Fresno State's future will be bright under President Castro's guidance.

I can't wait to watch it happen.

 

President John D. Welty, who leaves Fresno State on July 31, plans to teach about education during his retirement in Southern California. A Web page tribute to his career is at www.fresnostate.edu/welty.

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