Whether as students or faculty, citizens of the Commonwealth, or members of the staff, we benefit from this great experiment in education. In this institution, designed specifically to impart to young people the knowledge and curiosity required of its leaders by our republic, the spirit of democracy burns most intensely.
This experiment is ongoing and perpetual, fueled and transformed by the tumult of the larger world. The academical village is a place of quiet contemplation and study, but it is not removed from the world; rather, it has become a meeting place for thousands of individuals, who bring to the Grounds the ideas and issues that animate their age.
Thus, although our distinctive model of education harkens back to Jefferson's age, the University is, as it should be, in a constant state of creative flux. Therein lies its tremendous utility to our society and its fascination for all who - for a day or a lifetime - have called it home.
This year's travels have taken me from San Diego to Boston and from Hong Kong to Ankara, for conversations with thousands of alumni, parents, and other friends. In the process, I have developed a deep respect for this University's success in meeting the requirements of successive generations while never losing its essential character. People of many backgrounds have told me how much they benefited from the University's ability to address the needs of their day while conveying the timeless truths that are Thomas Jefferson's legacy. This combination, I believe, underlies their extraordinary regard for the University and their determination for it to remain a vital institution in perpetuity.
So far, the University has done remarkably well in meeting the challenges of a new century. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked us the top public university in the country. Our faculty is among the most distinguished in the nation. And, as you will read in these pages, we are working to make the new knowledge created here - in health care, technology, and scores of other fields - widely available to the public.
At the same time, we are streamlining and reorganizing our efforts to extract the highest possible value from the University's resources. Our plans are contained in a report titled "Targeting Excellence" that I submitted to the General Assembly in September. Write to me if you wish to receive a copy. In all these efforts, the support of alumni and friends has been astonishing. Through their generosity and advice, the private resources that were once our "margin of excellence" have become our "core of excellence."
But much remains to be done - and society's needs will continue to change. Next year, we will launch the public phase of a capital campaign designed to ensure the University's ability to serve future generations of students as it has served those of the past. Today, as we join together to conceive and build the University's future, our task is nothing less than to think as boldly for the twenty-first century as Jefferson did for the nineteenth. Please join us in this endeavor. Sincerely,
John T. Casteen, III
December 1, 1994
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