A Year in Review

As we bring in the New Year, it is important to take time, reflect and celebrate the accomplishments of the last 12 months ... To collectively congratulate and thank members of the University of Kentucky family – a big blue nation spread across our campus, Commonwealth, nation and world – for their contributions and time they dedicated to fulfilling our enduring Kentucky Promise.

For nearly 150 years, we’ve been a leader for our state and nation through our three-fold mission of learning, research and service. We remain dedicated to preparing our graduates for lives of meaning and purpose; to creating new scholarship, art and knowledge in our classrooms, labs and concert halls; to fulfilling our land grant mission by serving communities through our extension network and outreach programs; and to healing Kentucky’s families and improving the quality of life through our network of health care professionals and flagship medical center.

Together – as one Big Blue Nation United – we provide a guiding light toward a bright and prosperous future. Over the last year, we have advanced our Kentucky Promise in profound ways.

In a deliberate and open process, we began addressing our campus core. In April, we broke ground on the first phase of an ambitious multi-year public private partnership with Memphis-based EdR. The innovative plan – which will allow us to completely revitalize our housing infrastructure with modern, high-quality residence halls on an expedited timeline – is among the first in the country, and we have received broad recognition for our endeavor.

In August 2013, we will open the doors to Central Hall I and II. These technology-rich facilities will foster student interaction and collaboration, and they will serve as a new home for our University Honors Program. The following year – 2014 – we will open the doors to five new facilities across three building sites, adding nearly 3,000 beds in two years. 

We extended the reach of the Big Blue Nation across oceans. Because of the groundwork you laid before my arrival, I had the opportunity to travel to China on behalf of the University to advance several research partnerships, student and teaching exchanges and cross-cultural collaborations.

We are continuing the process of framing, testing and implementing a new budget model for our campus. The goal: A budget process that provides necessary information to plan and act deliberately and entrepreneurially in an accountable and transparent way. Interim Provost Tracy – supported by a working committee representative of faculty and staff – is leading the effort, and I am confident in our ability to build a Kentucky model that represents and bolsters shared interests and priorities.

I am constantly reminded that the University of Kentucky is not defined by our buildings and rankings – it is defined by the people who care for our campus, learn in our classrooms, reach breakthroughs in science and scholarship, serve our communities, and heal those in need. Behind every logo, credential and publication is a community committed to our Promise.

Over the last year, that community has grown. We have welcomed the largest, most diverse and best prepared class in history – more than 4,600 bright scholars who hold the promise of tomorrow. They join a student body of nearly 30,000 that is deeply interested in learning both inside and outside the classroom:

  • A three-person team consisting of top business students from the Gatton College of Business and Economics was victorious in the Wall Street Journal’s National Biz Quiz. During the annual competition hosted at Ohio State University, Bert Smith, Ryan McFerran and Scott Deschamp, bested competitors from 17 other top business schools across the nation, including: Carnegie Mellon, Michigan, Emory, University of North Carolina, Texas and Texas A&M.
  • We were dazzled by the remarkable talent of our Opera Theatre students as they took to the stage in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s heralded The Phantom of the Opera. Because of their incredible talent, the University of Kentucky was added to a short and celebrated list of institutions licensed to produce this incredible work of art.
  • Thousands of students gathered in support of a cause larger than any individual: the fight against the scourge of childhood cancer. Though DanceBlue was cut short due to the storms that devastated towns across Kentucky, our students surpassed a milestone and raised more than $800,000 this year – and $3.5 million raised over the last seven years. Their tireless effort has yielded incredible results for their cause. This year, they renamed the clinic the “DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Hematology/Oncology Clinic.”

Nearly 170 faculty joined our ranks in 2012, extending the broad array of creative scholarship and scientific discovery that defines this institution. New staff across our campus helped our students excel and supported the work happening in our colleges and units. They are part of UK’s ongoing story of inspiration, innovation and service:

  • One story is that of Sarah Fannin, a UK extension agent in Morgan County, Kentucky. In early March, devastating tornadoes ripped through Eastern Kentucky, leveling the town of West Liberty, where our extension office is located. Leaving the town unrecognizable to its citizens, the storms also decimated UK’s extension office. The following morning, as the clouds parted and the sun rose, Sarah was busy at work running the extension office from her living room.
  • We marked a new era for renewable energy research and cutting-edge infrastructure. Joining the Davis Marksbury Building, we opened our second LEED-certified facility and our first LEED-Gold laboratory. The new Center for Applied Energy (CAER) research facility will expand our capacity for collaboration in solar, biomass, electrochemical power research and advancements in battery technology through our partnership with Argonne National Laboratory.
  • For the past several years, hundreds of faculty, staff and clinicians have worked diligently to position our Markey Cancer Center for designation as a National Cancer Institute. This endeavor was entered into purposefully to advance science and improve the lives of countless Kentuckians’ impacted by these diseases – an effort that is fundamental to our Kentucky Promise. During the first part of 2013, we will host representatives from the National Institutes of Health’s, National Cancer Institute for their official site visit.

In addition to the growing numbers of faculty, staff and students, two new deans arrived on campus: Dean David Blackwell -- formerly of Texas A&M University -- leads the Gatton College of Business and Economics, and Dean John Walz -- formerly of Virginia Tech University -- leads the College of Engineering.

Eric Monday was recently hired to replace Frank Butler as the Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration. He will lead an effective and efficient administrative team to help advance student, staff and faculty success.

And we added thousands to our proud alumni family as record numbers of graduates received their credentials in our Spring and Fall Commencement ceremonies. Our extended family of alumni and friends – more than 265,000 strong –share in our success and exemplify our institution’s most cherished values.

We built upon a tradition of excellence and integrity in our athletic programs:

  • Our success on the court and field is matched in the classroom. All 22 varsity programs surpassed the NCAA Academic Progress Rate cut score, continuing UK’s record of zero violations in the history of the APR. During the Fall 2012 semester, we surpassed a long-standing goal of Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart when the Fall GPA for all competing student-athletes, including those not on scholarship, was 3.034.
  • We've made additions to the leadership in our Athletics Department, as well. UK welcomed Mark Stoops as the new head football coach; Edrick Floreal as the new track and field/cross country head coach; Johan Cedergren as the men’s soccer head coach; and Cedric Kauffmann as the new men’s tennis head coach.

We celebrated a milestone for UK HealthCare as the Chandler Medical Center was ranked the No. 1 hospital in Kentucky by U.S. News & World Report. This is an incredible achievement for the compassionate medical professionals in our health care enterprise – a network spread across the Commonwealth and anchored by a flagship medical center in Lexington.

Our world-class clinicians continue to push the boundaries of medical science and bring comfort to patients and families. In July, Dawn Nelson received two lungs and a heart from the same donor in Kentucky’s first heart-lung transplant performed in 15 years.

We have received national recognition for our commitment to using extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support for inpatients experiencing acute failure of their cardiorespiratory system. The ECMO – a device used to bridge the gap while transplant candidates await a donor match – has been an essential medical tool in several transplant procedures undertaken by UK transplant physicians in the last few years. 

These are only a few of the many incredible stories, events and endeavors that have defined our last year. Every day, in ways big and small, I’m reminded that this, quite simply, is a truly remarkable place.

I come in contact with people who embody the promise of the University of Kentucky – who give me strength and hope that we can fulfill our higher purpose mission. They believe in our Kentucky Promise – a covenant that has guided nearly 150 years of transforming lives, discovering new knowledge and healing communities.

Because of the enthusiasm of our students, ingenuity of our faculty, commitment of our staff and support of our alumni and friends, we can achieve greatly in our ambitious pursuit and ensure our promise for another generation.

I remain excited about our future. Each day, I’m emboldened by your ambition and willingness to do more to fulfill our Promise. You inspire me and strengthen our collective resolve. Because of your work, I am certain that our best days are ahead.

See you 2013 and remember to always “see blue.”

With sincere and eternal gratitude,