Mr. H. Patrick Swygert
Good morning. I want to bring special greetings to all of our guests who are with us this morning and there are many. We hope to acknowledge many of you before the conclusion of this program. Let me extend a special greeting this morning to our students; the men and women of our distinguished faculty; the members of the Board of Trustees; the members of my cabinet; our deans; our dedicated University staff members; parents, guests, friends, members of the Howard University Retirees Association; and of course, to the Reverend Dr. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. I greet all of you with the words of that marvelous Negro spiritual, "My Lord What a Morning."
On this Howard University’s 132nd Opening Convocation, we pause to acknowledge all those who sacrificed and made this morning possible. We also take this opportunity to reflect upon our accomplishments while fully mindful of the challenges that lie before us. And in acknowledging our accomplishments, we remain especially mindful of Proverbs which teaches us that "pride proceedeth the fall." We also know, as reflected upon in Dean Richardson’s remarks, without a vision, the people shall perish.
But even though we know that "pride proceedeth the fall," there is much to be proud of as we assemble this morning. And not simply the legacy of leadership and service that defines Howard University, as marvelous indeed as it is; but we are proud as well of our more recent accomplishments. Accomplishments of our faculty, of our students, our staff, our alumni and alumnae, and indeed our friends and neighbors in this and throughout the global community all of whom call Howard home.
And speaking of our neighbors in our community as we welcome Reverend Jackson today, we welcome him for his leadership as a world figure and personality. We also welcome him as a neighbor because he is a long-time resident of Ledroit Park, and we are so pleased that he’s part of our community. A community of Ledroit Park where just a year ago we embarked upon a very ambitious plan of reclamation and rehabilitation of houses and properties owned by the University and acquired by the University over time--48 in number. We announced our plan to reconstruct those houses and build new houses on those lots as our continued commitment to Ledroit Park and our neighbors. We are very, very fortunate indeed that the Fannie Mae Corporation agreed to join us as a partner. And today, I am very pleased to announce that as a result of the partnership of Fannie Mae, the District of Columbia Government, other financial partners and community partners and the Ledroit Park Civic Association, every home of the 48 properties has been sold. And sold, with but two or three exceptions, to members of the Howard University faculty and staff.
We have another bricks and mortar achievement to acknowledge and to be pleased about. Later this afternoon at 2:00 pm, we will have the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Howard University Bookstore. The Bookstore is proof positive of not only our continued commitment to the core academic values of our great institution but again to the neighborhood, because it is an investment in the neighborhood. It shares a space once occupied by Harambee House, later known as The Howard Hotel. We’ve tried to maintain fidelity to the vision reflected in Harambee House in both the way and the manner in which this marvelous facility was constructed, and the way and manner in which we intend to present the materials, the books, the authors who will grace its presence over the next many years.
In addition to these two projects, I want to just take a moment to both acknowledge and thank our Health Sciences faculty, and our School of Communications faculty for their patience as we proceed with the new Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library. We are working diligently, let me be quick to add, to find more and better alternatives for the dislocation that you’ve suffered as a result of this very needed and indeed necessary and important project. And I can only tell you this morning that help is on the way. The Howard University School of Law Library is another project well underway. A year from now, we hope to invite each and every one of you to the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Law School Library. All of these efforts and so many more reflect continued investment and re-investment in institution.
But bricks and mortar are only a small part of the definition of Howard University. Long before we had smart classrooms, modern libraries, modern bookstores and other facilities; long before parking was a critical issue on campus, Howard was about a set of ideas, indeed a set of ideals. And we’ve tried to maintain fidelity to those ideas and those ideals. More recently, we were subject to a very important assessment of how we were maintaining fidelity to those ideals when the Middle States Association for Colleges and Schools conducted its review of the University, its re-accreditation site visit. And as all of the members of the Howard University community will read soon, the report of the Middle States Association for Colleges and Schools makes clear that we have stayed the course and that we have maintained fidelity to the principles of this great institution. I want to take this opportunity this morning to publicly acknowledge the chairperson of our Self-Study Team. I ‘m going to ask her to rise in just a moment and I’m going to ask as well the members of the team, the faculty and staff members of the team who are with us this morning to rise as well with her. Dr. Lorraine Fleming of the School of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences, chaired this very important Committee and I’d like her to rise and her colleagues who worked so diligently and so closely with her to rise as well so that we might acknowledge you. The report of the team that will be circulating shortly speaks volumes to the integrity, to the hard work, to the commitment to learning and teaching of our faculty and our students and I think you will all be very, very pleased with the report.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to, in continuing our acknowledgements, to acknowledge two of our recent graduates. Graduates of the late 1980’s, 1988, and in 1989, each of whom recently selected as White House Fellow for 1999/2000. As you know, this is a very difficult and challenging process of identification of the very best and brightest to serve as White House Fellows. This year, 16 young Americans were so designated and of that 16, two were graduates of Howard University. And, I would like to reintroduce you to them. Beginning with Dr. Lance Wyatt, senior surgical resident at UCLA Medical Center, co-founder of Health Relief International, an organization committed to providing health care to indigent people around the globe. I’m also going to ask to rise, Attorney Gary Hall, who specializes in corporate finance law in Chicago with the firm of Gardner, Carton, and Douglas; he is the founder of a not-for-profit organization, Imani, that worked and continues to work to create scholarships and mentoring opportunities for minority youngsters in the Chicago community. For this month, both of these proud alumni of Howard University began their service as White House Fellows for 1999/2000. Gentlemen would you please rise so that we might acknowledge you.
And now I’d like to acknowledge someone who is with us this morning, though not an alum, she has contributed mightily to the success of alma mater. At 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, we will unveil a portrait of Dr. and Mrs. Parris, two individuals who through their generosity have worked tirelessly to support our College of Dentistry. Indeed this year, last year, we received from Mrs. Wilhelmina Parris, following the passing of Dr. Parris, $589,960.16, her first installment on her million-dollar pledge to support the College of Dentistry. Mrs. Parris, there’s a bit more, Mrs. Parris is with us this morning with her two sons, Gilbert, an alumnus of the Howard University School of Law; and Michael, a student in the Howard University College of Medicine. Joining them is Mrs. Parris’ grandson, Bernard William Parris, the next Parris to travel the path to Howard University. Mrs. Parris would you please stand.
Now on that note, any president who has followed the Presidential Rulebook would rest. I will acknowledge the given dogma and will rest in just a moment. But before I do I want to again thank each and everyone of you with us this morning viewing this program on television, listening to it on the radio, for your continued support of Howard University. Again, it’s not about bricks and mortar, it’s about people, it’s about commitment, it’s about values, it’s about a continued commitment to the still unfinished agenda of full civil and human rights in this country and abroad. That’s what defines and will continue to define Howard University.
Thank you very much.