Introduction by
Dr. Floretta McKenzie
Vice Chairperson
Howard University Board of Trustees

Mr. President, Reverend Jackson, members of the Howard community, guests, friends, and especially the class of 2003.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am pleased to welcome you to this convocation marking the formal opening of Howard University’s 132nd academic year.

First, I would like to thank and commend Reverend Jackson, a stalwart of the civil rights movement.  His commitment to reconciliation and role as the “conscience of the nation” are exemplary. He plays an instrumental role in world affairs and has worked tirelessly to help resolve numerous potentially volatile situations throughout the world.  He is a “one man” united nations. He has been a special friend to Howard University, and advocate for our initiatives.

I also want to take this opportunity to commend and thank our President, Pat Swygert. His tireless leadership and vision continue to serve as the catalyst for our evolution into the millennium.  He has provided dynamic and visionary leadership. He has proceeded with dispatch and precision in implementing the strategic framework for action, our blueprint for the future direction of the university.

Pat, we continue to commend ourselves for such good judgment in recruiting you to serve as our leader.

Our respect, appreciation, and support for you have grown over the past four years as you have undertaken the transformation of alma mater.  Thank you.

Also, let me salute Sonja Swygert.  She has been his helpmate and steward in her own right, particularly with the friends of Moorland-Spingarn, the University Library, and the Howard University Hospital.  Thank you, Sonja.

Greetings and appreciation to our scholars, the faculty.

Special acknowledgement to my colleague, Undergraduate Trustee Louis Sterling. The Board of Trustees joins with President Swygert in expression of congratulations and commendation on your selection as a 1999 Truman Scholar.  Your exemplary academic performance serves as an inspiration to the university community.

I extend an especially warm welcome to the students, staff, alumni, and retirees who are with us today.  To our freshmen students and new faculty, you have chosen to become a part of the Howard family, the Howard tradition, and indeed, the Howard legacy.

Each September, we pause to celebrate the beginning of a new academic year.  We celebrate the vision of our founders and our success in spite of the odds.  We recommit to the mission and the pursuit of excellence.  That is true today as it was when I entered the masters program here at Howard.

Mr. President and members of the university community, as we begin a new chapter in the history of our great institution, I want to share with you the continuing resolve of this board, to ensure that Howard University maximizes its potential and fulfills its historic mission consistent with its “legacy of excellence.”  We solicit all members of our great Howard University family to join us in this commitment. As we race toward the new millennium, we must accentuate performance and achieve excellence in all that we do.  as a world-class institution of the 21st century, we can do no less.  The Howard University family must commit to continuous improvement, innovation, and the quest for excellence.

In keeping with this belief, in June 1997, the board of trustees initiated a board governance review.  The purpose of the review was two-fold:  (1) to undertake the same rigorous review within the board that the university is taking in all areas of its operation pursuant to The Strategic Framework for Action, and (2) to be certain that the board is appropriately aligned with the transition implicated by the framework and for effective board leadership for a university of academic distinction.

Last year, we implemented the reforms recommended by the governance review, thereby raising the bar in our effort to provide stewardship of the university.  In concert with the president, we are working to ensure that the board dedicates its time to matters of strategic importance.  We identified four strategic issues of focus:

We believe this focused attention of the Board coupled with the dynamic leadership of H. Patrick Swygert will reap unparalleled success for the University. 

In closing, I want to direct my comments to the freshman class. For 132 years, young men and women have entered the doors of Howard and exited armed with knowledge, skills, wisdom, and humanity to make a difference in this world.

Indeed, you, the students of Howard University, serve as living testimony to the University’s theme:  Leadership for America and the global community.

By virtue of the excellence you have committed to achieving in your respective pursuits, you will become our leaders for tomorrow. You should feel confident that you have chosen well in selecting Howard University as the situs of your matriculation, for it is this University’s exceptional and legendary faculty that continues to contribute, in large measure, to your unique wisdom and strong leadership ability.

It is imperative that we all–-faculty, students, staff, alumni, and trustees work together in the pursuit of excellence, for excellence is the epitome of strength.

It is our strength that enables us to excel, to beat the odds. Through collective support, we can only be victorious in our mission to provide leadership for America and the world.

On this day, the formal opening of our 132nd academic year, at the threshold of the millennium, we have a formidable challenge and opportunity before us. In true Howard spirit, let us all commit to work and ensure another successful and accomplished academic year.

Good luck!