As I write this last note to you as president, I am experiencing hugely conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I am excited about my next leadership position at Northwestern University, and on the other, I am deeply sad that I will be leaving so many wonderful friends and colleagues.
The University of Oregon is an exceptional university. I have never been at an institution where there is such a consensus about the importance of student welfare. We sometimes are a disputatious bunch, but over my seven-plus years as your president, I have never heard anyone question the primacy of teaching, inclusion, and student success. No doubt it is because of this shared value that we made excellent progress over the past seven years in increasing our four-year graduation rate.
I have been equally proud of our progress in research. The Knight Campus and the Ballmer Institute are just two of the many ways the UO has greatly enhanced its academic standing and reputation. I am proud of these and other ways that we have empowered our researchers to do great work and contribute to the world’s base of knowledge.
I am encouraged by the relentless pursuit of excellence at the University of Oregon. I believe we have fostered world-class excellence in many parts of the university and there is more to do. While I am sorry I won’t be here to help, Interim President Patrick Phillips is the right person to keep the momentum going. The initiatives that he has fostered will move us to a new level.
As the University of Oregon continues its trajectory toward being one of the top public universities in the nation, we must work hard to convince our political leaders in the state that having a world-class research university matters. Deep in my soul, I believe that for the state of Oregon to flourish, for it to be able to achieve its social justice ambitions, it needs a top-rate university or universities to promote innovation, opportunity, and wealth creation. Our alumni understand this, but we must continue to engage and inform our leaders and the populace of the state.
What I will miss the most are the people. Oregonians—those born here and those who chose to make the state their home—are a special group of people. As I depart the community, I will forever treasure my administrative team who worked day and night to make the university better. While people sometimes attribute the success or failure of an institution to the president, that is mistaken—it is the work of many individuals on a team that matters. The UO is blessed with an amazing number of people who care about it. I will miss many faculty members and deans who pushed themselves and the university forward, many of whom became personal friends. And, I will especially miss my interaction with our Board of Trustees and its leadership who supported our ambitions for the school with total commitment.
While O’Hare Airport is not everyone’s cup of tea, please don’t be strangers. As for me, I will be watching your progress with love and hope for the future.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law