Investiture: President Gottfredson stresses commitment to UO as public research university

President Gottfredson, during his investiture (photo credit: Studio McDermott)
President Gottfredson, during his investiture (photo credit: Studio McDermott)

Michael Gottfredson was officially installed as the University of Oregon’s 17th president today (Thursday, May 30), during a ceremony in Matthew Knight Arena at which he stressed the importance of public research universities and “the thrill of discovery, the engagement of learning by doing.”

Before a crowd that included federal and state officials and university students, faculty and staff, Gottfredson said the UO will sustain its mission in an era of diminishing resources by engaging the community in a bold campaign to raise an amount that will substantially exceed $1 billion, more than doubling the current endowment.

The authority of the UO presidency was conferred upon Gottfredson during investiture, a Latin term that means "in dress" or "in robe" and an event used by universities and other venerable institutions to commemorate a transfer of authority associated with a high office.

Against a backdrop in which faculty and others dressed in full academic regalia, Gottfredson recalled his experience as a student at a public research university – University of California-Davis – and the public and private investments that made higher education possible for his family. He noted his exposure to faculty who inspired his passion for research, and he vowed to protect what matters most at the UO – “the teaching and learning and scholarship and research that advance so many interests,” he said.

Gottfredson also addressed the university’s support for an institutional board, saying there is “a tremendous opportunity” … to revisit areas critical to the university’s continued success.

“We must focus, with laser-like intensity, on creating a new approach to how we are organized, how we finance the university, how we engage our community and supporters, how we support the careers and aspirations of our faculty and staff and how we deliver on the promise of an Oregon education to our students, our alumni and our state,” Gottfredson said.

The UO president noted that the university has long been sustained by “enlightened philanthropy and a community whose primary concern was looking after the public interest.”

While the university’s commitment to its public mission is unchanging, Gottfredson said the uncertainty of resources requires a strategic shift in how the university operates.

The strongest programs will be moved to the top of their class, Gottfredson said, adding that: benchmarks will be used to solidify the UO’s standing with peers; private resources will guarantee the future of the UO for residents of the state; a diversity of backgrounds will be represented and collaborations across the South Willamette Valley will be enhanced for commercialization of innovations, sustainability, education and other goals.

Gottfredson was hired by the state board a year ago and started work at the UO last August. He succeeds Bob Berdahl, who served for about eight months and was the university's eighth interim president.

Of the UO's previous 16 permanent presidents, Prince Lucien Campbell served the longest – 23 years, from 1902 to 1925. The others served between 2 ½ and 17 years.

In remarks prior to Gottfredson's investiture, Laura Hinman, president of the Associated Students of the University of Oregon, said Gottfredson "has always made it a priority to meet with students." Louise Bishop, associate professor of literature in the Robert Donald Clark Honors College, said Gottfredson has a deep commitment "to higher education, shared governance, research excellence and personal accountability, responsibility and integrity."

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden recognized the university president's "special contribution" to ensuring that university research helps to create high-paying jobs in the state.

Wyden presented to Gottfredson a pair of neon-green athletic gloves -- the same worn by Duck football receivers, adding, "this is what will help you catch all the tough balls thrown at you in the days ahead."

- by Matt Cooper, UO Office of Strategic Communications