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Stanford Report, September 22, 1999

'I believe it is about time to bring fresh perspectives'

This is the text of President Gerhard Casper’s address to department chairs, deans and other senior officials on September 14, 1999.

The time has come for me to make this my last year as president of Stanford and Aug. 31, 2000, my last day in office. By then I shall have completed eight years of service as president. A few months ago a Stanford alumna wrote me a charming letter in which she referred to the "ten years" of my presidency. Given the pace I have maintained since coming to the university, ten years at least is the way it feels.

I hope that, even among those who disagree with some, most or all of what I have pursued, only a few doubt that I have worked for all of Stanford with complete dedication at all times. There is hardly an area of this complex and challenging institution that I have not tried to contribute to, for better or for worse. Indeed, it is among my greatest satisfactions that, contrary to many clichés about the contemporary university presidency, it is still possible for a president to concern himself with a wide range of institutional issues from the academic to structural and financial, even architectural, and make a difference.

The true university, however, as I have repeated over and over again, is a joint effort of a wide range of participants. It is the faculty, deans, chairs, students, trustees, the senior officers, the staff, the alumni, parents, and local, national, and worldwide friends whose active engagement make Stanford a continuously renewed intellectual and moral effort. I understood this active engagement to be fact, not fiction, at Stanford when I met with the presidential search committee back in the spring of 1992. My understanding turned out to be right and nothing that has been accomplished could have been done without the often unstinting collaboration of a great number of people. In an era of rapid change and considerable uncertainties, the university and I are much indebted to many for their strong commitment to the support of Stanford's core mission of teaching, learning and research. Jointly we have done and will continue to do the work of the university.

Having said that, it is also true that much is ahead of us. At a university, no time is ever an appropriate one to claim that tasks have been completed. As you know, I am fond of stressing­this, too, over and over again­that all days of a university need to be first days. The work of the university is work that cannot be done unless it is continuously reconsidered. I believe it is about time to bring fresh perspectives to bear on the president's office. As the author of Ecclesiastes has put it: "To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

This coming year will also be my twentieth year of serving higher education in major leadership roles. In these years as dean and provost at Chicago and as president at Stanford, I have tried to maintain some intellectual presence through reading, teaching, speaking, writing and publishing. In the positions I have held I have never ceased to consider myself as from the faculty and of the faculty. I need a season of refreshment and renewal. And it is high time for me to spend more time with family and friends.

In my last year, in addition to performing all my regular duties, I shall do my very best to achieve a new General Use Permit for Stanford. I shall continue to devote much time and effort to the evolving relationship between Stanford and UCSF in the expectation that shortly we will determine our future course. I also hope that we shall make significant progress toward placing the Center for Bioengineering, Biomedicine and Biosciences on the Stanford map. Last, but definitely not least, I shall continue to do preparatory work for a campaign for undergraduate education at Stanford. If the Board of Trustees approves the campaign, I hope to play a role in the fundraising effort.

Following a sabbatical, I intend to return to teaching at Stanford. In my years as president I have taught four times within the undergraduate curriculum. Given the emphasis I have placed on the creation of Stanford Introductory Studies, I shall, in the years remaining, devote most of my efforts to our undergraduates.

There is much difficult work to do in the year ahead. I am looking forward to it, and I assure everyone that "lame duck" is not a role that I have played in the past or that I have any inclination to play in the future. As I said, jointly we have done and will continue to do the work of Stanford. SR