September 7, 2001

Tulane Talk Is Back!

Last weekend's Freshmen Orientation was terrific. I wish you all could have been with me as I formally greeted the first year undergraduates and their parents. This class is the most academically qualified group in the university's history and they seem to have a level of enthusiasm, optimism and energy to match their impressive academic credentials. The weekend was so successful because of an incredible effort by volunteer students, staff and many faculty. Thank you all for making it such a great beginning for our new students and parents.

Last Saturday I was also able to join some of these freshmen, as well as returning students, as we painted the basketball court, playground equipment, benches and other outdoor areas of Audubon Montessori School on Broadway. This was just one of the many sites visited during this year's annual "Outreach Tulane," a day in which students volunteer at hospitals, shelters and community centers throughout the city. This day hopefully begins a lifetime of service for students.

Along with our incoming freshmen we also have had many new staff members join us recently. I'd like to point out two such individuals in particular. First, I want to give a warm welcome to Ian Taylor who officially began his tenure as dean of our School of Medicine this week. Prior to joining us Dr. Taylor held faculty and administrative appointments at Duke and UCLA. I know he will now lead our medical school to new heights of learning and service.

I would also like to welcome Donna Murphy who began her job as senior associate vice president for Health Sciences Advancement this week. Donna comes to us from the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, where she was responsible for strategic development, management and solicitation of major donors, foundations, and corporations. We're looking for Donna to continue her successful health care fundraising.

And while I'm on the subject of health, I was delighted to learn that Leena Ala-Kokko, of Tulane's Center for Gene Therapy, will be awarded the Anders Jahren Prize for her work in discovering the genetic factors underlying lumbar disc disease and osteoarthritis. The Anders Jahren Prize is one of the world's most prestigious scientific awards and is often referred to as the "mini-Nobel" since several of its recipients have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. Congratulations to Leena and all her colleagues at the Center for Gene Therapy.

Finally, you may be aware that the latest college undergraduate rankings by U.S. News and World Report have been released. Since these rankings have captured the public's imagination like few issues in higher education, I am pleased to see that once again we are ranked among the top 50 universities in the country. However I, like many educators and journalists alike, question the methodology and validity of such rankings...but I am learning to live with them.

Well, there's so much more I could write but I will have to save it for next week. It will be good to communicate with you all on a weekly basis again. I trust you had a pleasant summer and are as enthusiastic as I am as we embark on a new academic year together.


P.S. FOG (Friends of Gibson), can view a recent picture that shows how a small dog can grow into a very large one in just a few months. Gibson had both a good and bad summer. She loved the freedom of our beach house for most of the summer but also got diagnosed with hip dysplasia which will require surgery in a few weeks. She also had a very bad case of "hot spots" that laid her up for two weeks. It is amazing how attached we have gotten to her. Our children think we have "lost it" and they may be right.

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