November 29, 2001
Times like these make it clear to all of us the importance of the mission of this and other institutions of higher learning. Where else, but a major research university, could we have had the quality and abundance of information as we did during this month’s Tulane Presidential Symposium, “Bioterrorism: What You Need to Know”?
By tapping into the events of the day and the concerns of our community, the presentations and following discourse that I heard unequivocally sustain my view that the academy remains a vital component to a community’s everyday life. I want all the participants to know how proud I am of that program and how grateful I am for their time and expertise.
First and foremost, I’d like to think John Clements for his months of work as chair of the committee that developed and organized the symposium. Late last year I had asked John to lead the effort to put on the inaugural symposium focusing on infectious diseases, a field that has been identified in the strategic plan as one of Tulane’s great strengths. As they have been conceived, the Presidential Symposia have two components.
One part involves external reviews designed to enhance Tulane’s planning process by bringing in eminent scholars to review and assess strategic focus areas. The second part concerns conducting universitywide symposia in the important research areas.
These events give us an opportunity to come together as a university and showcase Tulane’s outstanding faculty and visiting speakers in the process. John and his group took the ball and ran with it, but as some of you may know, fate jarred the ball loose at the last minute when our invited speaker, Ruth Kirschstein, the acting director of the National Institutes of Health, was forced to cancel all speaking engagements due to the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks and their fallout.
That kind of unexpected blow would normally put an end to any planned program, but John was able to draw on our own faculty’s expertise to pull together a terrific panel on bioterrorism, a topic as timely and relevant as any I know. I’d like also to acknowledge Donald Krogstad, William Hartley, Rebecca Meriwether and Susan McLellan for the fine job they did with their presentations and the question-and-answer session that followed.
Also, my thanks go out to Robert Robins for moderating the event. Future symposia will build on this auspicious beginning, as scholars, thinkers and policy makers from Tulane and across the country engage the community in the free and vigorous exchange of ideas. We plan to hold a Presidential Symposium every fall and spring. The symposia are the culmination of planning processes for strategic targeted areas. Committees will be led by Richard Harlan for neuroscience, Darwin Prockop for gene therapy and Larry Powell for humanities area studies.
As the infectious disease group has already done, each of the other groups will develop a self-assessment of its research area and provide recommendations regarding the scope and focus of its research, current funding, and strategic planning and needs. This effort will be refined with help from scholars and scientists invited to campus.
The review team will then deliver to me a final report identifying strengths and weakness in the area, priorities for resource allocation and opportunities for growth. The most visible and anticipated component of this process will be the public presentation of the Presidential Symposia. It is my hope that these symposia continue to stimulate vigorous dialogue on relevant topics and become a vital part of the intellectual and cultural life of our community.
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