President's Letter - August 24, 2002

undefinedDear Alumni, Faculty, Staff and Friends of Tulane:

As we wind our way toward the end of another hot New Orleans summer, our minds naturally turn to the upcoming fall semester and the excitement of another academic year. It’s also a good time, however, to talk about what has been going on since my last letter in February.

First, if you are nearby enough to have visited the Tulane University campus recently, you will no doubt have noticed the unmistakable signs of growth. As part of a 10-year master capital improvement plan for the uptown campus, work has recently begun on an expansion to the A. B. Freeman School of Business, and plans are under way for a major expansion of the University Center and revitalization of our residential housing. These three major projects follow upon a number of new construction and renovation projects undertaken over the past several years, including the renovation and restoration of the old Arts & Sciences Building (now Robert C. Cudd Hall) and Alcee Fortier Hall, renovations to Stanley Thomas Hall and the Civil Engineering Building (now Walter E. Blessey Hall), and construction of the beautiful new Merryl and Sam Israel Jr. Environmental Sciences Building.

On April 19, ground was broken for Goldring/Woldenberg Hall II, a new building to house graduate programs and several specialized centers for the business school. Enrollment at the A. B. Freeman School of Business has increased 57 percent in the last six years. More students, plus an increasing number of programs, had forced the school into spreading classes around campus.

The new 60,000-square-foot facility, which is being built adjacent to Goldring/Woldenberg Hall on McAlister Drive, will feature a 130-seat lecture hall, four 65-seat case method-style MBA classrooms, and a state-of-the-art information systems and technology laboratory. We’re expecting to complete construction in fall 2003.

Fast Facts

Something old is new again at Tulane, as the university’s new logo begins to appear in more and more places. The “TU” shield-style mark hearkens back to the beginning days of the university, when it appeared not only on university publications but on early buildings such as Tilton and Cudd halls.

The University Center is, of course, the hub of campus activities, and those of you who attended classes on the uptown campus since the current building was constructed some 30 years ago no doubt remember it well and fondly. The building has become too small and outdated to meet our current needs, however, and we are currently in the process of relocating organizations and offices in the UC to other spots on- and off-campus. In fiscal year 2004, we plan to close the UC for 24 months while a $37 million project gets under way to renovate the current facility and expand the space by 40,000 square feet. In exchange for a short-term inconvenience, we’ll get a wonderful facility that offers not only more office and meeting space but also such amenities as a restaurant that will offer full-service dining during some parts of the year. Likewise, this year we will begin a multi-year project to renovate and expand our undergraduate residential community. We will begin with the construction of two new residence halls and subsequently renovate other residences as the new construction is completed.

Fast Facts

This year’s commencement ceremony on May 18 at the Louisiana Superdome was a riot of blue and green. Thousands of students and their family members gathered to celebrate the day and hear the commencement speaker, author William Safire.

undefinedAs our physical facilities continue to grow and improve, we have not lost sight of the real reason for our being: education and research. I’m proud to say that our total sponsored research awards have continued to mushroom. After slight declines in total sponsored research awards in FY 97–98 and FY 98–99, we showed an 11.8 percent increase in FY 99–00 and an impressive 26.2 percent increase for FY 00–01. Another increase in total sponsored research dollars is anticipated when we tally the numbers for FY 01–02.

Though Tulane still has a way to go before we’re firmly in the very upper echelon of universities in terms of research and development expenditures, we are currently among the top 30 private universities.

Just a few of the recent grants Tulane researchers have received, and the promise this work holds to improve lives and solve major problems in our society and our world, show why I find this growth so important and so exciting.

  • Tulane researchers recently received a $2.5 million grant from NASA to help develop high-performance, high-temperature materials to construct re-entry shields, astronaut suits, fuel tanks, computer chips, aircraft wings, sensors and other items needed for space flight. The materials will be created from highly specialized polymers developed by the Tulane Institute for Macromolecular Engineering and Science, which is composed of 16 engineering and science faculty members from various Tulane departments.
  • As part of President Bush’s plan to establish a defense system against ballistic missile attacks, Tulane has received a $2.46 million grant from the Department of Defense to develop technology that will help detect, track and destroy enemy missiles that threaten the United States. With the funds, Tulane researchers and their colleagues from Xavier University will establish the Tulane Missile Defense Project, which will bring in the expertise of computer scientists, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers and mathematicians.
  • The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has granted $4.2 million over the next five years to fund an effort by Tulane and LSU researchers to evaluate treatments for HIV-positive children and reduce the rate of mother-to-infant transmission of the virus that causes AIDS. This money is part of a $36 million grant made nationwide to the Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Group, which includes the Tulane-LSU Pediatric AIDS Clinical Unit.
  • The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year, $14.3 million grant to the General Clinical Research Center, a collaborative effort of Tulane, LSU and Charity Hospital that conducts clinical trials of the latest drugs and medical treatments. The center currently has more than 100 research studies under way.
  • Finally, the state has awarded the Tulane/Xavier Center for Substance Abuse a $2.8 million grant to research the brain processes that underlie addiction to opiates such as heroin and morphine. Through this, the group of researchers from Tulane, Xavier and LSU led by Tulane neuroscience program head Richard Harlan, hope to develop new treatment methods to battle drug dependency.

undefinedI’m sure you’ll all agree with me that research projects such as these are truly thrilling, and their presence at Tulane enhances not only our faculty and our standing as a research institution, but also our students, who benefit by being exposed to and taught by research faculty members at the top of their fields. Most important, these projects hold the promise of contributing to the well-being of our community and society.

Speaking of faculty, I continue to be in awe of the accomplishments of our faculty at Tulane, across all disciplines and in all arenas. Many of you are already aware that, among private research universities, the Tulane faculty is ranked in the top 30 nationally in terms of membership in national academies and receipt of faculty awards.

undefinedAmong the faculty members honored over the past few months have been the following.

  • English professor Geoffrey Harpham has been appointed director of the National Humanities Center in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. Harpham is an internationally recognized scholar, author and founder of Tulane’s Graduate Program in Literary Theory.
  • Biomedical engineering faculty member David A. Rice received the 2001 George Washington Award from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, that prestigious organization’s highest honor. The foundation recognized Rice for the innovative design class he has taught at Tulane for the past 15 years, which taps into his students’ inventive talents to meet the needs of local disabled people who have specific problems gaining mobility or greater independence.
  • Tulane researcher Cheryl Nickerson in July received the 2001 Presidential Early Career Award from President George W. Bush in a White House ceremony. Nickerson, who is being honored for her research showing that salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning, is more potent in a weightless environment, was originally scheduled to receive the honor last fall but the ceremony was postponed in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
  • Jonathan Riley, an associate professor in philosophy and the Murphy Institute of Political Economy at Tulane, is one of only 40 scholars worldwide to receive a 2002–2003 fellowship to study at the National Humanities Center.
  • Russian studies professor William Craft Brumfield recently became one of the few non-Russians elected to the prestigious State Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction Sciences, that country’s leading organization dedicated to architectural history, design and construction.
  • Anthropology professor Victoria Bricker was elected to the American Philosophical Society, an organization founded by Benjamin Franklin and counting Thomas Jefferson among its presidents. It recognizes achievements in science, letters and the arts.

Please join me in congratulating these faculty members and take pride in the tremendous accomplishments of our faculty as a whole.

Finally, as I write this letter, we once again expect to have the most academically qualified incoming undergraduate class in the history of the university. We look forward to officially greeting them at the end of August.

Fast Facts

Incoming Tulane freshmen found the tide rising on their college careers earlier than expected, thanks to an innovative summer reading program. Members of the incoming first-year class received a copy of John Barry’s celebrated book Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Once the students arrive for the fall semester they’ll enjoy speakers - including a talk by the author himself - discussing the book in small- and large-group settings.

Enjoy what remains of the summer and until next time,



Scott S. Cowen

Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638