Chancellor-Elect Folt Greets the Campus Community

Speech Transcript

Wade Hargrove, Chair of the University Board of Trustees and of the Chancellor Search Committee: It’s a great honor to be able to introduce to you the next Chancellor at our great University, Dr. Carol Folt.

[Applause]

Chancellor-Elect Carol Folt: You will now get used to the box. Very good. They were ready for me with that so, thank you, Carolina. This is just such an incredible moment for me and for my husband, Dave. There he is. I know he’s out there somewhere. Really, it is the honor of a lifetime. I just can’t tell you how it feels. It’s a little bit of a dream state – and you live in a dream state – but this is an incredible opportunity to join a really wonderful, wonderful institution and to build on the incredible strength, the momentum. I talked about it a little bit earlier but I think all the work that you have done, Holden, this is just such a legacy and I think we all are so excited about what you’ve accomplished. I’m the inheritor of all that progress, so thank you. We all thank Holden.

[Applause]

It’s so interesting when you come to a new place. I think I feel in so many ways like I know so much about Carolina because as a lifelong academic, I’m going to look around the room, and I have lots of friends and colleagues here. One of the things that was so amazing for me during the search process was when I sat with the Search Committee after they’d asked me lots and lots of questions, and I said, “Okay, now, really tell me what is in your heart about this place.”

That’s really when you start learning the amazing, the just amazing personal stories and the ideas that people shared, their love of learning, their incredible gratitude to people who have made it possible for them, their feeling about the faculty, what it felt like to be in classrooms here, to be on this campus, the way the students talked about the legacy of learning and their love of learning that they were gathering from their faculty members, the way the staff talks about standing shoulder to shoulder with the students and faculty to make this an incredible, enduring institution and the people who were spending time as members of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors. And it was so Carolina in its conversation.

It was really an amazing moment for me and I think I was in love with the place before, but I did go home and I remember telling Dave and my kids, “You just can’t believe it. It’s just truly extraordinary.” And then I started thinking about all the people I’ve known here for so many years. I’ve got friends from graduate school. I’ve got co-authors. I’ve got people whose work I’ve read and taught year after year after year at this great institution, so one of my most exciting moments, I think, is when I’m going to get a chance to go around and reconnect with so many of you and make all those new friends. We have many students who have been graduates who have come to Dartmouth over the years, so there are just so many connections. And I think in spite of the fact in some ways we seem very different, in other ways we really do have some very strong similarities.

I think we have a very strong similarity in the way we have our governance of our institution. We believe very deeply in faculty governance and partnerships that we build with the people who run the institution to make sure that we work together to provide the absolute best possible education. And we use opportunities to work together to try to ensure that the research that is accomplished here is really meeting its absolute potential, and that, of course, is very much at the heart of what I believe Dartmouth has been all these years.

I love the fact that we’re among the oldest institutions in the world. Ooops. America perspective. Very sorry. My European colleagues, historians, I really apologize for that. In America – but we’re pretty proud of that anyway, and I think that’s something that means a lot, too. We’ve been at this business for a long time. We’re enduring. We face troubles but we know how to change. That’s what we do, and throughout all that time, we’ve been making such important strides for the country and for the people who go to our schools. That’s something we really share.

We share incredible alumni passion for the place, and I don’t know if we can compete in terms of color but I sure do love this Carolina Blue, and I love the fact that people want to wear it because it means something to them. They really do care about it. That love comes through and that’s going to be fantastic for me.

I think, like many of you, my whole career has been in a time of immense change. As I think back, graduating in the early ‘80s, we’d been going through changes at that time and it isn’t just what we’re celebrating right now, 40 years of Title IX and coeducation at our institution, but surely the last 40 years have been about inclusion and diversification of our institutions of higher learning. It’s been about knowledge explosion. I’m a life scientist. I don’t think anything I learned in college is even taught at the college level anymore. I think some of it is still true but it’s just changed so quickly.

And, of course, we’ve had the incredible explosion in IT and digital learning. We have globalization that affects every single aspect of our mission, yet we are the mission. We have the work of the entire country to create the next generation of people who won’t just be the people learning what we already know. They absolutely must be the people creating what we do not yet know and creating their own path to make immense change. And they will do it with the tutelage of our faculty and our staff, and we have that immense responsibility and privilege to be a part of that great moment in time.

For someone who has cared so much about this, the opportunity to come work with all of you in that kind of exciting moment makes everything seem fresh. Perspective, optimism and real opportunity and that’s what will carry us through the tough times. We have them. Every institution is facing them. I think it’s how we will talk to people outside the universities to understand what we’re really trying to do, and I think it’s how we’ll be able to come together and forge an even stronger partnership with the State of North Carolina and with the nation. And, of course, we’ll have the advantage of working in an incredibly rich and vibrant UNC system, so all that just makes this amazing moment.

I’m just going to tell you one little story and then I’ll close. I have a good friend in graduate school. I was at the Kellogg Biological Station doing a post doc and there was a student there who had come down and visited UNC, at Carolina, and he came back and kept talking about how beautiful the campus was – and the Old Well. Now I’d never seen the Old Well, but it had sounded like such an important part of the campus. And I hadn’t really kept contact with him over the years, but last night at about 12:02 when the news started to break, the first email I got was from him reminding me of that incredible moment, and it just took me back. I said, “Boy, I’ve always wanted to be a part of the place that has that Old Well,” so it’s going to be fantastic to do that. I will look forward every single day to learning from you, working with you and helping in every way I can so we can really achieve all that we dream for in this great place.

Thank you, thank you so much to all of you who have helped me already.

[Applause]