Jerris Hedges, dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, has been named the 2013 Physician of the Year by the Hawaiʻi Medical Association.
I write to you today to thank all of you for your support of the University of Hawaiʻi and to let you know that I am announcing my retirement from the position of president effective September 2013. This great institution deserves and needs your continued help and encouragement. I am grateful to our Hawaiʻi legislature and our governor for the support provided in this year’s budget. The major additional general funding was for collective bargaining costs so that the majority of our hardworking employees will return to their 2008 salary levels and will receive additional raises for the next few years. The legislature also included significant funding for several new building projects and for health and safety, and repair and renovation. Unfortunately, we did not receive funding for the core elements of our UHPA contract that covers our all-important faculty.
It has been my great pleasure to serve as the president of the university and together we have accomplished a remarkable amount. As the economy slowly shows signs of recovery, I am proud of how well we coped with the greatest recession since the Great Depression. With the excellent cooperation of our employees and friends, we were able to accommodate the largest student enrollment in our history. While there were salary reductions and productivity changes, no reduction in days of instruction occurred, and we significantly streamlined course availability and transfer. For example, all general education courses are accepted on all campuses. We are currently implementing “Credit Where Credit is Due”— a program that automatically awards associate degrees when the correct credits are completed, independent of where the student is enrolled in the university’s ten campus system. We have also introduced "15 to Finish," the UH program that has recently been shared with 22 other states. This program aims to help students graduate in four years, emphasizes the financial incentives and clearly demonstrates that students who do enroll in 15 credits per semester perform as well as or better than students who take fewer than 15 credits.
The University of Hawaiʻi has a very strong strategic plan and a set of progressive benchmarks. We have successfully executed on the vast majority of these benchmarks and report them every year to the legislature, our various stakeholders and the general public. Our goal to be the “best performing system of higher education” in the nation is clearly within our grasp.
The notable area in which we have not made much progress is deferred maintenance. While it is true that we have a backlog of repairs on some of our campuses which persists, we have devoted a great deal of resources in the last few years to take care of the most necessary health and safety concerns. Although we have not been able to significantly decrease the entire backlog, we have kept it from getting worse. Over six years ago, the university laid out a plan to reduce this backlog over a number of years. The state, with its deep recession problems, has simply not been able to honor our request for these resources. To make that necessary progress, even with our latest state support, the backlog, salaries and operating costs are likely to be partially paid for by tuition dollars. This is a continuing problem and one faced by all public universities with older campuses. The problem must be faced with concern and compassion, not accusation. In addition, individuals who deliberately damage, deface or fail to take basic actions to maintain our campuses need to be reminded of that responsibility.
While educating our students is and always will be our most critical mission, the University of Hawaiʻi is a very significant contributor to the state’s economy and well being. UH is a major research university with a growing portfolio of excellence. The recently released UHERO (The University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization) economic impact study shows clearly that the state investment in UH has a very robust return on investment (ROI) across the state.
In FY 2012, the $1.84 billion in local education-related expenditures by the University of Hawaiʻi generated $3.6 billion in local business sales; $1.10 billion in employee earnings; $194 million in state tax revenues; and nearly 30,000 jobs in Hawaiʻi. This represented about 4.8 percent of total (non-farm) jobs, 3.6 percent of worker earnings, and 3.2 percent of total state tax revenues. We have a goal to double this impact.
Major projects such as the UH Cancer Center, the new UH West ʻOahu campus, the UH Hilo Hawaiian Language and Culture building, the Windward Community College Learning Center, the Maui College Science Center, the Kauaʻi Community College Campus Center project, the UH Mānoa Campus Center and the new IT building will be completed, or have been completed over the past four years. In addition, the critical astronomy TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope) project has advanced, as the university was recently granted a permit to assist in building this project.
The university has worked with numerous community groups this past year to develop the Hawaiʻi Innovation Initiative, which aims to significantly increase the state’s research industry. If UH is successful with this effort it will create thousands of new attractive jobs and provide the basis for further enhancement of Hawaiʻi’s economy. This will further cement our important role as a major economic engine of the state’s present and future economy. We trust that you will continue to support us on this journey so critical to the generations to come.
I will always be grateful for the superb faculty, staff and students with whom I have had the privilege of working here at the university. I have never known a better or more willing group of individuals. I would also like to thank the Board of Regents for the honor of working with them for the university.
I wish only the very best for our university. I am proud of what we accomplished under very difficult circumstances. I am looking forward to my retirement from the presidency and to time once again to be “grandma,” and to write, teach and do some policy work. Imua, University of Hawaiʻi.
Mahalo nui loa,
President, UH System
—Read the news release of the announcement