Hundreds of people from the campus and greater community attended the official ceremony that is derived from academic tradition and formally recognizes a change in leadership at the institution’s highest level. The event was held at EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh.
During his remarks, Leavitt outlined his vision for the future of the 144-year-old institution. He also thanked those within the university, community and state that helped make the day possible and recognized family and friends who have supported and encouraged him both personally and professionally.
Leavitt’s goals include developing UW Oshkosh’s role as a research-enhanced comprehensive institution that focuses on student success, liberal education and sustainability.
“Building on our reputation for academic excellence, we will have a renewed emphasis on faculty research and staff innovation that will include increased research/service productivity carried out in the context of student learning,” he said.
Leavitt said a comprehensive university is a very special type of institution—one he is proud to lead. Under his leadership, he said, UW Oshkosh will focus on teaching, learning, discovery and engagement. He also stressed the University’s collaborations in economic development and its role in welcoming all people to create a culturally rich student body.
“When it comes to collaboration, UW Oshkosh is a leader in the UW System and Wisconsin,” said UW System President Ray Cross, who bestowed the Chancellor’s Medallion on Leavitt during the ceremony. “Like all of our institutions, it continues to do away with that old-fashioned idea that a campus and its home community are two different and distinct entities. The future of a UW campus, the future of its home city, the future of its native region, and the future of this great state of Wisconsin are one.”
Cross said UW Oshkosh is a University that “gets it.”
“It proves that the Wisconsin Idea is not just some abstract concept,” he said. “It’s a very real thing that changes all of our lives for the better. It shares the teaching, learning and research of a university—stretching it out into the laboratories, shops, shelters, parks, rivers, lakes, farms—and Experimental Aviation Associations of Wisconsin. As our students learn and grow in the mission, Wisconsin thrives. When they and our staff and faculty succeed and achieve breakthroughs, Wisconsin prospers.”
Leavitt invoked a historical perspective on higher education when he spoke of the GI Bill and the free education it provided almost 8 million veterans.
“When you lo0k at the impact that decision had on the modern age, it’s astounding,” Leavitt said. “It not only fueled the development of the middle class, the education received during that era can be credited with a technological tsunami that took us to the moon and then transformed the way human beings access information and communicate.”
It was a decision, he said, that set the stage for viewing higher education as a “public good.” Education, Leavitt said, was seen as a right, not a privilege. And the benefits of higher education through the UW System and The Wisconsin Idea reach into every home, business, community and rural township.
The visibility of this impact has gotten lost over time and buried in a message that the UW System needs support, Leavitt said. The System, he said, needs to demonstrate that it is not asking for support, but instead is worthy of investment.
“We are a driving force in the region’s and the state’s economic, social and cultural well-being,” he said.
Leavitt has arrived at UW Oshkosh during a critical juncture in its history and in the history of higher education in Wisconsin, said UW Oshkosh Provost Lane Earns.
“He brings with him an inherent sense of optimism, an understanding and expertise regarding the promise of higher education, and a practical sensibility of what it will take for UW Oshkosh to be successful in the years to come,” Earns said. “This, I believe, bodes well for both our own campus and the surrounding community.”
UW Oshkosh has a strong commitment to and connection with the community that surrounds the university, said Oshkosh Mayor Steve Cummings.
“The University is widely recognized as an institution known for delivering a high quality education to prepare its graduates for the workforce and for serving our communities both locally and worldwide,” Cummings said. “The University adds to the quality of life that is so important to the health of our community.”
Leavitt emphasized his commitment to tenure, saying it “is essential to academic freedom and maintaining a strong academy.”
He spoke of his plan to build on the solid national reputation for sustainability (most recently ranking third in the nation) that already exists at UW Oshkosh.
“Twenty-five years from now, the leaders involved in national and global work in sustainability will be UW Oshkosh faculty, staff and graduates,” he said. “We can lead the way as a comprehensive institution through our work in ecological, economic, political and social sustainability.”
Formal ceremony deep with tradition
The installation ceremony at EAA was traditional and celebratory and many dignitaries offered remarks and well-wishes.
In addition to Cross, Cummings and Earns, remarks were made by Jordan Schettle, Oshkosh Student Association president; Lisa Goetsch, University staff chair; Richard Marshall, senate of academic staff president; Karl Loewenstein, faculty senate president; Susan May, Fox Valley Technical College president; and Regina Millner, UW System Board of Regents member.
The platform party included campus leaders, regional government officials, UW System officials and regents, and UW Oshkosh administration and alumni. Political Science professor James Simmons served as grand marshal, Communication Studies professor Kay Neal served as faculty marshal.
“The Regents recognize the challenges and choices chancellors face. And we support them. UW Oshkosh will, no question, continue to thrive with the inclusive, thoughtful and passionate leadership we already see and enjoy in Chancellor Andy Leavitt,” said UW System Regent President Regina Millner.
Cross bestowed the chancellor’s medallion to Leavitt “as a symbol of office, and to charge that it is worn with great esteem and honor.”
Cross added: “May it serve to help inspire you as you lead this university in its mission of teaching, research and public service, during what promises to be a positive, productive and exciting term as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.”
“In Andy Leavitt, you have a Chancellor who embraces and embodies this philosophy and purpose. He is a natural for UW Oshkosh. He is a great leader, a hands-on leader,” Cross said. “In just his first year, Chancellor Leavitt has deeply engaged this University community and its home region in the critical conversations necessary to assure that UW Oshkosh does its very best managing another challenging budget. He has set forth on a new strategic planning process involving the input of faculty, staff, students and university partners.”
Cross said Leavitt will challenge everyone to think about things differently, yet inclusively.
“And that is key,” Cross said. “He welcomes and challenges us all to get involved and take on a greater role in the life and success of our students on and off the UW Oshkosh campus. His confidence and vision will mean this community and region continue to look upon the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh as a thought-leader and driver of innovation, growth and quality of life. I know Andy will continue the work necessary to demonstrate the many ways UW Oshkosh serves as one of this region’s Universities of and, just as importantly, for Wisconsin.”