Remarks at Commemorative Event for the New Rutgers University

July 1, 2013

Thank you, Chris.  I need to tell you how indebted we are to Chris Molloy and to Denise Rodgers for their leadership of this integration team.  Chris and Denise and their teams from Rutgers and UMDNJ did the impossible. They took a task last fall with literally four or five thousand deliverables that had to be accomplished, worked them through systematically, brought them through the narrow neck of the funnel, and made it all happen. This would not have happened without them.

And so I can tell you that the limitless future of healthcare delivery and discovery in New Jersey starts today.

As we look forward down the line, we just take one quick look back, with a few thank-yous of my own—obviously starting with Governor Chris Christie, who had the idea that there had to be a better way, and more importantly, that the time was now. It wasn’t just that it could be done, but it should be done, and it needed to get done now. He had the political will to make that happen.  He then put together a group of particularly talented individuals—Gov. Tom Kean, Bob Campbell, and Sol Barer to name a few—that gave us the recommendations that started things along.

[Governor Kean, I’m just so pleased that you were able to be part of that process, and you’ve given me some of your wisdom since I’ve been here, so I want to thank you for your commitment to the process and tell you that Rutgers will be forever changed by your commitment and your vision. Thank you again.]

Then the legislature engaged with the public to hammer out what this new structure should be. The final bill differed from the first proposal in its details but not in its fundamental mission, again a credit to Governor Christie’s leadership, and to Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Oliver and their colleagues from both parties, for ultimately getting us to the right place. And I’m especially grateful for the voices of our own institution, particularly the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees, along with our faculty, students, staff, and alumni, who played such a critical role in that process. 

We also owe a special debt of gratitude to my predecessor, Dick McCormick, and to our board chair, Ralph Izzo, who spent untold hours working on this initiative and who are not on the podium today to see this actually happen.

There is no reason why New Jersey can’t have one of the best higher education systems in America, no reason why New Jersey can’t lead the way in healthcare education and training or in medical research and its application. There is no reason—and now no excuse—for giving New Jersey anything less than a world-class state university. Rutgers is now ready to deliver.

During the past weeks, I have been asked numerous times, “exactly what does this integration really mean?” Well, in the simplest terms, it means taking two excellent but complementary institutions that have relatively little overlap in their core academic programs and welding them into one comprehensive institution.

Start with Rutgers, an institution rapidly approaching its 250th anniversary, which without the benefit of an academic medical center and health sciences programs, has grown to become a member of the prestigious AAU and one of the strongest research intensive universities in the nation, with no fewer than 18 academic departments routinely ranked among the nation’s top ten. Add to that UMDNJ, which has its own history as a university specializing in the health sciences, with its own reputation in research and development. The simple sum of those two things creates a powerful academic institution and just by adding the numbers together—over $700 million worth of R&D expenditures—immediately vaults us into the top 20 research-intensive universities in the nation, something that we can take pride in today.

But the reality is so much more than this simple sum. Working as an integrated whole, and drawing on the resources of both legacy partners, we can provide research opportunities, educational programs, and clinical initiatives that multiply these numbers rather than just adding them together. That’s the synergy—that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for leverage, we’re looking to leapfrog over where we are now, even together, to achieve a level we could not ever have obtained otherwise. That’s what makes us all so excited: it’s not what we are today, but what we are going to become by building on this new, broader base of excellence.

One thing that impressed me over the past year was how well our leadership teams worked together—the teamwork and collaboration between our two institutions, which I had been led to believe were really at odds with each other. Once we got on the track and started moving in this direction, and got all the folks at UMDNJ and Rutgers lined up behind Denise Rodgers and Chris Molloy, I saw something entirely different. I give a lot of credit to the men and women who helped us slog through all the decisions needed to make this happen. 

I extend our best wishes to our sister institution, Rowan University, which is also bringing together new elements and starting on a new path. We look forward to collaborating with Cooper and with Rowan through our elements in Camden in serving the people of South Jersey with excellence across the disciplines. In northern New Jersey, we also look forward to our relationship with the new University Hospital, which now, having been established as a separate instrumentality of the state, is ready to do business with us—and we’re ready to do business with them in providing outstanding clinical care for the citizens of that area.

The last piece I want to leave you with is this. Remember I said before that if we don’t make more out of this than simply adding pieces together, then we have failed.  If we don’t capitalize on the synergies here, then we have failed. We’re certainly going to do that in education, and we’re certainly going to do that in health care delivery. The one other area we must do that in is in bridging the gap between what we know and can do and produce in this university and what the rest of the economy of this state needs. Sitting in an area with more pharmaceutical company headquarters than anywhere else in the country, and with small biotech firms and medium-sized pharma all around us—adding to what we do in engineering and in the other areas of the university—is a huge opportunity for public-private partnerships with our colleagues in the pharma and health care and R&D areas.

Governor Christie, you had a powerful vision for higher education, and together with the Legislature, you have made it happen. The new Rutgers, with its 33 schools and colleges, 65,000 students, 20,000 faculty and staff, and nearly 450,000 alumni, is ready to deliver on that vision. Thank you.