Skip navigation
Office of the Chancellor


Acceptance Speech, 2005

There are simply no words to express the joy with which I accept the honor of becoming the Chancellor of this truly wonderful university, in this truly wonderful city. Some of you know that I've spent most of my life in Denver, growing up here as a kid in the '50s and '60s. I went away to college in the east when I was 17 and after grad school and a post-doc I started my career as a research scientist in Southern California. Like most Coloradans, though, I always wanted to come home, and through good fortune and the grace of God I got to do just that in '81, when I took a job as a faculty member in the Chemistry department here at DU.

I've been at DU for 24 years now, and what an amazing ride it's been. I remember well those dark days of the mid-'80s, when few thought it possible that we would survive, much less become the great institution that we are today. If you take a look at our history over the last 141 years, though, you will find that there has always been a good bit of steel running through the backbone of the University of Denver. The enormous changes that have happened at our University in recent years have been supported by a culture of open-mindedness and creativity, a culture of integrity rooted in strong values, by a willingness to embrace change as opportunity, and by an uncompromising demand for the highest quality in all that we do. It has been a great honor to be a member of this faculty, and this University community, for all of those 24 years.

And of course we have had great leadership. No other university in America has had a Chancellor like Dan Ritchie, and perhaps that is why no university in America is quite like DU. Surely Dan's name will always be associated with all of the new buildings and the renaissance of our wonderful campus, but I suspect that his real legacy is far greater than bricks and mortar. The 16 years of his leadership have seen a sea-change in our institutional culture, in our underlying values, in the very essence of who we are as a community.

So, how does one follow that act? During the last several years, we've gone through a period of building our beautiful campus and developing major initiatives in athletics, performing arts, and other areas. Along the way we've created tremendous visibility, pride, and a culture of quality, integrity, and community engagement. The great University that we've always spoken of is truly within our reach, and to get there we will focus the same kind of determination and resources on building a first-class academic enterprise that is important for a much broader regional, national, and international audience. By "important" I mean:

  • A DU that graduates extraordinary men and women who care about people, live their lives with integrity, and are committed to making a difference for society
  • A DU that leads the nation in developing innovative and effective new approaches to teaching and learning
  • A DU that sustains a bubbling, percolating scholarship and research enterprise that is focused on real outcomes for real people
  • A DU that develops new and more effective financial structures that serve the University well and can be emulated by other institutions
  • A DU that aggressively builds productive relationships with businesses and non-profits, as well as the federal and state governments, in a manner that can have direct economic and social impacts for people
  • A DU that has an institutional commitment to the people of the city and the state that have given us so much of our identity.

DU will be a great private university that truly is dedicated to the public good, that is important for people in Colorado and far beyond. We will be more than the University of Denver--we will be Denver's University. We will do it by taking the values we've established--uncompromising quality, creativity, integrity, and engagement--and incorporating them in all that we do, and all that we are.

You know, universities are so much more than a beautiful campus. They are principally people--students, faculty, and staff. It is a great honor to lead the people of this great University. I accept that honor, and the challenge it holds, with thanks and great pride in all of my colleagues at DU.