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Denver Pioneer Perspectives

DU sesquicentennial

Chancellor CoombeJan. 17, 2014

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I'm sure that many of you sense, as do I, that the University stands at a significant point of transition and that we are about to enter an altogether new phase in our 150 year long history. Looking back, we've all been working hard since the dark days of the mid-1980's when we weathered that deep, existential financial crisis. So many good things have been accomplished since that time, and there is a great deal to be proud of. Much of this progress is due to the commitment of our wonderful faculty and staff, and to a consistent approach based on responsible management and an unwavering focus on the continuous growth of quality.

This year, fiscal 2014, will be our 25th consecutive year of operations in the black. Over the past two decades we've invested more than a half-billion dollars into our campus, which is now among the most beautiful and functional in America. Our students, both undergraduates and graduate students, are the most capable and most diverse that the University has ever seen. They've been drawn to DU by our superb faculty and staff, who have created a magnetic intellectual and cultural environment that attracts students and scholars from all over the country and all over the world. Indeed, we are the region's most international University, with nearly 1,500 international students, one of America's finest study abroad programs, international programs in virtually all of our units, and one of the world's finest schools of international studies. Our "reach" has become quite extraordinary, with the substantial majority of our students being drawn to Denver from places other than Colorado. We have certainly become a magnet for talent, and this is one of the principal ways in which we serve the city whose name we bear. I've been so very, very fortunate to bear witness to all of this growth in the quality of the academic enterprise at DU.

The years ahead will bring great changes to all of higher education, and for our University they will be years of extraordinary opportunity. We have a solid financial platform from which to address those changes. Apart from balanced operations, the success of our ASCEND campaign (which will end this sesquicentennial year) has been such that our net assets now top $1.1 billion. Our endowment is many times the size it was in the mid-1980's and more than double its size when I took office in 2005, and now exceeds annual operating expenses by a substantial margin. Because of successful fundraising and solid operations, we've added to student financial aid while we've managed to hold tuition increases to a modest level for the last several years. In fact, the net cost of attendance for DU undergraduates receiving financial aid is now roughly the same as it was ten years ago. All of this, a foundation based on academic quality and financial responsibility, provides us with a platform from which we must seize the opportunities of the coming years.

Those coming years will be an extraordinary and challenging time, a time when our University can rise to still greater heights of quality and impact. It will need new leadership for that new time, consistent leadership for another decade or more. I've been Chancellor for nine years now, and it is time for me to step aside and make room for that new leadership. Consequently, after many months of deep consideration, Julanna and I have decided that this year will be our last at DU. Today, I have informed our Board of Trustees that I will step down as Chancellor at the end of the current fiscal year, this coming June 30th. For me that will mark 33 years at the University, the last 13 as Chancellor or Provost, and all as a faculty member.

There will be lots of time to remember those years over the coming months. For now, let me simply say thank you to all of my friends and colleagues among the DU community. I've been so very fortunate to be counted as one of you. Leading this institution that I love so dearly has been the greatest honor of my life.

Best regards,

Robert Coombe signature

Robert Coombe