Welcome to the Class of 1963! I am thrilled you joined us today.

Like most college graduates, I bet most of you weren't certain where your lives would take you.  Fifty years ago, you may not have pictured yourselves sitting here, among your classmates, looking out across the campus.

Much of the campus is surely familiar. We're still the Buffaloes, we're still sporting the black, silver and gold, and we've still got the best view in the nation.

Despite these key similarities, a lot has changed. Fifty years ago, you were one of 12,500 students on campus.  Today, enrollment is more than 29,000.

In 1963, the campus had $13.4 million in research contracts.  Today our sponsored research totals nearly $352 million, and we are NASA's top-funded public university.  

Fifty years ago, we had yet to win our first Nobel Prize. Today we have five. Fifty years ago, the prestigious MacArthur Foundation, honoring the best and brightest with "genius grants" didn't exist. This fall we claimed our eighth MacArthur Fellow.

Fifty years ago, the University of Colorado was a humble regional campus. Today we are a world-class research university.

I hope you are as proud of your alma mater as we are of you. Our distinguished alumni are our best ambassadors.  Your accomplishments shine a light on CU and you have helped it become the world-class university that it is. So I want to take a moment to update you on what's happening on campus.  

Fifty years ago, we were at the dawn of the Space Age. One of our own, astronaut Scott Carpenter, had recently become the second American to orbit earth. Today, CU is going to Mars.  The next Mars explorer, CU-Boulder's MAVEN spacecraft, is preparing to launch from Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 18.

MAVEN is the latest in a long line of CU space exploration achievements that continue to set the bar for space research and aerospace engineering around the world.

Five decades ago our neighbors in the solar system were mostly the objects of our imagination. Now we are studying them. Today, CU-Boulder is the only public university in the United States to design and build instruments that have flown to every planet in the solar system and Pluto.

Students are involved in all phases of the MAVEN mission—science, engineering and operations—providing unique practical experiences to prepare them for exciting careers. More than 100 students will be involved in MAVEN before we're done. All told, more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students are engaged in life-changing research across all disciplines on campus.

Fifty years ago next month, you were students preparing to embark on the world, when that world was turned upside down by the shocking loss of our nation's president. Fourteen months prior, John F. Kennedy gave a speech at Rice University inspiring our nation to be leaders in space and President Kennedy announced his incredible goal to send man to the moon in the decade.  In that speech Kennedy said, "We do things not because they are easy, but because they are hard." 

At CU-Boulder today we find ourselves living by that same philosophy. We are stretching the university in ways we never have. Today, we are doing things not because they are easy but because they are hard.  In my State of the Campus address 10 days ago I announced some ambitious goals for our campus. I set out three major goals:

  • Make innovations in how we serve our students
  • Identify new sources of funding in an era of depressed state funding
  • And build our reputation to match the status of the world-class university that we are.

Let me take a moment to talk about new sources of funding. You may not know that Colorado lives in the nation's basement when it comes to state-funded support for higher education—between 48th and 50th in the nation, depending on what indices you use.  Indeed, we are one of the most tuition-dependent universities in the nation. So it is imperative that we be innovative in how we fund the university to take financial pressure off our students.

We have a goal of doubling the percentage of alumni who contribute to the university, from 8 percent participation, which is one of the lowest in the Pac-12, to 16 percent—which is about the Pac-12 average.

We are hoping our donors will support our new merit scholarship program for in-state students. This scholarship keeps the best and brightest students right here in Colorado so they don't leave to study and establish their careers out of state. The university funded the program this year in its debut year, but we are asking donors to help us continue this important program.

In the State of the Campus, I also spoke about building our reputation. As I said before our alumni are our best ambassadors. Our fifth president at CU, George Norlin said it well. He said, "the university is not the buildings on the campus, nor the faculty, nor the students of any one time … the university consists of all who come into and go forth from her halls, who are touched by her influence and carry on her spirit."

I hope you will always carry the university spirit with you. Thank you.  Please enjoy your evening.