First, I want to thank the chair for his gracious remarks earlier and all of you for your kind response. Second, I want to congratulate the board on the wise action naming my colleague University provost Vita Rabinowitz as Interim Chancellor. No one cares more about CUNY’s students and faculty, no one has devoted more intellect and energy to improving CUNY’s policies and programs and there is no one who I would trust more with this important assignment.
Finally, I want to share a few personal comments.
Thirty years ago, I left a comfortable law practice in New York to embark on a new career in higher education. It was a sometimes difficult and certainly not seamless transition, but taking that road has made all the difference. It eventually brought me back to New York to serve as Chancellor of this incomparable institution. No one in this room has to ask what’s special about CUNY. We are all reminded every day that the students we serve give New York City much of its talent, creativity and vitality.
Here’s our challenge: Although talent is distributed equally, without regard to demographic distinctions or socioeconomic strata, opportunity is still stubbornly highly correlated with wealth. The difference maker in the largest city in the country – now recognized as the nation’s greatest engine of social and economic mobility – is CUNY. I have been lucky much of my life, but never so much as when I was given the opportunity to work with all of you to do the essential work of CUNY.
As I wind down this academic year, I will attend six commencements, to savor on my last days as Chancellor the outpouring of emotion from students and their families, the sense of pride and accomplishment – and possibility –that fills the rooms, and the deep satisfaction and genuine happiness of the faculty who help make it possible. I am grateful for the chance of a lifetime—one not many people get—to do work I love and affect the lives of so many. Thank you to the Board of Trustees, to my colleagues and partners—the presidents and senior CUNY leadership – to the outstanding, committed faculty and especially to the students who inspire all of us every day, for making the last four years such an incredibly rewarding experience.