UD trustees get firsthand look at Chrysler tract
UD President Patrick Harker, center, at Tuesday's Board of Trustees meeting held in the former Chrysler assembly plant.
Provost Tom Apple applauds excellence among faculty and students.
Vice President Joe Biden, a UD alumnus, addresses those gathered at the former Chrysler facility following Tuesday's board meeting via video.
Gov. Jack Markell addresses the gathering via video.
Lt. Gov. Matt Denn speaks before a large crowd at the former Chrysler facility.
Using a cart to navigate the former Chrysler assembly plant.


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3:02 p.m., Dec. 9, 2009----The University of Delaware's Board of Trustees got a firsthand look at the largest single property acquisition in the history of the institution during its semiannual meeting, held Tuesday, Dec. 8, at the former Chrysler assembly plant on South College Avenue in Newark.

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In welcoming the trustees, members of the UD community and guests, UD President Patrick Harker noted that the acquisition of the Chrysler property will further efforts to meet the institution's goals as stated in the Path to ProminenceTM strategic plan.

“It's a game-changer for the University of Delaware,” Harker said. “These 272 acres will house several critical partnerships.”

Topping the list of partnerships that will benefit from the site purchase, Harker said, is the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance, formed last spring with UD joining Thomas Jefferson University, Christiana Care and Nemours.

“The alliance will strengthen state and regional capacity in biomedical research, technology and personnel, and improve health care delivery, especially in Delaware's rural areas,” Harker said. “It will promote Delaware as a health sciences hub, creating health professional jobs and business opportunities, especially in life sciences research and biotechnology. It's absolutely critical to the region's economic development.”

One of the top priorities for the site, Harker said, will be the establishment of the Thomas Jefferson University Clinical Campus.

“The Jefferson campus will help us expand UD's joint degree programs with Jefferson, support new career pathways for medical professionals and provide a continuous pipeline of health personnel serving Delaware,” Harker said. “This property awaits big collaborations, not just in the biosciences, but in energy and environmental research, interdisciplinary engineering and information and communications technologies.”

Harker noted that the establishment of the Jefferson University Clinical Campus will also serve to encourage entrepreneurs to create and grow start-up companies that will provide employment while furthering UD's reputation as a leading research university.

“Right here and very soon, there will be thousands of creative minds working together, and there is nothing that can match that power,” Harker said. “This land is an investment in our people, and in a culture, a culture of creativity, collaboration and risk, of innovation, entrepreneurship and excellence.”

Before inviting attendees to take guided tours of the facility and join them for a party and special presentation following the meeting, Harker stressed that future endeavors on the site must reflect the goals of partnership, engagement and impact on which the University's Path to ProminenceTM is predicated.

“As the flagship land-grant university of the state, we have an obligation to use our considerable strengths and resources to benefit the entire Delaware community,” Harker said. “We have an obligation to tightly link our academic and extension programs to the community's prevailing needs. We have an obligation to apply our research and to forge the partnerships that will secure its value. Great Universities build -- actively build -- great communities.”

Crucial to this partnership with the state and the region is embracing a culture of excellence that is measured by standards for academic and research performance.

Such standards, Harker said, must weigh how departments are attracting and training high-quality Ph.D. students -- the same students who then go on to assume academic or other significant positions -- and how much federal funding the University is winning per faculty member.

“How good is a unit's ability to attract high-quality undergraduate and graduate students? How successful is it in recruiting first-choice faculty hires?” Harker asked. “How many large, multi-principal investigator grants are being awarded?”

Additional academic benchmarks, Harker said, include faculty competitiveness, as judged by publications, citations, lectures, exhibitions, grant proposals and funding; measuring academic rigor; and monitoring rankings on a department and unit basis.

“Holding people accountable, devolving responsibility, defining excellence and expecting it -- all of this involves a significant cultural shift. I understand that,” Harker said. “But, I also understand that it's the only way we're going to have a real and enduring impact on the state and the region and the nation.”

Harker also noted that the University's prominence as an institution will not happen without such a culture of excellence supporting it.

“This is an exciting time for the University of Delaware. We truly are on the cusp of something great,” Harker said. “We have to be open to it. We have to seize it. And I look forward to working with you to do exactly that.”

Board actions

At the start of the meeting, Board of Trustees Chairman A. Gilchrist Sparks III called for a brief executive session to discuss an issue involving charitable giving.

Trustees also approved the reappointments of Sparks, Irwin G. Burton III and P. Coleman Townsend Jr. to six-year terms on the board.

In other action, the trustees approved the awarding of University of Delaware honorary degrees to board member Robert W. Gore, a UD alumnus and chairman of W.L. Gore and Associates, and also to Catherine Bertini, professor of public administration at Syracuse University who served for a decade as executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme; Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and Gerard J. Mangone, University Research Professor in UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

Thomas J. Burns, chair of the Trustee Committee on Grounds and Buildings, applauded the efforts of all involved in the purchase of the former Chrysler property.

“Quite a tremendous amount of time and energy went into this acquisition,” Burns said. “I want to recognize all this effort and energy including the work of the finance committee. It has been an exciting journey.”

Faculty and student recognition

University Provost Tom Apple recognized the achievement of UD faculty and students during the Dec. 8 meeting.

“It is now my privilege to recognize some University of Delaware professors who have compiled extraordinary achievements in the seven months since our last meeting,” Apple said. “President Harker has emphasized today -- and on numerous other occasions -- that much has been accomplished and that we strive for excellence in everything we do. I am here to provide a snapshot of our excellent faculty, who have earned recognition nationally and internationally.”

Seven new named professors highlighted by Apple included:

  • Thomas Buchanan, George W.Laird Professor of Mechanical Engineering;
  • Patricial DeLeon, Trustees Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences;
  • Michael Mackay, Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering;
  • David C. Martin, Karl Böer Chair of Materials Science and Engineering;
  • Dan Rich, Professor of Public Policy in the College of Education and Public Policy;
  • Joyce Hill Stoner, Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor in Material Culture; and
  • Susan M. Strasser, Richards Chair of American History.

Faculty awards cited by Apple included:

  • Svilen Bobeb, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who received the Francis Alison Young Scholars award;
  • Fidelma Boyd, assistant professor of biological sciences, National Science Foundation Early Career Development Award;
  • Jack Puleo, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, National Science Foundation Early Career Development Award;
  • David Burris, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, U.S. Air Force Young Investigator Award;
  • Jingyi Yu, assistant professor of computer and information sciences, U.S. Air Force Young Investigator Award and also received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award);
  • Thomas H. Epps, III, assistant professor of chemical engineering, Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers; and
  • Tsu-Wei Chou, Pierre S. du Pont Chair of Engineering, Medal of Excellence in Composite Materials at the first joint Canadian and American Technical Conference.

Apple also recognized Pamela Cook, associate dean for the College of Engineering, and Professor Emeritus Ivar Stakgold, who were named to the inaugural class of fellows of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

Patricia DeLeon, professor of biological sciences, was recognized for receiving the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

Cecil Dybowski, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was recognized as a recipient of the Eastern Analytical Symposium Award for Outstanding Achievements in Magnetic Resonance.

Also recognized by Apple for faculty excellence were:

  • Thomas K. Gaisser, Martin A. Pomerantz Chair of Physics and Astronomy, as the recipient of a Humbolt Research Award;
  • George Hsiao, Carl Rees Professor of Mathematics, for having a conference, “Advances in Boundary Integral Equations and Related Topics, held in his honor at UD;
  • Victor Klemas, professor emeritus of marine studies in the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, for receiving the Science Prize of the Republic of Lithuania;
  • George Luther, Maxwell P. and Mildred H. Harrington Professor of Oceanography, for geosciences citations in the Essential Science Indicators; and
  • David Pong, professor of history, for receiving a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct work at the University of Hong Kong.

Students and recent graduates recognized as 2009 Fulbright Scholars include:

  • Megan Fisher, biological sciences major;
  • Jared Larson, political science and international relations;
  • Timothy McKinnon, linguistics and cognitive science;
  • Gus Mercante, music;
  • Megan Oberst, foreign languages and literatures; and
  • Susanna Wingard, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

After asking board members and attendees to applaud the above honors recipients, Apple said “there are many more examples of the excellence of our faculty and academic programs, but I thank you for giving me the opportunity to share these stories with you.”

Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and Ambre Alexander