2002 Convocation: Chancellor's Address

UC Davis Chancellor Larry N. Vanderhoef

“Celebrating the Arts”

Wednesday, October 2, 2002
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon

Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts
Jackson Hall

Thank you, Dean Langland.

And thank you, Professor Longfish, for your most fitting blessing.  We are indeed privileged to perpetuate on this land the traditions of music and dance first celebrated here by the Patwin Indians more than 500 years ago. 

Welcome!  Welcome to all of you this morning both here in Jackson Hall and to you who are watching this on the audiovisual feed in the Alumni and Visitors Center. 

Our students, our staff, our faculty, our many UC Davis friends – I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have you with us today, because this is THE opening event for the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center, appropriately made available first and foremost to you, our UC Davis family.

Well…this is my tenth convocation address.  I notice that it has drawn a full house.  That means, I assume, that my speeches must be getting better.

With that in mind you will likely be disappointed to know that this year my talk will be shorter.   [My notes here say that I should rush right on to avoid a burst of applause]

Actually, it will be shorter because I, too, am quite eager to experience this wonderful new hall, and to have our faculty and students from the Departments of Music, and Theatre and Dance, be the first to take its stage.

Those of you who attended my inaugural address in 1994 will know the significance of our being in this Center.  It was then that my commitment was first made to work toward the creation of a center for the performing arts at UC Davis.

I wasn’t, however, the first to propose such a center.  Chancellor Emeritus Jim Meyer first appointed a task force to explore the creation of a performing arts center some 27 years ago.

But, as they say, timing is everything.  Though I arrived in 1984, it was not until 1994 that I believed we – and, just as important, the regional community -- were finally ready to make this commitment.  And now, eight years later, here we are!  And … I hope you agree with me … isn’t it great?!

To say that a good deal of pressure was lifted about one year ago, September 19, 2001, is an understatement.  That was the day that Robert and Margrit Mondavi announced their most generous 35 million dollar gift to the campus – 25 million dollars to create the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, and 10 million dollars to name this Center.  The Mondavi Institute will stand just a stone’s throw away, completing the continuum of wine, food and the arts, espoused by the Mondavis as vital in nurturing the body and the soul. 

And so -- agriculture and the arts – one an area of distinction going back to our roots, the other giving us the great gift of further promise in the performing arts. 

And I must mention Barbara Jackson, nothing less than an angel on earth, whose five million dollar gift named this hall in honor of her and her late husband, history professor W. Turrentine Jackson. 

I remember, as well, that significant gift from Paula Lorenzo and the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians.  It came at a time when it truly did provide welcome momentum to our early fund-raising efforts. 

I could go on and mention many others -- like Hal and Carol Sconyers, the chairs of the Stakeholders Campaign in the first stages of this project.  And Tom and Meg Stallard….   

But I have to be wary.  There are dozens and dozens and dozens of people who have played significant roles; if I go on I will surely forget somebody.

So let me simply thank, for now, Robert and Margrit, Barbara, Paula, the Sconyers and the Stallards, -- and then, as a group -- the rest of us, the faculty, staff and students, the hundreds of volunteers, alumni, donors, UC Regents and patrons throughout our region whose extraordinary effort made this moment possible.  You have, on behalf of UC Davis, my very deepest gratitude.

Because of what you have done, the achievements of the university will be celebrated in this wonderful new facility.  Novel ideas will be debated.  Scripts and musical compositions will be tested.  The treasures of the world’s literary performing traditions will be given life.

But that is not all.  By its very presence, the Mondavi Center will inspire creative and individual expression -- whether your personal “art” is business or engineering, geology or history.  Within these walls, disciplines will merge.  Boundaries will blur.  Spirits will be renewed.  Insights will be gleaned.  A new community will be created through experiences that are shared and transforming.

Today’s opening truly marks a milestone in this campus’s history, and I’m so glad that we are here together to be a part of it.

Let me turn now to a few words about the year ahead.

Construction fences and road detours are no stranger to this campus these days.  You are seeing around you, coming out of the ground, the facilities we need for growth, growth that is required by the California Master Plan for Higher Education.  These facilities are the fruits of our long-range planning, and of our collaboration with other funding partners.  The Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility.  The Plant and Environmental Sciences Building.  Student housing projects under construction with others to follow.  A Rec Hall expansion immediately to its north.  They are all part of the landscape now, and to get a sense of the total of them all, multiply this considerable building by about 15.

And, very soon this fall you will also be hearing more about our alternatives to develop a new university neighborhood -- a new campus residential area that will allow us to accommodate expected growth in a way that is responsible, respectful of our broader community, environmentally sensitive -- and affordable to those newly encountering this area’s daunting real estate prices.  The very hall in which we sit has already been of great influence in recruiting faculty and staff to all of our academic disciplines, but that very important personal issue, namely affordable housing and thereby the ability to have your home and your children’s schools in the community in which you work, has become a major inhibiting factor in our recruitments.  This Neighborhood is important for nothing less than maintaining the quality of this university, and is planned to serve students, faculty and staff, not just one group. 

To do this neighborhood well will require a number of varied but related partnerships. 

Just a few underway include a partnership to preserve agricultural land along Interstate 80.  And a partnership with the Davis Joint Unified School District and the Los Rios Community College District for a community education center that would be a vital part of this new neighborhood.  And a partnership with the City of Davis to integrate new residents into the larger Davis community with no loss of quality of life.  Indeed, we will be aiming for increased quality of life. 

During the development of the Neighborhood we have already heard strong viewpoints from both ends of the spectrum -- from our faculty struggling to recruit new hires in the face of steep and still climbing housing costs, to city neighbors who fear that the new neighborhood will be too much, too soon, on their particular side of town.  We must listen carefully to everyone as we grow – and I give you my word, we will.

On another topic as we anticipate the start of a new year, there are events other than growth on our minds.  We certainly must acknowledge the possibility of another war in the Middle East that will undoubtedly generate discussion and debate, both inside and outside our classrooms.

As a university, we welcome the robust exchange of ideas and the increased understanding of differing perspectives that such debates provide.  As a university community, we have an obligation to make a place for all perspectives and cultural principles.  If not here, where?

But … we will expect such discourse to be conducted with civility and respect.  Free speech is our right.  Civility is our responsibility.  It is a pledge we make to one another through the UC Davis Principles of Community. Please read them on our website again, or for the first time if you are new to campus.  We must continue to affirm them as the guidepost for our daily interactions.

Lastly, I must acknowledge, as well, the challenges that lie ahead as the state grapples with a 24 billion dollar budget deficit this fiscal year, with a lot of that problem being pushed out into subsequent years.  We probably will not return to better times for at least another two years.  Unfortunately, this recession comes even before we have by any measure, recovered from the last recession ten years ago.

What does this mean for all of us?  Well, first, it means that we will have to return to an era that we would rather not, namely the early 1990s when we faced similar struggles.  Now, like then, we are not able to provide everything for our students, our staff and for our faculty that we would like and as they fully deserve.  Certainly our faculty salaries must stay current if we are to be nationally competitive.  That goes without saying.  But I am concerned about all of our constituencies.  I have often said that it is our staff, in fact, who are a singular attribute, a special mark of distinction here at UC Davis.  Not being able to offer them the salaries they deserve is perhaps one of the greatest agonies that I have faced in the almost two decades that I have been here at UC Davis.  The concerns expressed by these employees are real, and they are heartfelt.  I know that together we continue to share a commitment to this university, and I surely continue to share a commitment to them.

There is, though, hope.  What we’ve learned the past 10 years and in the history of our economy is that downturns are followed by upturns and that in good times and bad the Governor and legislature seem always to recognize the State’s needs that must be met by the University of California. We will, I know, pull together as a community to meet these challenges, because I know that many of you in this hall remember that together we have done it before.  We can do it again.

And, along the way we’ve proven that nothing is impossible once we set our minds to it.  I come back, again, to the building in which we sit, and will finish now with one final statement about the people responsible for our congregating here today.  There are a few who have lived this building from its beginning, almost 24/7 – some with their particular brand of passion that turned many people into supporters, some intimately involved, beginning with architect selection and ending with the frantic construction activities of the last several months when we were in a real race to make certain that we finished on time. 

People like Clayton Halliday and Susan Rainier, campus architects, with Susan having the responsibility of being project manager and Clayton bearing up so well under the onus of bringing the project in on time.  Bob Segar, campus planner.  Gwen Gibson, Center operations. 

And also Rosalie Vanderhoef, a special friend of mine whose work with the UC Davis Presents Friends group, and whose presentations on arts outreach into K‑12 schools, sold many a donor.  She had the credibility of a teacher and the confident energy of someone who worked in the trenches on this activity with a passion that few people have.

Well, it turns out that one among this very select group of people has himself a daughter who is a performer.  Her name is Andrea Segar.  She is the daughter of Bob and Jenifer Segar.  Andrea will begin the performance part of this Convocation with a brief number that will pay homage to all of you who have lived this Mondavi Center night and day for the past few years.

Andrea has already received many honors.  As one startling example, she has been chosen three times by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to have the once annually opportunity to play in solo concert or with piano the Yasha Heifetz Guarneri del Gesu violin, and later this month she has been invited to play with the Oakland Symphony under the direction of Michael Morgan.  Ladies and Gentlemen, ANDREA SEGAR.