Carol C. Harter

Carol C. Harter - Seventh President, UNLV (1995–2006)

As you may remember, last year my speech was scheduled for September 11th and I awoke that morning anticipating a day dedicated to celebrating the life of the university and its immensely positive future. As I was making our coffee at 5:50 am, the phone unexpectedly rang and it was our son, Mike, a teacher in the Clark County School district. He asked, “Mom, do you have the TV on?” I said “no, why?” He said, “turn it on immediately!” We did, just as the second plane was about to crash into the second World Trade Center building. I yelled for my husband, Mike, shouting, “a terrible accident is happening. Oh my god.” Our son, still on the phone said, “ma, ma it isn’t an accident.” If blood can curdle, mine did. Like you, I’ll never forget that moment.

As a result of another awful moment in modern history, William Butler Yeats envisioned a similar manifestation of the apocalypse in a magnificent, bone-chilling poem called “The Second Coming.” I will read it to you on this, the eve of the first year anniversary of the terrible event that changed our lives, perhaps forever.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand;
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

In Yeats’ ideology, this apocalyptic set of images embodies the anarchy and horror unleashed in World War I (and the bloody conflicts in Ireland) and simultaneously, the potential end of the historical cycle of Judeo-Christian influence. How apt a set of images to recall September 11, 2001! And we were in despair.

A year later and, while all is not well in the world, there are glimmers of hope and light, as there always are. Humanity’s capacity to rise above tragedy, anarchy, senseless death, is remarkable. And modern poets are beginning to celebrate the stubbornness of life and health to re-emerge: to pop up like crocuses right through an early spring snowstorm. Pop culture poets too, like Bruce Springsteen, have written songs to memorialize the events of last year. As one born and raised in and around New York City where my family still resides, I invite you to quietly reflect as we listen to "My City of Ruins."

And we do rise up, whatever the challenges to civilized life and thought. And the university stands as a beacon to light the way.

One of the most passionate and inspiring books I have ever read about higher education is Frank Rhodes’ THE CREATION OF THE FUTURE: THE ROLE OF THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY. An Englishman by birth and a geologist, Rhodes is a many times honored president emeritus of Cornell University, having also served as Provost at Michigan. He therefore has a unique set of perspectives about our universities, both public and private, and believes American higher education to be the most influential institution in modern life.

He begins his book quite simply with these words: “The quality of life enjoyed by the people of the United States in the opening years of the new millennium rests in substantial part on the broad foundation provided by the American University during the twentieth century.”i His book, however, is written not only to reinforce the university’s central role in our lives, but to urge us to change it in ways for the betterment of society at the same time we preserve many of the most sacred values and traditions of our enterprise. He believes that “. . . universities, with all their imperfections, represent the crucible within which our future will be formed. Boiling, steaming, frothing at times, a new amalgam must somehow be created within them if we are to surmount our social problems and rediscover the civic virtues on which our society depends.”ii As a relatively “young” and more nimble university than most, we may have a heightened ability to achieve those goals. By educating tomorrow’s leaders in our classrooms and laboratories, studios and residence halls, libraries and playing fields, we have the ability to create the “emerging community” of which Rhodes speaks: “analytical and affirming, critical and creative, inclusive and inquiring, engaged and enabling—that will be the new university.” iii And how do we get there, particularly in light of budget cuts and difficult financial times in a culture that has not always identified higher education (or education in general) as a priority?

In the June 28th Chronicle of Higher Education Review, eight university presidents were asked what they would do with a billion dollar gift, no strings attached. Given that the fantasy life of a university president is probably no more exciting than dreaming of exactly that, I was most anxious to read their replies, feeling envious that they were asked and I wasn’t. As I read their very diverse responses, however, I started to think about how I would seriously answer that question and what the answer would have to do with defining, not primarily my personal values, but rather our collective aspirations for UNLV.

Now I don’t want you to get too excited about this or expect me to tell you at the end of my speech that we have a surprise billionaire donor at our doorstep (although I will talk a bit about a comprehensive fund-raising campaign). I simply ask you to dream along with me for a little while and discover what we could do to reach the shared dream for our future much more quickly if we had $1 billion dollars.

First, I would try to implement our strategic plan, particularly those sections of the plan we have been slower to achieve than others. Now don’t let me see eyes glaze over, just because I said I’d implement a strategic plan when you were thinking about giving all students full scholarships or building a Taj Mahal for your office or ordering a million dollars of advanced computing equipment and library books or creating a very rich early retirement plan. Those are neither foolish thoughts, nor are they all quite so far from manifesting the strategic plan as you think. But let’s first consider our major goals in the plan and what we would do to realize them.

The first is and has been now for seven years to “create and sustain a student-centered learning environment.” If we had that billion dollars, I would immediately make certain that we had the most diverse and able student body possible and that every student had the financial means to attend the university, working no more than twenty hours per week to supplement need-based financial aid. I would ensure that every student had a study abroad opportunity for one semester with the majority of his or her expenses paid, and I would guarantee that each student had a career-related internship opportunity, a research assignment related to a faculty project, and a service learning opportunity built into his or her program.

I would offer enough classes, and reduce some of our degree requirements, in order to guarantee that, should a student pursue her or his education fulltime, he or she could graduate in four, or at most, five years. I’m not sure what all this would cost, but let’s assume a significant amount and that we would use $100 million of our allotment for these kinds of student oriented activities. And, by the way, I would build our comprehensive student services center so every student would find the processes of becoming a student technologically advanced and seamless from beginning to end. Those things might consume say another $30-50 million.

Now that the student is comfortably ready to engage in the learning process, what is next? Well, our second goal is, and has been “to hire, motivate and reward superior faculty, professional, and classified staff,” that is the best possible human capital to serve our campus community. The willingness and ability of all UNLV staff and faculty to engage in the processes of relating educationally to the student in every way: that is our dream of creating the perfect synergy to produce the ideal learning environment. Such an assumption also means that the vast majority of our increasingly diverse faculty and staff should be fulltime, paid well, and, if faculty, be eligible for tenure or be appointed in an appropriate research or clinical position. Every faculty member will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology, a comfortable office in which both air-conditioning and heating systems operate perfectly and continuously, and they will have access to every intellectual tool they need, either through a comprehensive data base or by visiting our magnificent library. They will also travel on elevators that never fail when they are inside them, late for class, and urgently needing to use the bathroom. They will also be supported by a fully staffed and service-oriented infrastructure (Goal # 6), and all the professional and classified staff who serve both students and faculty will have each and every tool they need to serve their constituents extremely effectively: computers, laboratories, supplies, and state of the art equipment. Creating such conditions for faculty and staff will easily cost another $150-200 million of our $1 billion fantasy gift.

What we have left out so far is the role that faculty research and scholarship will have in the learning environment and in the relationship between students and their mentors. To become the major research university we aspire to become—and we are well on our way—we are pitifully short of infrastructure, staff support, and facilities to accomplish this goal. We have great and motivated faculty and, under goal #2 and, with a cool $200 million, we can keep them here and connect them to students who are also comfortably a part of our world, but we must invest in major ways to accomplish the research goal. And it is a goal to create meaningful (and, in the appropriate disciplines, applied) research and scholarship directed to solving community problems, promoting economic diversity and development, offering the best of arts and literature to our community. We wish to become first-rate in biotechnology and cancer research, a leader in research and programs to help Nevada and the nation more effectively deal with the threats of terrorism, first in creative writing and the arts, and a leader in research that offers community support — to K-12 educators, healthcare professionals, corrections officers, social service agencies, cultural institutions, and business leaders among others. We are already first in Hotel Administration because we have a great college connected to our first industry; now we must move to connect more fully to a second local and unique enterprise: the Nevada Test Site. Only Nevada has these unique resources – the “Strip” and the Test Site – and we must add value to them, enrich them, and produce professionals who will work with them. How do we do that with a mere $650 million left?

First, we build and renovate facilities, starting with the Science and Engineering Building, Wright Hall, and the Research Park. That’s $200 million or more. Simultaneously, we build the world’s premier center for creative writing and contemporary and international literature, a relatively modest endeavor of $25-30 million on which we have a great head start thanks to UNLV benefactor Glenn Schaeffer, with whom we are discussing another major financial commitment. We simultaneously expand our performing arts center to accommodate major productions we cannot mount now. Then, with the help of the Greenspun family, we unite the college of Urban Affairs and produce Nevada’s most attractive programs in communications and community outreach, and we renovate FDH for the liberal arts. We build a complete Hotel College Center next to the Stan Fulton Building, a film studio, and totally renovated Business, Education and Fine Arts facilities. We simultaneously let the wonderful people who have begun our physical master plan spin out our dreams of extended academic corridors, beautiful entrances to campus, ample parking garages, vastly expanded space for student recreation, dining, and meeting spaces, new residence halls, the monorail with two stops on campus, the complete dental school and cancer institute . . . whoops. I just spent $2 billion dollars!

The good news here is that some of these very expensive and wonderful projects have already begun and have secured some financing, so our $1 billion gift can be used for those about which we still dream.

Assuming Bill Gates is not backstage with his checkbook, how do we get the dollars to do this? We start with a piece at a time; we start somewhere, just as we have for the short 45-year history of our university. Think about it: in seven years we have raised $171 million in private dollars, almost a fifth of that billion we’ve been talking about, with millions more pledged or part of legacies. (One of which just became a reality with the passing of Frank Koch at 91, a great friend of UNLV, after whom we have named the Classroom Building auditorium. Although we cannot yet describe the precise amount of the legacy, it is in the $10 million or more range, at least half of which will be dedicated to student scholarships and fellowships, helping us reach the goal of creating fully financially accessible undergraduate education and truly competitive graduate assistance.)

We’ve jumped three categories in the Carnegie rankings to Research II, built fifteen buildings, acquired three more, and renovated six others. We’ve added 6,500 students, bringing our enrollment to just about 25,000. This remarkable feat – recently accelerated by the Millennium Scholarship – has placed us among the largest and most prestigious universities in the United States. In fact, as of fall 2001, we were already 75th in size with 23,000 enrollment. I expect this year’s increase will place us in even more elite company. Moreover, we have prepared an unprecedented number of teachers and nurses, added 500 faculty, 36 undergraduate programs, 36 graduate programs – 15 at the doctoral level including Law and Dentistry (two major professional programs unique in Nevada), three women’s sports and several nationally known coaches, $37 million per year in new research money, a research foundation, a Nobel laureate, a MacArthur Prize winner, and lord knows what else.

And that is seven years worth of activity. So just think about what we can do in the next seven!

You may not be aware of it, but we are already a $311 million per year operation and, over the last ten years, have spent $382 million on buildings, or roughly $38 million per year. Those totals, projected over the next decade, without adding inflationary increases, mean that UNLV expenditures will easily pass a third of a billion dollars a year now and much more as the decade progresses. So in three years we will spend more than that billion dollars about which we thought we were simply fantasizing. Now much of that, you will say, goes to daily operations and that is true. And one knows one would not spend a $1 billion gift paying phone bills, no matter how doing so would ease George Scaduto’s accountant’s heart. But the magnitude of what we have and will have leads me to believe we can find a way, over the next decade to be sure, to achieve the results we could achieve instantly with that $1 billion gift. And that is not simply to pay the bills, but to improve the enterprise dramatically.

So where do we start? We start by recognizing that we must maximize our state support. I was truly amazed to discover how dramatically our state appropriations have declined as a proportion of our overall revenues. In ten years, the share of our resources that are generated from Nevada state tax revenues declined from 55% to 36%.

Now part of this is due to the increasing value of external revenues, the most dramatic of which is research funding; but part of it is also tied to the state’s well-being and we must work hard to persuade our legislators how important higher education is as a resource to this state. We must do that in the next legislative session by demonstrating how many people we are educating and graduating, by showing how meaningful to society and to Nevada’s economy our research efforts are, and by engaging in our community more effectively.

We must be able to demonstrate—and persuade our legislators—that we reaffirm “teaching as a moral vocation . . .research as a public trust, and . . . service as a societal obligation”.iv Not being able to afford the luxury of waiting to see if the state’s fortunes turn around and if higher education becomes a higher priority, we must make every effort to increase—perhaps even disproportionately—our federal grants and contracts, business partnerships, and private funds. Despite volatile markets and many people who are worried that this is not the time, we may well start with an expanded private fund-raising effort. Why would UNLV embark on such an effort right now?

A number of us, including many of you, have been talking internally about the wisdom of UNLV’s conducting its first major “capital campaign.” Now what exactly is a capital campaign and how does it differ from our routine efforts to raise private funds—an activity in which I and many others engage on a regular basis?

A “capital campaign” is an announced public effort to secure an extraordinary level of gift support for specific, stated objectives during a limited period of time. It is definitely not business as usual. Done well, a campaign not only raises much-needed funds, it also achieves several other outcomes. It builds a strong cadre of volunteers and advocates on behalf of the University. It enhances an institution’s reputation regionally and nationally. It builds morale and provides a lasting infrastructure for ongoing fund-raising efforts. And it identifies the next generation of potential major donors.

How is this different from what we are doing today? Well, it concentrates on our most important needs; it is a multi-year effort with a much broader scope than usual; and, it involves a more sustained and intense level of involvement from key community and university leaders. If done well, it will also raise the level of giving to new heights and sustain those heights into the future.
Why do it now and are we really ready? Our consultants tell us we are much closer to readiness now than we were five years ago when they first assessed our environment. First, we have created many new and positive developments to discuss with the world at large in the last few years: new programs, new professional schools, many more students, much capital construction, and incredible advances in research funding. We have developed, or been presented with, seemingly limitless opportunities to partner with individuals, businesses, and agencies, as a result of the growing perception that UNLV can add immeasurably to economic development and diversification in our state and to the quality of life for all citizens. We are more aware of ourselves, our capabilities, our promise than at any other time in our history. We are ready, from an organizational point-of-view, to conduct such a campaign now; Vice President Gallagher has built his staff and has added constituent fundraisers to many of the colleges and other major units. And, I think you will agree, we are poised now to be more influential and important in the region, the state and the nation.

If the many focus groups that are being interviewed right now agree that this is the time, how will a campaign work?

  • It must be well planned
  • It must be methodical
  • It must be relentless
  • It must focus on the largest gifts first, but must reach out to everyone, including most particularly, our alumni base
  • It necessarily must involve a reallocation of the time of many people, particularly the President. The Provost and other key leaders will shoulder even more responsibility for the day-to-day management of the university while I am often off trying to woo donors and raise funds.

What Will the Financial Goal and the Timetable Be?

Our consultants will help us set this goal and time, through a feasibility study that has begun this month. The consultants will test both $250 million and $350 million dollar goals, and the timeframe of 5 or 6 years. We hope that the campaign will culminate during our 50th anniversary in 2007-2008. We must set the goal at a level that allows us to succeed; failure is not acceptable so we cannot overreach in a gesture that is simply and finally an act of hubris.

Now whatever the goal, what will be the focus of the fund-raising? Clearly we will embrace donors who wish to create excellence wherever it might be legitimately achieved within the parameters of our plan and the UCCSN’s master plan. But we will focus on the activities that make great universities great:


Professorships in a dozen or more areas. We hope to hire two or three more Nobel Prize winners or other equally brilliant senior faculty members in a variety of fields. We must raise funds to create endowed scholarships and fellowships for both undergraduate and graduate students and special centers of excellence, like the International Institute of Modern Letters. These are the investments that make a university more than a collection of buildings and parking spaces, although, as you know, we need those too and the capital campaign would help us build them, starting with our expected contribution to the Science and Engineering building, but including the many others I described in my dreams earlier. Specialized laboratory equipment, technology, and library collections will likewise be a part of the campaign. We will also seek funding to support athletic excellence – both in terms of competitiveness on the field and efforts to increase graduation rates – as well as initiatives that enhance our student life activities. Furthermore, we will continue to develop collaborative efforts with other entities, including the potential academic medical center, multiple biotechnology enterprises, and the National Cancer Institute. We are already partnered with several people to raise funds for collaborative efforts that have the potential to change the face of our city as well as enhance the work and prestige of UNLV.

What Are the Next Steps?

  • Continue the conversation in all venues, internal and external
  • Learn from the formal feasibility study and our consultants
  • Begin serious conversations with those who can help us most, in terms of campaign leadership, advocacy and dollars.

Despite the fact that we have been doing reasonably well in a difficult environment—raising between $20- $25 million per year, a campaign should effectively double that amount and raise our sights and potential permanently.

As you know, UNLV’s principal source of private funds has always been community members, most of whom are not our alumni. And although our fundraising results from alumni are rapidly improving, we are still dependent on major figures—individual and corporate – in our community to provide the necessary private funds for our advancement. Our status in the community as university citizens and contributors to economic development and community problem solving is therefore of paramount importance in both the civic and fiscal senses.

As you may recall, in last year’s State of the University address, I announced the formation of the Council for University and Community Collaborations to explore a variety of avenues to enhance the linkages between the University and various aspects of the community in a variety of imaginative and innovative ways. Comprised of many community as well as university members, five subcommittees have been meeting to consider new approaches to partnering and creating collaborative arrangements. The Council will produce a report to me and to the campus community by the end of December and we look forward to the recommendations for future directions the report will provide.

As a recent AASCU (American Association of State Colleges and Universities) study argues, there is no inherent contradiction between community engagement and the aspiration to become a nationally and internationally recognized research university. “Think globally and act locally” is the theme of “Stewards of Place,” an inspiring vision of how those of us who are critical to our geographical place in the world must work to transform what surrounds us, not simply manifest and repeat what is inherently characteristic of traditional academic institutions.

I truly believe that the course we have set for this institution through the Strategic Plan, coupled with the prospect of a Capital Campaign, will transform UNLV into the national research university we not only aspire to be – but are rapidly becoming. While the challenges we will face this coming year because of budget cuts coupled with unprecedented growth may seem daunting, we must not lose sight of our collective goals as they are outlined in the newly revised Strategic Plan.

UNLV is a distinct university in a unique location, and this combination offers an unbelievably wide array of opportunities that embrace not only the traditional nature of a university, but also those that embody the vibrancy and creativity that are alive and well at UNLV. I am thankful everyday for the opportunity I have been given to lead this “new university,” and I am profoundly grateful to each and every one of you for your dedication, commitment and camaraderie.

Thank you again for your participation in today’s event.