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Charlene Drew Jarvis, President of Southeastern University
February 8, 2008
Good morning American University. Mr. President, Mrs. Kerwin, Mr. Chairman, members of the Board of Trustees, and other members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, neighbors, and other friends of American University: I am pleased to be a part of today's ceremony celebrating the inaugural of American University's favorite son, Neil Kerwin, as your President.
I come today in my role as the chair of the consortium of universities representing both District of Columbia and regional universities, and am pleased to acknowledge the president of three, the presidents of three of those consortium universities, David O'Connell from Catholic, Alan Merten from George Mason University, and Dr. Bundschuh from Marymount University. I'm delighted to have colleagues here today, and from other institutions of higher education.
Higher education is vitally important to the vitality and the economy of Washington and the region. More than 80,000 students attend institutions of higher education in the District of Columbia, 14 percent of the population. More than 90 percent of those students come from out of state, brining resources to the city and bringing residents to the city and the area. More than 60,000 local university graduates live in the District of Columbia. Our universities are magnets for students interested in politics and government service. American University has been repeatedly applauded by entities such as the Peace Corps for the large number of AU graduates who become Peace Corps volunteers.
Our universities have helped create the best educated region in the country; more than 41% of all regional residents have Bachelor's degrees, and almost 20 percent have graduate degrees. Of the top 20 employers in the District of Columbia, eight of them are universities or university-related hospitals. American University is the ninth-largest employer in the District of Columbia. District universities have more than 22,000 employees and a large percentage of them live in the District of Columbia. More than the percentage of District government employees who live in the District of Columbia. District universities spend more than $2 billion a year on operating and capital expenses and financial aid.
Our universities are leading the way in sustainability. American University is committed to environmental action by building green LEED certified buildings, buying energy from renewable sources, taking conservation measures on campus, buying locally grown produce and taking many other steps. Four local universities, including American University, are now purchasing electricity generated by wind power with more universities to follow.
I have known the unflappable Neil Kerwin for many years. In my former role as the chair of the economic development committee of the council of the District of Columbia, I chaired the committee that had industrial revenue bond authority. You might say that Neil and I and American University went through the wars together. How many of you can recall the weighty discussions around the establishment of the law school? In the two years that Neil has served as acting president, at consortium meetings he had demonstrated that quiet reserve that said, “I've got everything under control.” Neil also has a way of seeming to be on the verge of a chuckle that conveys a sense of eternal optimism. President Kerwin takes the helm of American University after many years in higher education here at American University. There is perhaps no time which has been more challenging for all of us in higher education. New calls to action from parents, from business people, from the Congress, from the Department of Education, from for-profit universities and accreditors, changes in the responsibilities of boards and directors--this board of directors, this board of trustees, you have chosen the right leader at the right time for American University.