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October 12, 2007

Keynote Speech: University Circle, Inc. 50th Anniversary at the Cleveland Botanical Garden

Barbara Snyder

Thank you, Chris, for that kind introduction. And thanks to all of you gathered here at one of the jewels of University Circle, the Cleveland Botanical Garden. As many of you know, in my first stay at Case Western Reserve University, in the 1980s, I taught at the law school. It's just across the street from here, now facing the breathtaking Eleanor Armstrong Smith glasshouse.

I certainly know that back then, as a brand-new faculty member and a mother with young children I would have treasured the chance to come over here and just breathe in the calm and beauty of this newly renovated oasis. I am so pleased that those who live, work and visit the Circle have that opportunity today. Indeed, as some of you may know, we hosted our Grand Luncheon for alumni here last week as part of homecoming—it is indeed a prize.

Thank you, Natalie, and everyone else here at the Garden, for the joy and splendor your facility adds to all of our lives each day. And of course, thank you for hosting us tonight.

I want to begin my address this evening in Boston.

No, not Harvard Square—Boston College.

Specifically the McMullen Museum of Art, where in 2005 museum director Nancy Netzer was intrigued by New York Times stories about newly discovered paintings said to be the work of Jackson Pollock.

The first art historian quoted in those stories? Case Western Reserve University professor Ellen Landau, an esteemed expert on the abstract expressionist painter once derided as "Jack the Dripper."

Fast forward two years to the present. On September 1, the McMullen Museum opens a ground-breaking exhibit of the disputed paintings, curated by—you guessed it—our own Professor Landau.

And, when Professor Landau agreed to give a local talk later this fall about the controversy, where did she appear? The Museum of Natural History, whose director is another Case Western Reserve faculty member, Bruce Latimer.

More than 200 people enjoyed that talk. It was an event that, I'd wager, many thousands would have paid big tickets to attend in New York, Los Angeles or, yes, Boston. But instead, it was here, in Cleveland, in our own University Circle. And while it is a single event in a location that literally teems with them every single day, it is nonetheless relevant to our conversation this evening.

Why?

Because it involved a collection of circumstances—and, more important, a collection of individuals—coming together to offer an enviable, world-class opportunity to Northeast Ohio residents.

I say often in campus talks that the strength of a university lies in its faculty. A similar adage applies to University Circle. Our community's privilege of learning about Pollock last month came not because of any special plan or administrative policy, but rather because Ellen Landau spent her professional life becoming an internationally renowned expert in this subject—and because Bruce Latimer and his museum colleagues were kind enough to host her.

The strength of University Circle rests in its institutions and, more to the point, the great people within each of them.

As we gather here tonight to commemorate the 50th anniversary of University Circle, it's important to recognize that this area's remarkable concentration of educational, cultural and medical institutions exists not, on the one hand, by happenstance. Nor, on the other, did it evolve as part of a single great thinker's master strategy.

Rather, it emerged over time through specific decisions by a series of disparate individuals. Had any one of them chosen a different path, or simply refrained from any action, this place would appear—and, in fact, would be - far different today.

Consider, for example, that Western Reserve College began in 1826 in Hudson, Ohio. It could have stayed there.

Indeed, over the years the idea of moving had been aired - and deflated - a number of times. Yet by the mid-1870s a handful of trustees decided the relocation to Cleveland had to happen. Their idea won public editorial support from newspaper owner Richard Parsons. Leonard Case got the idea to create a school of applied sciences. And Amasa Stone made the final generous gift to enable Western Reserve to Cleveland—with the caveat that the two schools occupy adjoining campuses.

Pause for a moment to consider that combination of events: Trustees willing, even eager, to move a major campus; two prominent donors willing to support substantial initiatives—one new school and another significant relocation—and a newspaper editor who aggressively and publicly supported the idea.

To get that many powerful people all together and pulling in the same direction in the 19th century—or, for that matter, in the 20th or 21st centuries—that's a huge achievement. It is also an example we all can learn from today.

Now, at the risk of tooting our own horn especially loudly on this night of collective celebration, I would like to pause here to underscore that University Circle truly started…with universities.

Indeed, it wasn't long after Western Reserve College and the Case School of Applied Science appeared here that another educational institution, now the Cleveland Institute of Art, settled here, and Jeptha Wade—a trustee of Western Reserve—donated the land where the Cleveland Museum of Art now stands.

Since then, the Circle has flourished, with eight educational institutions, 15 cultural organizations, four medical centers and more than two dozen other entities such as churches, restaurants and senior living centers.

Our focus this evening, even as we pause to reflect upon the past half century, should be on what comes next.

Specifically, how do we learn from past visionary leaders and apply relevant lessons to the future?

One example, of course, is UPTown. As some of you may have read on the UCI website, in the 1930s and 1940s this area abounded with entertainment and retail options: six movie theaters, a bowling alley, and all manner of specialty shops.

For years people here have spoken about ways to create that kind of vibrancy, and today we are closer than ever to realizing it. The university recently signed a development agreement, and those developers recently won this Plain Dealer praise for the architect selected:

Our own university architect, Margaret Carney, offered the developers insight on how to approach architect selection to ensure high-quality design. At least one quarter, the Plain Dealer, think the process yielded a terrific outcome in the choice of Saitowitz Natoma Architects of San Francisco and Office dA of Boston.

I read from Sunday's edition:

"It's official: Developers for the new Triangle project in Cleveland's University Circle neighborhood are the first in the city's history to hire star-quality architects to design a major urban residential project."

Meanwhile, the board of the Cleveland Foundation last month generously awarded $1 million to the university for planning and design work in the area, and also has provided invaluable support through the expertise of foundation staff. Their work leading the Greater University Circle Planning Initiative, a community planning effort already showing dramatic results, has demonstrated the value of collaboration and the power of having a unified vision and a determination to achieve results. This UPTown project, in conjunction with the new MOCA and the RTA stop in Little Italy, along with major expansion planned by the Cleveland Institute of Art, all promise to capitalize on the enormous potential we know the area has always possessed.

I know some of you can envision the changes and the excitement that will follow already, while for others it's still too early and abstract. For those in the second group, let me encourage you to visit the South Campus Gateway project in Columbus. I know it well thanks to my work as Provost at Ohio State.

That project, which opened in 2005, literally transformed not only that area of the OSU campus, but also surrounding neighborhoods. It's includes the campus bookstore, an eight-screen movie theater, restaurants, retail and a large number of upper-story apartments. It's a lively, entertaining place to be—and for far more than just OSU students and staff. In fact, one of the Cleveland radio stations does its Buckeye pregame shows from one of the restaurants in the Gateway area.

I imagine that, in time, UPTown will become just as impressive a draw to University Circle.

But even as UPTown proceeds, none of our individual institutions can pause from pursuing our own missions—or from finding ways to combine our unique strengths to create even greater opportunities for all.

Two of our major partners in medicine, The Louis Stokes VA Medical Center and University Hospitals, each are amid significant construction projects that have the potential to improve the health care—and, ultimately, the very lives—of patients from throughout Northeast Ohio.

Meanwhile, early next year our entire community will begin to enjoy the fruits of The Cleveland Museum of Art's major expansion early next year, when south building galleries open with early European and American paintings. Additional galleries in the new East Wing are scheduled to open before the end of 2008, offering more modern paintings as well as decorative art and design works. The museum is scheduled to open completely in 2011. I hear regularly from undergraduates chomping at the opportunity to see the entire museum open again; we at the university are eager to take advantage of the museum's grand improvements by developing ways to deepen existing academic partnerships—and build new ones.

Our university and the Cleveland Institute of Music already offer joint undergraduate and graduate programs, giving students the intensive training available in a conservatory setting as well as the broad resources of a major urban research university. And CIM itself has been amid its own major expansion project designed to add new practice rooms and a distance learning center, among other enhancements.

Finally, faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Art, recently named—again—as one of the nation's top design schools by Businessweek magazine, already work closely with our professors in several areas, among them video game design and the master of arts in arts education program. I am optimistic that still more collaborative opportunities exist between us.

In truth, even university collaborations needn't involve only intellectual matters—or, for that matter, elaborate long-term programs. Last Sunday I had the pleasure of attending our second annual GospelFest at the Museum of Natural History—thank you again, Bruce. This evening of song drew performers and fans from across the region, and filled the museum with wonderful energy and uplifting emotion. Yet again, a solitary event underscored how our small Circle can powerfully affect legions of visitors—especially when we combine our strengths.

This list covers just a smattering of University Circle's major institutions, and I've only mentioned partnerships that involve Case Western Reserve. Dozens of other cooperative alliances exist among our museums and other educational institutions—indeed, if we drew lines on a map to represent all of the partnerships, the map would look as busy as an airline traffic map. These collaborations allow even greater opportunities and experiences for all of our constituents.

The multiplicity of partnerships here in University Circle is positive. But as those alliances evolve and, I hope, become even stronger, we also face challenges.

If UPTown is to realize our collective dreams, for example, we're going to have to find places for all of those new visitors to park. At the same time, we're going to have to continue to take steps to ensure that those who come to University Circle have a positive—and, especially, safe - experience.

As most of you know, we at the university have made major investments in this realm, launching our own police department in the fall of 2006. At the same time, we have continued to provide financial support to the University Circle Police Department. We must continue the close collaborations that exist between the officers of these two safety forces, and ensure that we all are responsive to needs that arise over time.

Amid all of the spectacular art, magnificent music, life-giving medical care and world-changing teaching and research, concerns like parking can seem particularly prosaic. But we cannot neglect basics even as we dream big—indeed, especially as we dream big—because they are essential to ensuring the comfort and well-being of everyone who comes here…and everyone we want to have come back…again and again.

And so, as we come together tonight to review our proud past and imagine how to make an even brighter future, let me leave you with two key conclusions. First, the surest way to keep University Circle as vibrant and compelling as it is today is for each of our institutions to continue to work to improve ourselves.

At the same time, let me hark back to those Western Reserve trustees, Amasa Stone and Leonard Case. As they did, we too must match our passionate commitment to individual progress with a sense of commitment to collective well-being. That is, each organization must strive to be all it can be, while at the same time seeking ways to ensure that specific partnerships and broader cooperation truly allow the Circle to be far, far greater than the sum of its individual parts.

Our member organizations already have demonstrated their full embrace of the first point—that is, to have a relentless focus on advancement—and each day we become more adept and sophisticated at the second—bringing pieces together to make even more impressive and complete whole.

I feel great excitement about the future of Case Western Reserve University, about UPTown and about University Circle. And now, let me turn the microphone over to Chris Ronayne, whom I am confident will give me even more reason for optimism.

Thank you all for your time.

Barbara Snyder