on a mission
Chancellor Michael R. Ferrari
By Rick Waters
in all these ways, transmit this city, not only not less, but greater
and more beautiful than it was transmitted to you." - The Athenian Oath
and December, Chancellor Michael R. Ferrari speaks of the pledge taken
by young men of ancient Greece. It is the quintessential commencement
message: Leave society, community, even the very end of life more enriched
than when it was given. But as thought-provoking as the words are for
graduates, they also serve as a reminder to himself. Is TCU greater and
more beautiful than when it was entrusted to him?
years later, the answer is overwhelmingly affirmative. This "uncommon
place," as Ferrari often calls it, has been transformed. Its mission has
been sharpened, a strategic blueprint boldly charted. Its colleges have
been reorganized, its classrooms remodeled. With new facilities for science,
business, recreation and athletics, hardly a block of campus escapes signs
of growth. All the while, applications have increased, along with student
financial aid. Faculty and staff speak of having greater input. The university
has expanded its graduate offerings, launched programs for children with
disabilities and established annual scholarships for minority students.
one trustee puts it, "In less than half a decade, Chancellor Ferrari
took us from an institution that was tired in some respects, maybe aimless
in others, and rejuvenated the whole community. And he did it simply by
laying out the beginning of a vision, then allowing the community to shape
it. He got TCU ready for the 21st century."
Ferrari claims little credit. He says he's more communicator and collaborator
than master planner. "Not me. We," he says simply.
measure his legacy in bricks and mortar, the true mark he leaves is of
a spirit of inclusiveness. "We now have a university that can talk with
itself because Mick is a champion of communication," says Provost William
Koehler. "He opened up communication channels that never existed before
and created a sense that we are all in this together."
intended to be a long-tenured chancellor. He said as much before he arrived.
So he brought a sense of urgency to Fort Worth when he decided to make
TCU the final stop in his distinguished career in American higher education.
His passion quickly became so apparent that trustees and vice chancellors
took to calling him "a man on a mission."
In his first
State of the University address, Ferrari laid out his plan: "I genuinely
believe that we have the opportunity -- and there aren't many institutions
that have such an opportunity -- to be among the leading independent universities
in the nation." Given TCU's extraordinary people and the foundation put
in place by his predecessors, he imagined a grander stage. TCU already
had programs highly respected in Texas, the Southwest and nationally,
and all were poised for much more.
his own ideas, but he spent those early months listening and asking questions
in the friendly, open manner that would become his trademark. With every
conversation, more possibilities emerged.
began to be a change in the culture," says Dr. Sherrie Reynolds of
the School of Education. "The
university began to seem less top-down. People would look at Mick and
say, ÔHere is someone who's really going around learning about things
before taking action.' "
with the mission statement, which consumed several pages and was not distinctively
TCU, in Ferrari's estimation. He imagined a solitary purpose sentence
that would hold the university accountable and be equally appropriate
on office stationery or on a billboard on Interstate 30.
He saw to
the crafting of it personally, assembling a diverse cadre of campus leaders
and meeting with them weekly. After several brainstorming sessions, he
sensed a need for inspiration, so he read aloud from Colby Hall's History
of TCU of the institution's rich heritage.
By the next
session, the committee had pared its work to a page, then to a paragraph.
But again Ferrari implored his team to refine the work. He wanted a mission
that would "fit on a coffee cup."
us to develop something that was not a jingle or a cliche," remembers
Dr. Barbara Herman, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs, "but
a sentence that people could easily remember and rally around."
was just what Ferrari had hoped. To educate individuals to think and
act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community.
And it is everywhere: on formal napkins, classroom bulletin boards, even
student election campaign posters. Students who give campus tours quote
it perfectly to prospective undergraduates and their families. International
leaders upon visiting TCU compliment its clarity and purpose.
legacy also will forever be linked to The Commission on the Future of
TCU. Fresh from a similar venture at Drake, the commission became his
goal from his first day in Fort Worth. Contrary to trustee-only models
used elsewhere, the campaign he envisioned included constituents countywide.
that for TCU to accelerate its movement to distinction, it would be maximized
with more people, those who knew the history of TCU, of who TCU is and
what TCU aspires to be," said trustee Deedie Rose. "He wanted it to create
an environment of trust and candor, so we could develop a vision not just
of the board but of the whole community."
1999 to October 2000, 17 task forces -- 500 campus and community leaders -- examined
everything TCU, from the university's basic undergraduate experience to
its strategic alliances.
effort was Herculean, to say the least," says Bill Thornton, president
of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. "But Mick was determined to
include individuals and groups that hadn't been affiliated with TCU previously.
And what came out of it was a blueprint, pulled from everyone's ideas,
that has changed TCU and, in the process, changed how Fort Worth sees
commission, the university's five colleges were reorganized and expanded
to seven, giving each room to develop its own uniqueness. The core curriculum
was revitalized and student diversity enhanced. Undergraduate and graduate
financial aid and scholarships were increased.
the trustees to consolidate tuition and fees into a single charge to align
TCU with other prominent private universities and better reflect the value
of the "TCU Experience." The result? Higher graduation rates. More incentive
for students to finish their undergraduate degrees in four or five years
while exploring a variety of courses without the barrier of cost.
welcomed five new deans and worked with them to enhance existing programs
and provide new ones. His favorite program, says Jan Ferrari, his wife
of 38 years, is Community Scholars, an effort to attract students of color
from inner-city high schools.
risks in bringing talent to TCU. He pushed for the hiring of David Minor,
a successful businessman but non-academician, to run a new entrepreneurs
program. The trustees agreed, and less than three years later, the James
A. Ryffel Center for Entrepreneurial Studies is ranked among the top 50
programs of its kind in the nation.
encouraged the resurgence of a nationally respected Division I-A athletics
program and pushed for increasing support for faculty and staff development,
including raises for non-salaried employees.
the obvious physical growth the campus has witnessed under Ferrari's watch.
"It speaks a lot to his belief in the vision that he convinced the trustees
to spend $150 million, some from endowment monies, for campus growth and
renovation," says Larry Lauer, vice chancellor for marketing and communication.
In the last
five years, more than 100 classrooms and laboratories have been remodeled
and equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The university refurbished
Waits and Milton-Daniel residence halls and built three apartment-style
residential communities. Ferrari oversaw the completion of four major
construction projects -- the William E. and Jean Jones Tucker Technology
Center, the Steve and Sarah Smith Entrepreneurs Hall, the University Recreation
Center, and the Charlie and Marie Lupton Baseball Stadium and Williams-Reilly
programs and strategic planning are pillars of Ferrari's goal to raise
TCU to a new distinction, little-noticed details have been just as meaningful.
He signed every diploma by hand -- sometimes as many as a thousand signatures -- every
stupefied Registrar Patrick Miller in 1998 when Ferrari suggested it,
along with enlarging the university diploma and adding the founding date
to the seal.
"You can't sign all of them. Do you know how long that would take?" Every
TCU diploma until then had the signatures of the chancellor, deans and
registrar stamped by machine.
stood firm. "Students give us four or five years for an undergraduate
degree," he replied. "They've earned. That's the least I can
won't last," Miller cautioned.
ink. Find a pen with ink that's permanent, as good as a stamp." So Miller
did, and thus originated the TCU diploma pen, which resides at the chancellor's
desk for future signatures.
It is one
of many symbolic gestures Ferrari made, not for political correctness
but because he deemed it the right thing to do.
When he learned
that commencement exercises at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum employed a ramp for
graduates with disabilities on one end of the stage and steps on the other
side for everyone else, he had both removed and a single ramp built for
everyone. All graduates deserve to ascend the stage and receive their
diploma equally, he reasoned.
the camaraderie of the Faculty Senate, he supported the formation of the
Staff Assembly, then urged the two to work together. "He knows what all
the issues are," says university librarian Robert Seal, "because he attends
every meeting when he's not out of town." And Ferrari's inclusive nature
has rubbed off. The traditional faculty-only luncheon that opens the academic
year now includes university staff.
the president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce asked him to organize
an effort to reduce the city's dropout rate, Ferrari agreed, despite his
packed schedule. He quickly turned the Stay in School initiative into
a minicommission and so impressed members of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
that they gave him their annual leadership award. Ferrari was the first
non-Hispanic to receive it.
He has an
open-door e-mail policy for students and makes a point to respond, if
only briefly, to every comment. During his first year, a group of undergraduates
came to him upset that student food portions in the cafeteria were smaller
than those of visitors, faculty and staff. So he joined them for lunch
at The Main, went through the line the same as everyone else, and when
they all sat down, sure enough, his helping was larger. The next week,
portions were bigger.
helpings seem bigger after five years under Mick Ferrari, and best of
all, everyone has had a hand in the recipe. Is TCU stronger than when
Ferrari arrived? Look around. The buildings. The programs. The culture.
All suggest that this uncommon place has indeed reached a higher level
of distinction. Higher levels await, but TCU knows where it is going.
A man on a mission showed us the way.