Convocation Fall 2018 
Monday, August 20, 2018
Katie Murphy Theatre

 Good morning.  It is, as always, a pleasure to welcome you back.   I hope you all entered the campus from Seventh Avenue and saw our new Pomerantz Center lobby through its dazzling glass façade.   It is so stunning it is hard to remember what it looked like just six months ago.  But here it is:  4000 gorgeous square feet of marble floors…soaring ceiling that glass facade.  Its sophistication, I think, sends a persuasive message about FIT’s own soaring aspirations. Very soon it will be open and filled with work mostly but not exclusively from our School of Art and Design, giving passersby the opportunity to admire all of the vibrant talents that are harbored here.  

I am especially pleased that it is opening this year in 2018.  It is rather a special year because this is my 20th anniversary, well, no, not my 20th anniversary:  our anniversary .  It was almost 20 years to the day that I delivered my first convocation speech as president of FIT. I won’t say it seems just like yesterday, but I do have vivid memories of the pride and excitement I felt at having the opportunity to lead such a dynamic and creative institution. And as I was preparing these remarks,  I could not help but think back to that time when I first stood before you here in Katie Murphy.  It was 1998:  another world, and not just within our walls.  Victoria Beckham was still a Spice Girl and Google was just a noun.  You could rent an apartment in Brooklyn for $600 a month and buy a dozen eggs for 88 cents.  It was a year that introduced peace to Ireland and Harry Potter to the rest of the world.   Terrorism, climate change “fake news” none of these were part of the national conversation.  Instead,  we were obsessed with the millenniumremember the millennium? and our greatest fear was a universal meltdown in cyberspace.  

 As I think about it, most of the students I will be welcoming to FIT at orientation later this morning were not even born and some of you were, perhaps, toddlers yourself...or at least young teens.  Indeed,  I don’t know how many of you were here back then, but if you were I thank you.  You and your colleagues greeted me with great warmth and generosity---and an endless supply of advice,  recommendations, proposals, and, of course, a few complaints. My good fortune extended to a board of trustees, whose support and good guidance I have been able to rely upon year after year.  You were all so thoughtful about the college’s future and  your commitment to its mission was inspiring.  It was a blessing to find such a dedicated community and  I was humbled by the opportunity to build on FIT’s unique legacy and eager to do it together with you. 

 We all recognized that the world, and us along with it, was in the midst of a technological revolution and that  the consequences for FIT would be huge.  And at that first convocation, I spoke about taking on that challenge and others that you had helped me define and establishing a college-wide consensus which became my mantra for the next 20 years.  Indeed,  as I reread that speech,  I found the seedbed for so many of the themes that have defined our progress: strategic planning state-of-the-art technology, globalism, interdisciplinary curriculum, rebuilding faculty ranks,  access, and trust.  

Today, when I step back and look at what we have achieved, it’s rather astounding.  It was not easy:  But year by year, we harnessed our collective energies;  we struggled, we changed; together we grew, which is why this  anniversary belongs to all of us.  And I would like to share   some of those changes with you—and trace the upward path of our aspirations.   But before I do, let me first bring you up to date on  a few recent and upcoming events on campus.

First, I want to add my welcome to our 18 very accomplished new classroom faculty members and two non-classroom faculty members.  20 altogether!  We are proud to have you in our ranks and look forward to all we know you will be contributing to our community.

Now I’d like to recognize some new administrators.  Some arrived last semester so you may already have been working with them.  Would you please stand or wave as I mention your names.

 Jacqueline Jenkins is our acting executive director for strategic planning and innovation.  She comes from the world of finance, retail, strategic planning and higher education.  In fact, she came to us directly from LIM where she was dean of graduate studies and then senior director of corporate and university partnerships.  Prior to that, she was COO for a regional accounting and consulting firm; she spent four years as manager of supply chain management for Ann Taylor and led her own consultancy providing new business development services for a wide variety of companies. She has already plunged right in, overseeing a number of projects I will get to momentarily.

 Austin Thomas holds the new position of exhibition manager. It is Austin who will oversee all of the exhibits in our new lobby.  She is herself an artist and curator with more than 20 years experience working in galleries and museums and for some years operated her own community oriented art space  right here in Chelsea. Most recently she was the curatorial fellow at the Morgan Lehman Gallery. Her own work is in the permanent collection at The National Gallery of Art. 

 Melanie Copple is the director of strategic philanthropy for the FIT Foundation.  Melanie spent six years in retail at  Olive and Bette’s, Trina Turk and then at Versace, as assistant general manager.  She then shifted her talents and attention to organizations focused on sustainability and social responsibility.  For three years she was general manager of the sustainable luxury brand Maiyet and most recently was director of brand and design partnership at Nest, a non-profit organization that supports and empowers artisans throughout the world.  

Anthony Lugo  is the director of contracted services in our finance and administration division. Anthony comes to us from La Guardia Community College where he spent over 10 years.  During that time, he held increasingly responsible positions, including director of the  campus auxiliary services---the bookstore, dining, vending, space rental.  When he joined us, he was  La Guardia’s corporate relations manager.  

 Please join me in welcoming our new colleagues.

We continue to add new directors to our FIT Foundation board which broadens our outreach to relevant sectors of the economy.  Since we last met, two executives from high tech joined us:  Caroline Palmer, who is director of content and social at Amazon Fashion and Corey Moran, head of industry, fashion and luxury at Google. Corey is also an alumnus:  he received his MPS in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management and is very actively involved with that program’s advisory board.  

Earlier Robin mentioned Professor Al Sloane. Like so many of you, I was saddened to learn that he had died.---he was such a stalwart of the college. For those of you who knew him, and even those who did not,  you might want to know that he  recorded his memories for our Oral History project not long ago.  It is a lovely personal interview in which he reminisces about his life, including his FIT classes and colleagues.  He actually calculated that in his 55 years with us as a full-time professor,  he taught about 24,000 students.  

Professor Sloane’s is one of about 400 interviews captured in our Oral History project it is a wonderful resource for you, your students and any scholars interested in the industry.  Hazel Bishop;  Judith Leiber; Bonnie Cashin;  Geoffrey Beene; Eleanor Lambert;   Marvin Feldman, the Goodman family, John Pomerantz and his father Fred, Pete Scotese our own Jeff Buchman (on the occasion of our 50th anniversary).  Karen Trivette is eager to add to these lustrous names and you are all invited to contribute your own memories, so do contact Karen if you are interested.
 You know, there must be something about years that end in “8”. In the ancient Chinese lore of feng shui,  the number 8 symbolizes prosperous growth.  Yet in both in 1998 and 2008,  I felt the need at convocation to address the college’s financial situation.  In  1998 despite a strong economy I cautioned that money for public education was tight.  “Since it is hard to imagine a time when FIT will have more money than it needs,” I said, “ we will have to be both creative and fiscally prudent to manage our existing assets imaginatively while finding new sources of funding.”   Familiar words.  Ten years later, as the country was tumbling into recession, FIT was coping with sudden cuts from the city that required us to do some very serious belt-tightening.  I raise this now, in 2018,  because earlier this year, I instituted another belt-tightening initiative nothing as stringent as the one in 2008.  Unfortunately, this seems to have  set off alarms in some campus quarters and  has been interpreted as a financial crisis.  I want to put that notion to rest.  FIT is not facing a financial crisis. We are fiscally sound.

 What we are facing is a dip in enrollment.  In the last several years, we have lost about 750 FTE’s. It has not been a straight downward plunge it has been more like a small roller coaster, with gentle ups and downs. But in fact we are part of a national trend.  The national birthrate has dropped so the pool of graduating high school students is shrinking especially in the Northeast.  As you know, enrollment drives revenue, especially in public colleges, and as a result, our revenues are not as strong as they were five years ago.  At the same time, our costs have grown. So we have embarked on a  cautionary cost-savings program in order to build  both our enrollment and our revenues.  But it is also a program that allows us to continue to  invest in those initiatives that support our strategic goals:  our branding and innovation programs, for instance;  the hiring of our 18 fabulous new faculty members this year and we hope almost as many next year and of course, all of the technological and physical enhancements to the campus.  We could never take on initiatives like this if we were in financial crisis, and trust me, I have lived through my share fortunately never here at FIT.  We have an enrollment growth program in place that aims to increase enrollment by 500 in five years. We have a strong financial plan that has historically been in balance, just as it is now. As part of that plan we have drawn from our unrestricted assets and we expect we will be able to contribute back to this reserve within two years.  But to do that, we will have to examine how we spend our resources to be as prudent and disciplined as possible.  “We will not be able to fully fund everything we want,”  is what I said in 1998.  In  early 2018  I asked division leaders to look for permanent and recurring savings  and I am pleased to say that because they were so rigorous, we  were able to identify opportunities to make one-time savings in fiscal 2018 and recurring savings for fiscal 2019 and beyond.  Actually, there is a third leg to this equation and that is the donors that our vice president for advancement Phil McCarty is courting so vigorously.   But until they materialize,  this will mean some prioritizing, some balancing, some sacrifice on all of our parts and I thank all of you for your concern and cooperation.

 Now, to close the circle on feng shui,  I think FIT was positioned properly in all this time. Despite our financial challenges, 1998 and 2008 were better years than they might otherwise have been.  We did well, just as I expect we will do in 2018.    

 Meanwhile,  in June, we added over $1.3 million to our resources at our very glamorous   gala at which we honored Ivan Bart, president of IMG Modeling and our own foundation directors Michael Stanley and Jane Hertzberg Hudis  And we have already raised $800,000 for our upcoming Couture Council luncheon in September at which we are honoring Narciso Rodriguez.

 On September 14th,  our new SUNY Chancellor, Kristina Johnson, will be inaugurated here in our Haft Theater.  Dr. Johnson is SUNY’s 13th chancellor and we are honored to be selected as the host for this historic ritual. I believe that many prominent leaders from academia, business and government will be attending; some of you have indicated that you will attend and it will be live-streamed for anyone who wishes to watch. 

 I cannot let too much time go by before I utter my favorite  three little words:  new academic building.  I need hardly tell you what a dramatic difference this building will make for us once it is finally up.  By now, I think most of you are familiar with its basic elements:  10 stories, 100,000 square feet, transparent, environmentally correct, 28th Street entrance. However, it has been in development for so long that we have had to revisit the design elements more than one time.  That is  because, over time, our needs have changed and of course costs have escalated.  We realized that many of you may not have seen its current and final iteration and we wanted you to do so before we break ground.  So we have scheduled two Town Hall meetings.  One is on September 4th and the next on the 6th. when our architects from SHoP will be there to lead the discussions and answer all questions. 

 This has been another busy summer and for some of our students, an especially exciting one.   We saw the culmination of a number of projects that were in preparation during the school year. In June, a team of FIT and MIT students collaborated in a two week workshop, one week on each campus, to explore and develop smart clothing concepts through advanced knitting and 3D printing. Faculty from both institutions acted as mentors.  This was a classic interdisciplinary effort—bringing together design and engineering students who shared an interest in advanced fabrics.  It was an effort that MIT called “inspiring” and a hallmark of the future, and it  was so successful that we have both committed to doing it again. 

 Over the summer, six of our students traveled to Fabrica, the communications research arm of the Benetton organization  in Italy, to participate in a workshop made up of students from around the world and  led by CJ Yeh and Christie Shin. The workshop expanded on our powerful, civility-themed  Impactful Language exhibit.  We will be able to see the results of their work on campus first in November, when it appears in the Creative Technology and Design showcase and then in March of 2019  on campus at a yet undetermined location.  Keep tuned.

 This summer, too,  three of our students were chosen to represent FIT at the Clinton Global Initiative University which  will take place in October at the University of Chicago.  The CGIU is quite selective in the students it invites---they look for a high level of commitment and originality and viability in ideas.  Most FIT students who have presented in the past have been engaged in sustainability.  This year, however, our students will be focusing on leadership training and social impact businesses.  I have to say, FIT students have built quite a legacy at the CGIU and they make me very proud.

I am pleased that Robin mentioned our civility campaign and the week we are devoting to it in October.  This is another step in our goal to bring the concept of civility front and center so that in our classrooms, offices, residence halls and throughout the campus, we all feel that we are being treated with respect.  We are fortunate at FIT to be working in a highly diverse community.  That is our strength, but we must be mindful of the ways we can ensure that all are welcome. And that is why I am  heartened to see that the civility campaign that we launched  at last spring’s convocation seems to be gaining traction.  As Robin pointed out, a cross-section of the community partnered to develop civility week itself  Last semester, the UCE sponsored a Town Hall on civility that could not have been more powerful. That gathering only reinforced the importance of our efforts and I look forward to offering my support to any programs that contribute to its momentum. 

I hope you have noticed the continued roll-out of our brilliant new brand program. It was launched last semester in  Feldman  with our “unconventional minds” language festooned high on the lobby walls.  Now you will find it decorating  Dubinsky and the Business/Liberal Arts building, on street banners and on buttons on the back tables that I hope you will collect and proudly wear. 

I cannot believe that I’ve gone this far without mentioning the words “strategic planning.” Indeed, I can hardly believe that we are about to embark on the fourth iteration of our strategic plan. We were going to refresh the plan last year but decided  to focus instead on our recently developed innovation strategic plan particularly since innovation is now so central to our mission.   We are ready now to return to our overall strategic planning.  Fortunately, we now have Jackie Jenkins to coordinate this effort and the work is about to begin. The process will be participatory, as always, engaging you, our faculty, staff and administrators; students, alumni, trustees and foundation directors, industry representatives, donors and related FIT friends. We will soon have a facilitator in place,  and the Planning Council will hold its first meeting in late September. This will be a five year plan, one that builds on the considerable success of what we’ve already achieved, and one that will  be  infused with the spirit of innovation. Like our new brand, it will reflect who we are, where we are going and our commitment to the future.   The plan will be completed in 2019 just in time to be part of our 75th anniversary celebrations. 

And in a way, this brings me back to where I began this morning because strategic planning has been so much the bedrock of all of our progress.  You see, in 1998, FIT had no history of strategic planning, no integrated budget planning, not even a long-term financial plan.  So I thought we might take a trip back in time so that  we can see all that we as a community have accomplished in just  20 “ short” years.

FIT was, at that point, rich in tradition and rich, as well, in a history of progressive pedagogy that blended theory and practice.  Our students were, to me, utterly exciting in their talent, ambition and potential. A few years after I arrived here, a team of Middle States evaluators came to campus and called you—our faculty a “singular treasure.”  And so you remain.

 In 1998, the industries we were designed to serve were being threatened by vast, fast and profound change.  It was imperative that the college give our students and our faculty the resources everyone needed to keep pace.  But we were not geared up to do so.

As I mentioned earlier, technology was the great challenge of the day.   Aside from the cost,  there was  anxiety and even some resistance as faculty and staff confronted technology’s dramatic practical, pedagogical and even philosophical implications. In any event, at that point, we had no computers for full-time faculty, no e-mail, no wireless access, no distance education. 

With our limited resources, we had done little to integrate technology into the curriculum.  Academic program development was stagnating; there was no institutional professional development program and due to economic downturns, our full-time faculty lines had by fiscal ’97-’98 dropped to 176.

And so we embarked on our first strategic planning effort.  It was the first time we integrated financial and operational initiatives with institutional vision.  Some of you were active participants in that endeavor  and may recall that the needs we identified  were very basic. In the end, we reshaped our directions and priorities and invested in some of the fundamental improvements that were so critically needed throughout the college.

 In 2004, as FIT marked its 60th anniversary, we  re-ignited the strategic planning process. With some of those basic internally-focused needs addressed,  it was time to start looking outward…and imagining our place in the world at large.  We now were ready to explore identity ready to look long-term into the future ready, even, to dream.   I remember urging you to dream big and you did.  Indeed,  by the time we celebrated our 70th anniversary, we had taken giant leaps and were implementing yet another edition of the strategic plan, one that built on the considerable accomplishments of the last. All those years of reflection raised our aspirations and allowed us to recast FIT on a whole new scale.   Our goals were streamlined and refined our mission redefined  and our vision  elevated.  

And so here we are, approaching our 75th anniversary.  We haven’t wasted one of the last 20 years.  

In that time, Middle States twice reaccredited us, each time with flying colors;  we were twice reaccredited by NASAD…the Museum at FIT was accredited and our School of Business and Technology  just recently earned its own accreditation.   Our full-time faculty lines have grown from that dismal 176 to almost 300 today.  Together we tried to imagine the curricular needs of students entering our doors in 2020 or 2025 and devised and systematized a set of relevant criteria to use in hiring faculty and judging from our current ranks, I’d say we’ve done an outstanding job.  We have added 16 new programs to the curriculum since 1998—16-and eight certificate programs each one purposeful, each one geared to empower our students as they enter the ever-changing creative economy.  Reaching for more curricular flexibility, we developed  a fascinating array of  interdisciplinary and special topics courses.  The profile of our Liberal Arts School has leapfrogged  with its  two majors, 26 minors and robust Writing Center.  We added a sterling honors program for our academically gifted students and  expanded our global presence.  We established a strong academic advisement center that works in  partnership with faculty and other relevant services to help students navigate FIT’s sometimes rocky roads.
This year we ran 616 on-line credit sections up from almost nothing in 1998.  We offer two  fully on-line degree programs up from zero in 1998.  We are now the 5th largest provider in the OpenSUNY network of 37 campuses.  Did I mention, by the way, that we delivered computers to all full-time faculty desks.

With technology looming, it was clear that faculty needed as much support as possible, so in 2001, we created  the Center for Excellence in Teaching.  Well, CET  has grown from a small tech support unit to a rich and thriving nationally respected faculty development program a go to resource for faculty with workshops and events, consultations, a wide range of programs, including an on-line adjunct orientation. It offers grant writing support, and each year it funds at least 100 faculty members to conduct research, travel to conferences, facilitate seminars or workshops or participate in industry practica.

With an enterprising, more visionary academic grants office and, I believe, a more empowered faculty, our scholarly ambitions have also accelerated.  More and more faculty are applying for grants and in recent years, our funders have included the prestigious National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency,  the National Endowment for the Arts and this year, two of your colleagues, Dan Levinson Wilk and Kyunghee Pyum  were awarded a $100,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant---the largest in our history.  

All of these are breathtaking changes and I’ve barely touched the surface. 

Students, of course, are our raison d’etre.  They are the heart of every academic institution. In their talent and ambition and willingness to work hard, our students are no different today than they were in 1998, except, of course, for the tattoos and smart phones.   But those questions of institutional identity that we raised as part of the strategic planning process led  us to adopt an active  program of strategic recruitment so that we could better build our student body.    Since then, we have enrolled many more students from across the nation and more from throughout the state.  We’ve seen a rise in high school GPA’s.  And over these past 20 years, we have tripled the number of bachelors degrees we award, the associate degrees have increased by 50 percent.  And the increase in real numbers of graduate degrees awarded went from two to 71. 

 Trying to see  our services and facilities and the quality of campus life from the student perspective led to programs designed to foster a stronger sense of community and school spirit—our orientation program grows  richer every year. Tiger Stitch has never been busier.   We offer programs to build leadership skills, to celebrate diversity, enhance cultural understanding, promote wellness. Unfortunately, much of what our students want, need and deserve requires more space.

In fact, 20 years ago,  our  campus  facilities were stagnant.  There had been no academic construction in 23 years.  The last building to go up was Alumni Hall back in 1988.  There was no overall plan for classroom infrastructure upgrades.  There was however, a facilities master plan which correctly identified in graphic square footage our large, painful and long-standing space shortage.

With your participation, the master plan was revised twice and a process developed to creatively reinvent and refurbish all of our existing space.  Today we take for granted our Great Hall and conference center, the student dining hall on the West Courtyard and the remarkable labs in Dubinsky that house eight departments.  None of that existed in 1998. Indeed, you had to be here  in 1998 to believe how grim the student dining hall was up on the sixth floor  in Dubinsky certainly not a place that one could get to in a hurry or even want to gather with friends.   We built a new registration center, a beautiful academic advisement center and a Fitness Center  for our students,  and, in a pivotal move, we purchased , renovated and opened a residence hall on West 31st Street thanks to the generosity of our late trustee George Kaufman.  We now have student lounges scattered across the campus so that we see fewer and fewer students napping on corridor floors.  

Think of the new graduate school space the film and media space. the beautiful Special Collections renovation, the MFA fashion design studios.  We are today like the city that never sleeps:  always building, always renovating. We have  the FIT/Infor Design & Tech lab. the computer labs, the green roofs. We took the radical step of leasing space off campus, well, just across the street at 333 and in doing that, we not only freed up on-campus space for classrooms, but we also established handsome, spacious  offices for administrators.  And as you know, we now systematically renovate  and upgrade classrooms.  We even added a little grace to our Brutalist buildings and to 27th Street itself with  landscaping, outdoor furniture  and enhanced curvilinear walls.

 There isn’t time this morning to itemize the infrastructure improvements and other environmental-friendly changes that have become routine in our renovation and construction practices as well as  all of our related sustainability projects that have earned us honors at City Hall.  I mean, who could possibly have imagined in 1998 or even  in 2008,  that there would be a  dye plant garden blooming on the Feldman terrace. 
 Technology, the great bugaboo in 1998 now flows through every lab, studio, classroom and office.  Yet it wasn’t all that long ago that students still  lined up to manually register for classes and I communicated with you through blue paper memos. Today,  tech is integrated into our curriculum, assimilated into our culture and has turned the college into a hub of creative experimentation and innovation. We now have a dedicated research space where faculty can---and do-- experiment with new and emerging technology.  You know,  people sometimes ask me why we were named the Fashion Institute of Technology---and the answer is that one of our founders, a tailor and educator named Morris Ritter,  fell in love with MIT when he researched institutional models for this school.   “What we need, “ he said, “ is an MIT for the fashion industries.”  Today, I believe,  we finally own the word “technology” and how lovely it is that as we approach 75, FIT and MIT are partners.  Somewhere in the heavens above, Morris Ritter is smiling.

We first stepped into the world of innovation in 2004, as we began our work on the second of our strategic plans.  It was then that we declared our bold intention to become a creative hub, a nationally and internationally acclaimed center of innovation an unimaginable ambition just a few years before.  And while it was not easy to bring to life,  we never lost sight of that vision. It was like a guiding star.  We knew that between our faculty and students, we had the talent, the passion and the ambition to become what we came to call “ an innovation center for the creative industries worldwide.”  But while that center remains in development, innovation has been rippling through the campus.  

 You have only to look at our Innovation kiosk that stands  in the Feldman lobby.  It is chockful of brilliant innovative projects that span many disciplines within our schools and our center for continuing and professional studies.   Our FIT/Infor Design and Tech Lab not even two years old has already attracted companies like IBM, PVH and JC Penney all seeking student creativity to problem solve for them.  We are collaborating on a range of research projects with SUNY Stony Brook, Brown,  and Columbia universities and are exposing our design students to the potential in science design research at a community biology space in Brooklyn.  It was not by coincidence that FIT students began entering and often winning biodesign  contests:  we had built an environment that encouraged their curiosity and creativity and  nurtured their “unconventional’ minds.  

 Yes, their “ unconventional minds.”    That, of course, is the tagline  in our new brand  program.  It is our new identity one  that would have been inconceivable in 1998 and even in 2008.  Indeed, as recently as four years ago, a consortium of our FIT community members working very hard to refresh our brand  agreed at that time that the world sees FIT as:  safe, capable, traditional, hands-on , practical and technical. That had been our reputation for decades. We only aspired to be seen as visionary, experimental innovative. But as many of you now know,  a  comprehensive market research survey conducted last year told a dramatically different story.   Audiences across the board already  perceived FIT as visionary and innovative , a college with momentum. Prospective students, alumni, employers, high school counselors, faculty and current FIT students especially said “yes” to “unconventional minds” and with it, all of those other “un” words:  unexpected, unusual, undaunted, undeterred. While every new brand is aspirational, it nevertheless reflects both current realities and how people feel about it. Truthfully, we were not expecting this finding quite so soon in our institutional focus on innovation.  But let me offer a recent comment from the chief brand officer at Tommy Hilfiger, who worked with our students this year on the IBM-super-computer Watson project:  “We are always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible through innovation and disruption,” she said.  “These young designers truly embody this spirit.”  This is what people believe about FIT…this is  how people feel about FIT.   It is exciting and transformative. I believe that as a brand position, it will support us for many years to come. 

 But the transformation has gone beyond brand and curriculum and student services. It transcends all the work on our buildings and grounds.   I’ve said this to you in the past, but I think it is worth repeating especially now.  These years of effort and reflection gave us a whole new level of communication and with it, a whole new culture.  

 Our on-going dialogue started by the strategic planning process brought together members from all corners of the community many of whom had never before met.  It was vibrant, candid, creative and by and large collegial.  I believe it reached deep into our institutional soul, touching our best spirits, encouraging our best efforts, and unifying us as a community.  It created community consensus. Today, there are fewer of those silos that used to dominate the landscape.  On the contrary, for an institution as large and disparate as FIT, the level of communication and collaboration has been inspiring and remarkable.  It reminds me of Helen Keller’s wise words:  “Alone we can do so little;  together we can do so much.”

 Together we have done so  much.  Far far more than I was able to recount today and I apologize to those of you whose  efforts were left on the cutting room floor.  Whether you were here before I arrived or joined us in any of these past 20 years, to all of you, I offer my thanks. 

With your commitment, hard work and good spirits, you have kept the  flame of inspiration, creativity and ambition lit and produced a remarkable institutional transformation.

And we have only just begun.

I am eager to see our future unfold. I hope you enjoyed a well-deserved rest so we can take on, refreshed and ready, the challenges of the next 20 years.