This website is best viewed in a browser that supports web standards.

Skip to contentor, if you would rather, Skip to navigation.

Northwest Missouri State University

The Inauguration of John Jasinski, Ph.D.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dr. Jasinski's Presidential Inauguration Address

Thank you Regent Loch, President Emeritus Hubbard and President Emeritus Owens. Thanks, too, Dr. Ernest Kramer and the Wind Symphony. Please give Dr. Kramer a rousing hand, as the Inaugural Festive Fanfare is an original composition commissioned for this event - Dr. Kramer, thank you!

It is with great Bearcat honor and pride that I stand before you today as your 10th President - honor and pride that are both professional and personal. Having started my career at Northwest, the professional side is readily apparent, but please know my family is tied to northwest Missouri - Denise and I along with our children have grown together here, and personal honor and pride shows through in having family members, close friends, faith and community friends, educational influences, colleagues past and present, students, alumni, and so many dignitaries join us today. Welcome, all. And welcome to those listening through streaming audio or watching later through web video posts!

I wish to focus my remarks on acknowledgements and gratitude, but in so doing, intersperse contributions to the Northwest Way of quality, resolve and vision. I wish to also weave in a few musings on the higher education landscape and a brief look at Northwest moving forward.

I always wonder about placing the Lord first with emphasis or last with crescendo. I will do both. "I can do all things through Him, who strengthens me" is a familiar verse many of us know, and there is no doubt that God is Good, God is wonderful, God is, in part, a Bearcat! Denise and I are blessed in the way that we are today because of the Lord's presence in our lives.

Educational influences abound for us all. For me, Sue Morgan, John Bojcun and Bill Haley, Jr. are a few examples of the strong educators to which I was exposed early on. Other significant educational influences include, for example, Drs. Rob Craig, Joe Misciewicz and Pete Orlik at Central Michigan University and Drs. Al Seagren, Ron Joekel and John Creswell at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Please join me in acknowledging Professor Emeritus Dr. Al Seagren and Professor Emeritus Dr. Ron Joekel, who have joined us today.

But there are so many other educational influences on our family one can mention. Examples include local educators public and private, and of course, our very own College of Education and Human Services of which Denise is an alum. These educational influences illustrate how educators contribute to Northwest's academic and co-curricular environment - encouraging student engagement and involvement, practicing active and unique learning techniques, advocating higher standards, providing hope and growth to students and making the world a better place, one person and one conversation at a time.

Lifelong education, as this crowd understands and embraces, goes well beyond classroom walls and buildings. My lifelong education has provided so many marathon paths along the way, and for these I hold deep gratitude.

Representing individual and program growth are mass communication colleagues and students over the years. I am confident I would not be standing here today if it were not for these seminal experiences helping students build tremendous programs and grow individually along the way. Northwest faculty and staff - some now retired, many here at Northwest, some who have moved on - have been tremendous. I thank our present colleagues for warmly embracing my family and me and for all that you will do moving forward. Thanks, too, to our ever-engaged retired faculty and staff - a group we all greatly treasure.

Northwest faculty and staff are a key part of the Northwest culture. You carry out the Bearcat Way. You help represent the Bearcat Paw. You signify higher education standing at a crossroads and practicing "continuous adaptation" skills. Teaching methodologies and faculty as content providers, use of technology, the role of varying administrative posts, the role and function of our library, the First Year Experience, on-campus and post-campus experiences and all processes and work flows can, should and must be analyzed and refined as we adapt our environment to 21st Century conditions.

These conditions are marked by global integration; use of multi-disciplinary constructs; maturing information technology applications across our operations; curricular, instructional and assessment techniques changing to meet an ever-diversified student population; and innovations across our academic and supporting enterprises. These innovations are being driven by change and disruptive models that far outpace anything we have witnessed in our American higher educational landscape dating back to the Morrill Land-Grant Act advocated by Jefferson and passed by Lincoln, the GI Bill, the Truman Commission Report and the Civil Rights Act.

In fact, I firmly believe Northwest Missouri State University is uniquely positioned to address this rapidity of change with an inner calmness, with resolve and with fervor. The regional university, in my eyes, must be bold as we turn to the next decade. We must be people-centered, regional growth-centered and solution-centered. We will take on greater importance in helping the State and region address changing conditions. We will continue highlighting the scholarship of teaching, intellectual inquiry and service through collegiality and through new partnerships.

And speaking of partnerships, thanks to our Foundation Board of Directors, our Alumni Association, our MIAA representatives and other higher education delegates attending today. Higher education needs you and your groups now more than ever before. Northwest's ability to think differently about how we interact with you will be one of our distinguishing markers as we move into our next growth phase.

Northwest's historic growth dates back to Presidents Deerwester, Cook, Taylor, Richardson, Lamkin and Jones. They served as building blocks as Northwest built itself from a normal school - born from a special train ride planned by community leaders over 104 years ago.

Dr. Robert Foster oversaw a significant growth period, and I ask you to acknowledge Mrs. Virginia Foster who joins us today. Virginia, please know you and your husband always treated the Jasinski family with such kindness, and Dr. Foster always made sure I was growing professionally and personally. Denise and I give thanks to you both.

Dr. B. D. Owens represents this institution's and region's firm resolve by wasting no time in boldly declaring the Administration Building fire of 1979 would turn into a growth opportunity for Northwest. We are better because of B.D.'s immediate and resolute actions. Please help me in welcoming B.D. and his wife, Sue, back to campus and congratulating B.D. and his Bearcat classmates of 1959 who are celebrating their Golden Anniversary this weekend.

Dr. Dean Hubbard established a legacy of quality unsurpassed by other educational institutions. Dean may not recall, but he asked a very young faculty member, namely me, to chair a key Master Planning Committee back in the late 1980s, and that served to whet my appetite for exploring organizational planning and organizational excellence. Thank you, Dean, for that opportunity. Please help me welcome Dean and his wife, Aleta, and thank them for helping bring national prominence to Northwest.

Denise and I express gratitude to the past first ladies and families - we respect and appreciate your contributions. Our past presidents, their families and colleagues confirm the power of vision. As we move forward, we will move on the wings of steadfast resolve and commitment to quality.

That commitment to quality and performance excellence represents Northwest's standing in the educational community. Our commitment to understanding and refining our processes, delivering value-added results and continuing to implement improvements comes in the form of Baldrige core values, and constructs from our accrediting method at Northwest, AQIP, the Academic Quality Improvement Program.

I have made a professional and personal commitment to the Baldrige National Quality Program. Every single Baldrige staffer and contributor is to be thanked for their unbelievable passion and dedication to innovation, adaptation and performance excellence - all concepts championed and demonstrated by Northwest. Baldrige helped shape me, and I must thank Dr. Curt Reimann for his ongoing wisdom, ability to connect so many principles and variables, his outlook on organizational life and ability to talk through the balancing act we all address with our myriad of influences, his humor and his friendship. Curt truly is a national hero in every sense.

Organizations in this day and age must keep moving forward, stay aggressive, do the right thing and go beyond what they actually envision. And that's what my clients on the consulting side have done over the years. Professionally, it has been tremendous and truly life-changing to work with two- and four-year institutions both public and private, K-12 schools and school districts, health care organizations, service providers and the like.

Leadership, in part, is about being family-focused, setting the highest of standards, getting out of the way to let people accomplish their work and encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship. The Northwest Leadership Team will bring these qualities daily to the table. In fact, these qualities are exemplified by President Keith Pretty at Northwood University. I told Keith he was "my Dr. Haenicke" as I was departing Northwood - a reference to his mentor and model - and I meant it. Denise and I wish to thank Keith, his wife, Gretchen, and our Northwood colleagues and friends for providing support, encouragement and growth opportunities.

In terms of higher education growth, how do we continue to grow as a nation and how do we continue to be a leader in worldwide education endeavors? The Northwest Leadership Team along with our colleagues are addressing these questions by starting right here at home in northwest Missouri.

One part of the answer is by working with community and regional leaders - those representing manufacturing, service and small business; agriculture, health care and K-12; and other sectors. We need to ensure Northwest is aligning with your efforts in the name of student preparedness. We need to address P-20 initiatives in a meaningful way; work to expand citizen health in the communities we serve; deliver entrepreneurial business and professional opportunities; enhance math, science and computing offerings; and provide exposure to and celebrate the arts as a contributing factor to spread the educational influence. We need to have our Board of Regents thinking and acting strategically and providing an environment based on trust and partnering for Northwest's future. We need not just political leaders, but business and community leaders to truly understand and strongly advocate the role of education and how it will be the hallmark of this country's leap forward. All of us as leaders need to focus more on solution orientation and less on dogmatic and partisan views.

Northwest offers a unique residential experience - a beautiful environment, thanks in part to the Missouri Arboretum, a safe surrounding, an unbelievable array of offerings in which students can be involved and a campus brimming with 21st Century confidence. I track the on-line learning environment and the move to varying educational models, and we need to continue down those paths - but let's not mince words - a residential experience will remain critical for many future students. We will retain our edge that provides strong retention and graduation rates and will do so with an eye on affordability, with a campus that remains intimate, beautiful and safe - and one highlighting full-time faculty in the classroom and a personal learning environment. We need to adapt our offerings and champion the move to multi-disciplinary and even multi-institutional approaches spanning programs and degrees, the way we approach general education offerings and how we address business incubator, P-20 and other activities.

I often hear faculty and others wishing "students were better prepared," and this makes me a bit unsettled. Our job is to educate those coming through our doors and portals and to provide hope to each and every one of our students. Every student can grow from their present stage, and we as Northwest educators must think through and deliver individual learning to help every student achieve their goals.

We must continue to knock down silos and get our colleagues to see how everything connects to everything else. Faculty in the classroom; student services personnel; athletics partners; colleagues in the human resources, marketing, business and IT functions; advancement and alumni professionals and volunteers all work together, and we must continually bring about learning of how our roles reinforce those of others. We must celebrate each other.

And what an opportune time to celebrate my family. Reflecting on this historic occasion for Northwest, I ask, don't you think it is fitting that October is Polish American Heritage Month? My dad must have scripted all this, and I know half the world knows about this day, as he is one of Northwest's better PR agents! Seriously, please help me welcome my mother, Phyllis, and father, Leonard "Goose" Jasinski. Denise and I wish to thank our parents for providing a Faith foundation, their dedication in seeing us through learning curves and pushing us to realize our potential. Denise and I are thankful for ALL that you have done for us and know we are celebrating today with Unc, our relatives and those great friends from Michigan.

I could wax eloquent about being the 10th president and the great #10s out there in the sports world - you know Pele, Walt Frazier, my brother. Oh wait, my brother was number 11. In any event, my brother served as best man in our wedding, and he and his wife, Sandy, along with children Jennifer and Jacob are quite special to our family. Ken represents our family, with sisters, Mary Ellen and Rosemary, along with their families sending their best wishes.

Denise has 11 brothers and sisters spread out across these United States. Making the trip to represent the Kirby family are Denise's sister Molly and our brother-in-law, the Honorable Jase Bolger, Representative from the State of Michigan - watch for Jase in the future, as he brings many important gifts to the political arena. Molly and Jase and their kids, Megan and Nick, along with all of our brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and other family members are all part of the Kirby family that embodies vibrant living.

My wife, Denise, and kids, Matt, Joe, Leah and Lucas, are gifts. Powerful gifts.

Lucas: Please retain your beautiful and unique outlook on life; keep inquiring as you do so in your matter of fact style; keep growing.

Leah: Please retain your zest for life and attitude toward living; keep growing, exploring and connecting as you do seemingly every waking moment.

Joe: You have taught me a great deal about leadership; please push yourself more than others might; keep that humorous outlook; keep that life's approach that is both strong and gentle as you bring the gift of your leadership skills to others.

Matt: You demonstrate an uncanny and tremendous capacity to see the larger and connected picture; keep your thirst of learning brimming; keep doing what you do continuously to adjust your sights higher and wider; keep expanding your leadership capacity as you prepare to make a significant difference to your communities.

Denise: I'm in awe of you. Northwest is lucky to have you as its First Lady; keep that multidimensional and passionate spirit; keep that unconditional love flowing; allow the Lord to continue showing you your path. You are a true soul mate, and I pledge my unconditional love, respect and support not just as we approach our 25th anniversary, but as we grow together over the next 50 years of marriage!

Denise, Matt, Joe, Leah and Lucas: you are indeed great and special. Please know this day is not about me, but rather, our family and collective contributions as we assume the mantle of Northwest's 10th Presidential Family.

Denise and I wish to thank all of our friends and intend on not singling any out, but you know who you are. Beyond the Lord, you are the root cause of the Jasinski family living, learning, growing and contributing. You mean the world to us, and no matter how far physically you are away or how near, how close we are to you emotionally at this moment or not, how much time we get to spend with you or how little, please know we are deeply, deeply appreciative of each and every one of you.

The St. Gregory's Faith Community has been important to the Jasinski family - just as St. Agnes was when I was growing up and St. Charles was for Denise in her youth. Thank you, Fr. Martin, for your leadership and providing the Invocation today. We also wish to acknowledge the ecumenical nature of the broader northwest Missouri faith community - we are all brothers and sisters.

As I begin to close my remarks, please allow me to cite the mass comm alums in the audience - and certainly emcee Jeff Greunke representing all alums - thanks for letting me be part of your lives and just a small part of your development. Thanks, too, to Mike Johnson for your remarks. Thank you to our other speakers, the entire platform party, the Inaugural Planning Committee, those contributing during this ceremony and those involved in the pre- and post- activities.

As your 10th president, some have commented on my high energy level. I take that as a compliment and hope we all recognize this is not the time to cry foul, not the time to lay back in wait, not the time to recoil from these challenging days. Rather, Northwest can and will seize control of our surroundings, embrace the future, lead forward and advance Northwest as a Bearcat Beacon - one of light, one of showing the way, one of hope and one of making a difference for our students, our region, our state and well beyond.

It is my hope that today's collective events serve to focus on both what Northwest offers in the way of a unique and transformative educational experience as well as the work of our previous nine presidents, their families and those who served with them throughout our 104-year history.

This is a great opportunity to reflect, celebrate and provide say thanks as we move forward with heightened aspirations and expectations. I am deeply honored to lead this great University with such distinguished faculty, outstanding staff, excellent students and loyal and very passionate alumni and volunteers. Denise and I will give it our all, we will do so with integrity and will do so with an open door.

The great Pittsburgh Pirate right-fielder Roberto Clemente gave it his all, and to paraphrase him, "a day not helping someone else is a day wasted." Let's ask ourselves who can we help today? How can Northwest make a difference to the person seated to your left and right? How can we make a difference to our Homecoming attendees, to our current and future students, to alumni and donors? How can we make a difference to our region and to the business, education, health care and non-profit landscape?

Our institutional theme for the year asks us to engage, ignite, illuminate and educate - representing each of the four turrets atop the grand Administration Building. Let's go forth and make a difference, let's go forth and engage, ignite, illuminate and educate the Bearcat Way.

Again, Denise and I thank the Lord, and we thank all of you for coming today. Enjoy the Inaugural activities throughout the day and Homecoming Weekend. Interact with students, take time to say thanks to those around you, and wear that Green and White Bearcat Pride both internally and externally.

This may be the end of our institution's 10th Inauguration Ceremony, but it is the beginning of an exciting and exhilarating Bearcat Ride … and to use this year's Homecoming theme, we will take the ride with the notion of being kids again. Rebirth Northwest! Refresh Northwest! Rejoice Northwest! We are Bearcat family. We are Bearcat Nation.

Thank you.

John Jasinski, Ph.D.
10th President, Northwest Missouri State University
October 23, 2009