Rowland Pledges to Complete
By Karen Grava
With the UConn Pep Band lined up outside the Lodewick Visitors Center and faculty, staff, and students packing a media conference inside, Gov. John G. Rowland Thursday pledged to continue the magic created at the University by the "magnificent investment" of UConn 2000 by extending the program for another 10 years.
The new $1.3 billion 21st Century UConn initiative will fund projects at every UConn campus. It will continue a program that Rowland noted has stopped Connecticut's brain drain, resulted in UConn's ranking as the best public university in New England, and led the University to jump higher in the U.S. News & World Report rankings than any other public university in the country.
"Why stop now?" the governor asked. "We need to continue this transformation. The best is yet to come. Imagine what we will be in seven or eight years - the best or one of the best public universities in the United States of America."
Rowland, who noted he also is proposing continued capital investments at both Connecticut State University and the community-technical colleges, said the investments he is making will contribute to Connecticut's future ability to compete in the marketplace and help UConn continue to attract top students.
Rowland said he is particularly proud that the University has attracted 314 valedictorians and salutatorians since 1996. The University has experienced an "extraordinary transformation, unlike anything in history," he said. "UConn 2000 is a magnificent investment and what we've created will be here a lot longer than we'll be here."
"The legacy of UConn 2000 would be sufficient in itself to assure the governor a place of honor in the history of the University and indeed of the state itself," President Philip E. Austin said. "The proposal for 21st Century UConn builds on that foundation. We are grateful to Gov. Rowland for his vision, his courage, and his appreciation of the University's capacity to serve as a center of excellence in teaching and research and as an instrument for the enhancement of Connecticut's economic development and overall quality of life."
The proposal is the first step in a process that now requires legislative approval, Austin noted, and the University will do everything it can to assure passage of the bill.
The University warrants further investment because it has used UConn 2000 to increase freshmen enrollment at Storrs 56 percent, increase minority freshmen enrollment 62 percent, increase average SAT scores 30 points, and increase freshman enrollment in the honors program 50 percent.
In addition, the endowment has grown from $50 to $210 million and annual gift receipts have increased from $8.2 million to $50.6 million since UConn 2000 began.
Chris Hattayer, a senior honors student who is an elected member of the Board of Trustees and also president of the Undergraduate Student Government, said he is sorry he is graduating this May. "If I had known this initiative was in the works, I wouldn't have planned to don the cap and gown for another decade," he joked. "Nonetheless, even though I and most of the students here today will not benefit directly from this continued investment, we are quite aware and especially grateful that the state has taken steps that will escalate the value of our degrees."
Hattayer said he views UConn 2000 "not simply as an investment in bricks and mortar, steel and concrete, but rather this endeavor is an investment in people É a serious and sustained commitment to current and future generations of students, the University of Connecticut, and the potential of this great state."