Messages from the President – November 2005

November 28, 2005 – 2 p.m.

We are counting the days to January when our students return for a new semester at the new Tulane University. In the meantime, returning Tulane students, parents and prospective Tulane students can get a sneak preview of what’s going on at Tulane and in the great city of New Orleans by viewing this video tour.

This video and the accompanying web page were made possible through the generosity of SAP, the world’s leading provider of business software solutions and a real friend to Tulane University.

I hope you enjoy the video and informative web page and start counting the days yourself.

Scott S. Cowen

November 21, 2005 – 3 p.m.

In a front page editorial on Sunday, Nov. 20, the New Orleans Times Picayune asks Congress to appropriate sufficient funding to rebuild our levees. The paper urges all of us who love New Orleans to write letters to Congress asking that it take this very important step now.

I want to ask that all of you join in this campaign by writing to your representative and asking for a vote in favor of this critical legislation. Our levees must be rebuilt stronger than ever. And New Orleans must be restored to her rightful place as one of the greatest cities in the world.

Scott S. Cowen

November 18, 2005 – 10 a.m.

Good Morning:
I was surprised when I looked at the calendar this morning and realized Thanksgiving is less than a week away. It is hard to believe that so much has happened in our lives since Katrina. They have all changed in ways we never thought imaginable.

I know that these are anxious and tiring times for all of us as we grapple with the many professional and personal challenges brought on by Katrina. I know that in addition to the personal hardships many of you are facing, there is the added burden of uncertainty regarding the new Tulane and New Orleans that will emerge after the devastation of Katrina. We will continue to address each challenge with the courage and determination necessary to secure our future.

I have no doubt that we will be successful in this effort.

In normal times, I would take as much time as possible to personally meet and communicate with all of you to discuss the issues we face. However, just as your lives have changed, so has mine. These days, I am singularly focused on the rebuilding of Tulane and New Orleans. As I mentioned in last week’s Tulane Talk, the Board and I are consulting regularly with internal and external advisors, including the President’s Faculty Advisory Committee, as we plan for the future.

Time and circumstances, as well as the enormity and complexity of the issues we face, make personal meetings and normal processes impossible at the moment, but our reopening is not that distant. As soon as it is practical after you all return to campus in January, I will be able to meet with you face-to-face and explain the steps we have taken to secure the future of our wonderful university.

In the meantime, I hope that wherever this message finds you this holiday season you will be able to take a moment to reflect and, despite it all, still find many things for which to be grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Scott S. Cowen

November 11, 2005 – 11 a.m.

Good Morning:
In last week’s Tulane Talk I mentioned that the Board of Administrators and the university’s senior administrative leadership were having extensive conversations about the university’s future in light of Hurricane Katrina. These conversations have either already included or will include a number of external advisors from such institutions as Harvard, Johns Hopkins, University of Michigan, Rice and Princeton. In addition, I have consulted on a regular basis with members of the President’s Faculty Advisory Committee, an elected body of the University Senate.

All of these groups are providing wise counsel about how Tulane University should chart its future. In thinking about the future we are guided by the desire to maintain the university’s exceptional academic quality and to continue as a major research and graduate-level university focused on areas where we have demonstrated or are on the cusp of demonstrating world-class excellence.

We will continue to be a university committed to academic excellence while also ensuring the university’s long-term financial viability. These dual commitments will require us to make some difficult decisions in the months ahead, but the result will be a stronger, vibrant and more focused university prepared for the extraordinary challenges of the 21st century.

The discussions thus far give me confidence that Tulane University will increasingly be defined in the future by its:

  • World-class excellence in education and research
  • A distinct relationship with the culturally rich and diverse city of New Orleans, home to one of the world’s great waterways and a gateway to the Americas
  • Historical strengths and the ability to learn and recover from the worst natural disaster in the history of the U.S. in ways that will ultimately benefit the Tulane community, the city of New Orleans and other communities in the U.S. and around the world.
    The center of the renewed Tulane should be an exceptional undergraduate program dedicated to the development of students both as scholars and socially responsible citizens. This center should be strengthened and surrounded by a limited number of graduate, professional and research programs, which demonstrate the defining characteristics mentioned above.

    We also have an unusual opportunity to shape many of our programs by the university’s direct experience with such a large-scale natural disaster. This experience should provide faculty, staff and students with unique research, learning and community service opportunities that will have a lasting and profound impact on them, New Orleans, the region and communities around the world.

    In the coming weeks the Board and I will continue to address our renewal strategy drawing on our external advisors and the President’s Faculty Advisory Committee. I will keep you posted of our progress. In the meantime, please visit this link to read an article on Tulane’s recovery that ran on the front page of Monday’s Times-Picayune.

    Have a great weekend,

November 4, 2005 – 10 a.m.

Good Morning:
Last Saturday in New York I addressed several hundred Tulanians about what the university has been through and will go through in the months ahead as a result of Hurricane Katrina. You can listen to this presentation and view accompanying video at

This story has three chapters: Survival, Recovery and Renewal.

The Survival chapter really started after the storm and lasted about three weeks. It involved rebuilding the university piece by piece from the immediate devastation of the hurricane. It was an arduous challenge but, as a result of a lot of hard work from many unsung heroes, we survived.

The Recovery chapter is under way as we restore Tulane and its campuses and provide the necessary assistance to help our displaced faculty, staff and students. As part of this recovery, we are partnering with our colleagues at Dillard and Xavier to assist them in their efforts to reopen in January. Our recovery culminates with our reopening on January 17 for the spring semester.

The final chapter in this journey is Renewal. Hurricane Katrina was the worst natural disaster in U.S. history and its impact will be long-lasting, resulting in people and institutions changing in ways unimaginable and probably impossible before the hurricane.

Out of every disaster comes an unprecedented opportunity for institutions like Tulane to rethink the future. Retaining and even enhancing our status among the nation’s most prestigious academic institutions and remaining financially stable in the wake of Hurricane Katrina will require historic change and vision. I am extremely optimistic that the Tulane of the future, which will begin in January, will be positioned to be as academically strong as ever and even more distinctive.

The Renewal chapter started some time ago but has intensified since the hurricane because of the extraordinary impact it has had on the people and institutions of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. Tulane’s Board of

Administrators has been intimately involved in these discussions and it has been the major topic of conversation in its meetings for the last two months, including a two-day board meeting in New York last week. This meeting involved an extraordinarily thoughtful and expansive dialogue that will continue in the weeks ahead. It generated enthusiasm and great interest among board members.

As this discussion proceeds, I will share with you the broad framework of our Renewal strategy that will redefine Tulane University for the 21st century as a model institution of higher education.

Have a great weekend,
Scott S. Cowen