Messages from the President – October 2005

October 31, 2005, 11:30 a.m.

Dear Tulanians and Friends,

It is now nine weeks to the day since the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. My family and I moved back to our home in wonderful New Orleans this weekend.

I am now working out of my Gibson Hall office on Tulane’s uptown campus, just as I said I would several weeks ago.

The recovery process continues as we rebuild the university and develop a village to accommodate our faculty, staff and students, as well as our partners Xavier, Dillard and Loyola. We are equally committed to the rebuilding of New Orleans and many of us are taking an active role in the city’s recovery process.

As always, we are totally focused and determined to make the university and city stronger and better as a result of this disaster. Out of any great tragedy comes opportunity, and we are looking forward to progressing from the recovery to the transformative phase, which is focused on making Tulane the model university for the 21st century. I will be writing more on this subject in the weeks ahead.

Tulane Talk will return this Friday with my weekly message. In the meantime, continue to monitor the Tulane website on a daily basis for important messages and updates.

Scott S. Cowen

October 25, 2005, 4:30 p.m.

Dear Tulane Parents and Students,

As the end of August drew near I was writing my welcome speech for our new incoming students. The university’s weather service was sending regular updates about a potentially troublesome hurricane named Katrina. We were paying close attention, as we always do to weather bulletins, but our focus was on preparing for the fall semester.

I don’t have to repeat for any of you how dramatically things changed in just a matter of days. As winds and floodwaters enveloped New Orleans, our plans for the semester washed away, too. Fortunately, while our campus was in no condition to hold classes, the generosity of our colleagues in higher education made it possible for thousands of displaced Tulane students to enroll as visiting students in 500 colleges and universities across the country. Since the storm Tulane has been on the road to recovery, which has been chronicled on this website. The culmination of this recovery will be in January when we officially reopen.

In recent weeks, I visited with hundreds of displaced Tulane students at Tulane-sponsored Town Hall meetings at Southern Methodist University, the University of Houston and the University of Texas at Austin. At each town meeting I have been asked three key questions:

Question 1: What will it feel like at Tulane and in New Orleans in January?
Tulane University and the surrounding neighborhoods will feel much like they did before, i.e. a small college town within a larger community facing many needs and challenges. Many of the business establishments are reopening on a daily basis and Audubon Park will be there in all its splendor. Most of the remainder of the city will have all basic services, and be safe environmentally and physically. However, you will note more debris and hurricane damage in these other areas.

Question 2: Given what has happened to New Orleans and Tulane, why should my son or daughter return?
I am the parent of four children and have been in the academy for more than 30 years. I have always encouraged my children and students to face adversity with courage and determination, and to engage in their communities so they can make a difference and give back. In January, Tulane University will continue to offer its outstanding academic programs while giving students the unprecedented opportunity to take part in the largest recovery effort of an urban area in the U.S. in more than a century. This combination will be, in my opinion, the most unique and powerful educational experience that any student will receive in this country.

Question 3: What are the long-term implications for Tulane as a result of this natural disaster?
Tulane University will be an academically stronger and more focused university as a result of this experience. No U.S. university of our size and stature has ever experienced anything like what we are going through. The experience has made us wiser, more determined, and given us the courage to shape our future in unprecedented ways that were not possible before the disaster. As a result, I am more optimistic about our future than at any time in my previous seven years as president.

If there is a silver lining associated with Katrina, it is that this experience has toughened us in ways we could never imagine. Be it hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes, floods, droughts or whatever Mother Nature brings to bear, the human spirit will prevail. We are proof of that. And we are stronger and better prepared for any future challenges.

Just as Tulane has changed, so has the City of New Orleans. As I have said previously, the recovery process for our city is going to be difficult. However, with this challenge is the opportunity to obtain a first-class education while helping to rebuild one of the world’s most unique cities. When the university begins classes on January 17, thousands of our students will begin contributing to the rebirth of New Orleans, simply by being there.

I invite you to come to New Orleans with your son or daughter to celebrate the start of our spring semester and to embrace our city’s rebuilding efforts. Some areas of the city are changed forever but many jewels of New Orleans culture are still shining—its people, food, music and its indomitable spirit. Please be with us for our official return home.

Scott S. Cowen

October 18, 2005, 4:00 p.m.

Dear Tulanians and Friends,

Ever since Hurricane Katrina, I have been asked by alumni and friends how they can be of help to the university. The offers of assistance are greatly appreciated and a significant source of hope to all of us at the university. We are now at a point in the recovery process where we do need your help in significant ways to secure the university’s future. In fact, our future depends on your coming to our aid in unprecedented numbers. I have absolutely no intention of allowing this disaster to jeopardize our future and dreams for the university.

There are three major roles that you can play in our recovery effort:

Be strong advocates for Tulane University and New Orleans:
Many in the national press have painted an overly negative and pessimistic picture of New Orleans’ future. Often these journalists know very little about our city and state, much less our neighborhoods, and cling to obsolete stereotypes. They have a bias for the negative because it makes news even though it unfairly portrays our city. Of course, all of us who live and work in the city are negatively impacted by these stories, making an arduous recovery process even more challenging.

In reality, the recovery process will be difficult. However, for people in the world who want to truly make a difference, Tulane and New Orleans are the ideal settings to get a first-class education while helping to rebuild a unique community. Learning and doing is a great combination for life. We need all Tulanians to rally around the goal of recovery and to come to the defense of the city and Tulane University by being positive and passionate advocates for our future.

Provide funding to the university in unprecedented numbers and amounts: Insurance will cover only a fraction of the university’s losses from operations and property damage. Our endowment, already small in comparison to our peers, is not a source of funds because the vast majority of the endowment is restricted. Furthermore, as a private university, we are unlikely to receive any significant government support for our recovery. To secure our future and stem our losses, we need to raise funds in unprecedented amounts.

This month we established a goal to raise $100 million in unrestricted dollars for the Tulane Rebuilding Fund. We expect to meet this goal in the next two and half years, including at least $25 million by the end of this academic year.

These funds will be allocated to areas of greatest need within the university – to people, programs or improvements in our infrastructure, such as new or improved buildings. In addition, I will recommend to our Board in December that we significantly raise our previously announced campaign goal of $700 million to support important strategic initiatives we will announce before the end of the year. However, for right now, we need you to give unrestricted gifts to the university or help us to secure these funds from others. You can start giving by visiting the Tulane Rebuilding Fund web page.

Assist in other ways:
In addition to money and advocacy, we will need other types of assistance. Whether donating time or hosting events for the university, we will need armies of people during the recovery phase. I hope we can count on you.

For more than 30 years, I have spoken to students about making a difference in the world, giving back and showing courage and character in the face of adversity. It is time for all Tulanians to put these words into action. Tulane’s future, as well as the city’s, is dependent on your help. Please heed the call now.

Scott S. Cowen

October 13, 2005, 4:30 p.m.

Dear Tulanians and Friends,

I am flying to Washington, D.C. today to meet with Elias Zerhouni, Director of the National Institutes of Health and Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and other White House and Congressional staff. I hope to create a sense of urgency about assistance for areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Unless you have been through this experience or visited New Orleans shortly after the storm, there is no way you can begin to understand the magnitude of the devastation that occurred in this part of the country.

I will also explain Tulane University ‘s importance to the recovery of New Orleans. Tulane is the city’s largest private employer, largest driver of economic activity, and largest net importer of brainpower from around the country. Tulane’s recovery is essential to the city’s recovery; yet, many people in Washington do not fully understand this reality.

I will address the difficulties Tulane, and other private not-for-profit and private-for-profit institutions are having in getting immediate relief to help defray costs not covered by insurance or other sources of funds. FEMA seems well-intentioned but progress in getting assistance is slow and so far we’ve had no success. Likewise, Congress, which is in recess, has not acted on pending relief legislation, exacerbating an already difficult situation.

I feel it is important for you as members of the Tulane community to be aware of the need for expedited federal relief for New Orleans including its academic institutions and businesses which will play a positive role in the recovery of the area.

After my visit to Washington, I will go to Austin, Texas on Sunday for a Town Hall meeting with Tulane students in the area and an alumni function. On Monday, I will be back in New Orleans on Tulane and city business. I will correspond again on Tuesday.

Scott S. Cowen

October 11, 2005, 5:30 p.m.

Dear Tulanians and Friends,

I just returned from my weekly trip to New Orleans to tour our campuses, attend the Bring New Orleans Back commission meeting, and gauge overall progress in the city. The recovery effort on our campuses continues to proceed at a rapid pace. The front part of the uptown campus is nearly complete and there are hundreds of workers on the middle campus from Freret to Willow . Likewise, we are making similar progress in the restoration of the Health Sciences campus in the Central Business District. Based on everything I have seen thus far, I anticipate no problem in having our facilities ready for January. Consistent with this view, we will post a detailed plan tomorrow about how and when to retrieve belongings as well as to visit the campuses between now and our reopening.

I also had an opportunity to visit our Elmwood campus and all of our New Orleans-based health clinics. As previously reported, the Elmwood campus will begin classes on October 24th and there is strong interest among local students to resume their studies at that time.

The facility is already housing several of our administrative staff. Currently, Tulane University physicians, medical residents and staff are operating several clinics around the city. It was inspirational to witness their efforts and a clear sign that the city is beginning the long road to recovery. For an in-depth look at their work, visit and read a very good article in Tulane’s new online newspaper.

Conditions in the city are clearly improving on a daily basis even though much work remains. In the week since my last visit, there is noticeably less debris, and very positively, the restoration of power, water and sewer services in and around our campuses. New Orleanians are making their way back to the city and neighborhoods show signs of increasing occupancy every day. In the coming weeks our Houston team will also start making the transition back to New Orleans, and I am looking forward to being in the first group that is permanently back on campus.

Finally, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner hosted by Mayor Ray Nagin for President and Mrs. Bush as well as the other New Orleans commissioners last evening. The entire conversation centered on the rebuilding of the city and how the President is looking forward to the development of a master plan. Rebuilding New Orleans from the ground up presents a rare opportunity and there is the hope that New Orleans can become a 21st century model city that will serve as an example for others. I am pleased to be part of this effort and believe there will be ample support for an exciting and compelling vision and plan founded on the city’s historical strengths, shaped by what has occurred and premised on the best thinking for the future.

Scott S. Cowen

October 7, 2005, 10 a.m.

Dear Tulanians and Friends,

I just returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of our congressional delegation as well as staff members from the Department of Education, Office of Science and Technology in the White House, and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

I wanted to get a sense of the likelihood of federal assistance for the rebuilding effort in New Orleans, including financial assistance to all the affected colleges and universities. It is a slow process. Based on my discussions, I think it will take several weeks, if not months, before we know what type of assistance will be forthcoming above and beyond the $60+ billion already authorized for FEMA, the Department of Defense and Corps of Engineers. Given the magnitude of a disaster which touches four states, it has been difficult for Congress and the administration to finalize a strategy.

However, the current uncertainty at the federal level will not change our plan and timetable for Tulane’s recovery. Residents are coming back to the uptown area and already several retail stores have opened in the neighborhood, including Vincent’s Restaurant on St. Charles, the Winn Dixie and the Sav-A-Center on Tchoupitoulas and the CVS Pharmacy on Prytania Street. I am returning to New Orleans weekly now to survey campus progress and to attend meetings of Mayor Nagin’s Bring New Orleans Back commission and I still plan on returning permanently by November 1.

Tulane’s environmental task force, led by Pierre Buekens, who is the dean of our School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, has started providing the Tulane community with weekly updates about conditions in the city. For the first report, see

Our homecoming game, which was to take place last weekend, was postponed until next semester when we are truly home. We are, however, holding “Overcoming 2005” this weekend at Cajun Field in Lafayette when the Green Wave takes on the University of Houston. It promises to be a fun and meaningful event.

Have a good weekend. I will be sending my next message on Tuesday when I return from New Orleans.

Scott Cowen

October 2, 2005, 5 p.m.

Dear Tulanians and Friends,

I am back in Houston after a two-day visit to our campuses in New Orleans. My sense of optimism and hope for the future are buoyed by what I saw and heard during my visit.

The restoration process on our uptown and downtown campuses is progressing at an impressive pace and you can see the positive changes on a daily basis. The look and feel of the campuses compared to what I observed immediately following the hurricane is remarkable. Even though much work remains, there is no doubt in my mind that our campuses will be ready to reopen in January.

I am also pleased to announce that University College’s Elmwood and Biloxi campuses will begin to offer classes by the 24th of this month. We are extremely pleased with this development and refer you to the website for more information. Finally, Tulane’s National Primate Center in Covington, Louisiana continues to be fully operational and a real source of pride for its ability to stay open during and after the Hurricane.

Conditions in the city, while still difficult and behind our recovery, also continue to improve. The city has begun to resume, on a staged basis, basic services such as water, power, and sewerage. Major parts of the city and all of our campuses either have or will have these services functioning by the end of this week. Debris removal is underway and slowly, but gradually, residents and businesses are beginning to return. There are no significant environmental health issues to speak of and no reported outbreaks of any diseases of any kind.

I still expect to move back to New Orleans and our campuses with the majority of my Houston team by November 1. I am really looking forward to that day. I miss my home, the campus and the city.

You may know by now that the Mayor appointed a 17-person commission to assist him to develop a vision and master plan to rebuild the city. I am honored to be appointed a commissioner and have pledged my support, as well as Tulane’s, to play a major role in the city’s resurgence. Given our status as a national research university and the largest employer in New Orleans, Tulane University stands ready to do what is necessary to bring our city back. In addition, the Governor has invited me to participate in the discussions she plans regarding the rebuilding of the city and state.

Finally, I had an opportunity to meet with faculty, staff and students at yesterday’s football game in Baton Rouge, which we won 28 to 21. I continue to be inspired and grateful for the incredible loyalty and passion shown by everyone associated with the university. Their commitment is a source of motivation for all of us involved in Tulane’s recovery efforts.

I will be traveling quite a bit this week, including a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with our legislative delegation and staff at the U.S. Department of Education. I will communicate again on Thursday with my reflections. In the meantime, please continue to monitor this website for information.

Scott S. Cowen