"Reflections: November 18, 2020"

​​ Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White (as delivered)
Chancellor, California State University
CSU Board of Trustees Meeting – Reflections
Long Beach, California​
November 18, 2020


Thank you, Chair Kimbell, and my h​eartfelt thanks to everyone for your extraordinarily kind and humbling comments.

As I reflect from time to time on moments in time – by myself or with the gift of others – I push myself to get away from the “what” or “how” of that which I’m contemplating and concentrate on the “why.”

For me, contemplating the “why” is more challenging, but ultimately it provides more insight, more satisfaction and a clearer understanding of what may follow.

So, why? Why has this moment created so much fuss about me?

Please don’t misunderstand, I am appreciative and grateful for your sharing such generous, moving thoughts.

But when I contemplate the “why,” I arrive at this: This moment really matters because it is a moment to acknowledge and celebrate what we have achieved together; a moment to seek your forgiveness for things not accomplished during my time with you; and a moment for me to thank you – our students, faculty, staff at every level, our presidents, vice chancellors, trustees, alumni, elected officials, friends of the CSU, our Foundation Governors and business leaders. Thank you for believing in me and constantly reaching – stretching – to advance this magnificent university, and thereby advance the lives of our alumni in ways that often startle.

I invite you to join me in considering why this moment does matter.

And I submit that one reason is that it fills us with a rightful, shared and compelling sense of pride.

Now, those of you who know me well might find that to be an odd word choice: “pride.”

I have never been one to seek or revel in praise. In fact, I’ve always seen myself as a bit of an outlier, with an improbable life and career. Praise has always made me a little uncomfortable.

But that’s not the sort of pride I am talking about. That kind of pride – self-satisfaction, taking pleasure in one’s own accomplishments – well, to borrow a phrase, that type of pride may be filling, but it’s not nourishing.

However, there’s another kind of pride of which my mind, my heart and my soul seek to speak.

It’s that special joy one experiences when someone you respect, someone you love, something you love and believe in accomplishes something special, something meaningful, something great, something brilliant and something epic. Indeed, something eternal.

I’m thinking about:

  • The California State University staff and faculty who have found their lives’ calling in inspiring and supporting our talented and diverse students in myriad ways.
  • Our campus and system leaders who consistently and courageously make principled decisions in the best interests of our students and their future success.
  • Our leadership, academic policies, and operational management that reflect 21st-century sensibilities.
  • Our students themselves who year after year – and especially this year – demonstrate the intellect, will and sheer grit to wrestle to the ground any challenge that stands in their way to achieving their academic and professional goals – elevating their families, communities and this great state and nation.
  • How all of us have together worked to advance – and will continue to advance – the greatest university in the world, and all the values that it stands for: inclusive excellence in teaching and learning; equity in all its dimensions; discovery and creative expression; engagement with community; and the fulfillment of human potential.

These are the sources of the pride I am feeling now. This answers the question of why this moment in our shared journey matters. And it portends why it matters for you to give Dr. Joe Castro the same guidance and support you have given me, because the importance of this university to America and the world will only continue to grow in the years ahead.

That is the sort of pride that is sustaining, lasting and, indeed, nourishing.

You’ve all given me this gift, and while my words probably come up short as they toss and turn in the sea of emotions created by my Argentine limbic system, with humility I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the privilege and honor of serving you as chancellor.

Let me conclude my reflections today with a second word that keeps surfacing in my quest to answer “why?” That word is “promise” – and it, too, is so appropriately applied to the California State University.

Think of the CSU’s promise – our commitment – to work with our K-12 and higher education partners to provide authentic access to the transformative power of higher education for current and future generations of Californians from all walks of life. And our commitment to those students once they set foot on a CSU campus or join virtually – to meet them where they are and provide them with a world-class experience of learning and discovery and holistic support so that they get every ounce out of their Cal State journey, during which passions are discovered, dreams are formed, knowledge gained, skills and dispositions honed, and relationships cemented.

Then there’s “promise” in the sense of “potential.” At the very core, we are in the business of enabling human beings to fulfill their promise – their potential. Their promise to self. Their promise as members of society and citizens of the world.

And when our students – indeed, when all of us – begin to recognize, realize and live our promise, the benefits extend so far beyond self. Our society and our economy benefit. Our culture and the environment benefit.

I opine that our promise positions the CSU as the exemplar for great public universities everywhere that are engaging multicultural populations, bringing innovation and clairvoyance to the teaching and learning space, to the discovery and creative spaces, and in applying existing and new knowledge to the most vexing issues confronting the world. Issues such as renewable energy, equitable quality healthcare, racial reckoning, climate, water, food and housing insecurity, poverty, education and economic stability.

Our promise.

Their promise.

Promise is just one word, but it encompasses so much: 60 years of advancing the CSU’s worthy mission and driving California to its brightest future; 3.8 million global alumni positively influencing every sphere of human life; and generations of current and future students, in whose minds, hearts and hands rest the future of our state, nation and world.

I suppose I should close with a rallying cry – a clarion call – imploring you to keep the CSU’s promise to current and future students – and to California, the nation and world.

But I’m not going to.

I don’t need to.

Here’s why.

Earlier, in her report, Chair Kimbell eloquently spoke of this exciting time in the CSU’s history, marked by a significant transition in leadership, not just in the chancellor role, but also among trustees and presidents. But Lilly also astutely noted that the CSU is held steady by its mission.

Indeed, Cal State is an institution that is constantly changing, but ever constant. It is constantly changing with new students, new curriculum and new technologies; advancements in research; new forms of creative expression; innovations in teaching and learning; and new policies to provide our students with even greater opportunities and to advance equity and fundamental fairness.

And, indeed, changes in leadership.

But our core values remain constant, as does our commitment to look to them to guide and inform all that we do and every decision that we make.

Consequently, I have great confidence in the future of the California State University. I have confidence because of our collective commitment to our shared values. And I have confidence because of my steadfast faith in – and great hopes for – this and future generations of our extraordinary, gifted students.

And it’s because of my utmost faith in you.

This abundance of faith gives me comfort and confidence in all that is next.

Because not only do we live our promise...

We keep our promises.

Thank you.