Remarks by Timothy P. White - November 20, 2019

Remarks by Timothy P. White
Chancellor, The California State University
CSU Board of Trustees – Chancellor's Report
Long Beach, California
November 20, 2019


Thank you, Chairman Day, for your kind words. They are much appreciated. Do know that I plan to cross the finish line and meet you in a full run.

On a more somber note, from October 23rd through November 7th, wildfires once again ravaged northern and southern California. The fires, and the related public safety power shut-offs, forced five CSU campuses to close for varying periods of time: Maritime, Humboldt, Sonoma, Channel Islands and San Bernardino. Maritime – which was evacuated and lost a campus-owned building and several vehicles – was closed for 10 days.

The statistics from Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service are difficult to wrap one’s mind around. This fall alone, more than 6,000 wildfires have burned over a quarter million acres. And those figures pale in comparison to the 2018 fire season – the most deadly and destructive ever recorded in California – when more than 8,500 wildfires burned almost 2 million acres… tragically resulting in the loss of at least 88 lives. Those of us in this room don’t need to be reminded of the devastating impact to our Cal State community.

We have enough evidence today of our reality: the potentially existential implications of climate change.

It’s a reality that’s not lost on our youth. In September of this year – in what’s believed to be the world’s largest-ever youth-led demonstration – millions of young people took to the streets throughout California, America and across every continent… to demand action on climate change now. I have no doubt many current and future Cal State students joined those demonstrations.

The passion, the emerging intellect and the sense of urgency was palpable…and impressive. It reminded me of our critical role as stewards of a sustainable planet and future. And it also reminded me of our responsibility – as the state and national leader in teacher preparation – to help direct this energy and develop this brainpower by providing the educational foundation for the next and future generations of climate-literate, environmental champions.

The UC – CSU Environmental and Climate Change Literacy Project and Summit (or “ECCLPS”) shows great promise in this regard. Led by faculty and administrative leaders from the CSU and the UC, ECCLPS is a coalition of educators, scientists, environmentalists and nonprofit organizations. Their mission is to scale PK through 12 education initiatives around the environment and sustainability, so that California’s youth will become better stewards of our planet than the generations that preceded them… capable of tackling climate change and environmental disruption moving forward.

Subcommittees are currently focusing on pre-service teacher preparation, in-service teacher training and curricula development, and will issue a full-scale report – with recommendations for next steps in each of these areas – at the ECCLPS Summit, December 11th and 12th at UCLA.

This is consequential work. And it is perfectly aligned with the CSU’s holistic commitment to sustainability throughout all our operations – from the way we build and manage our facilities, to our water and energy efficiency programs, and, of course our academic programs and research opportunities. I look forward to the day when these students… by the thousands… inspired and already literate in climate change issues and solutions… set foot on our campuses. There – under the guidance of our world-class faculty and staff – they’ll be able to immerse themselves in the transformative educational opportunities for climate action that exist in our classrooms, laboratories and the communities we serve.

I look forward to that day… with great hope. With great optimism.

In closing, I would like to echo Chairman Day in wishing all of you a joyous holiday season. It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is almost upon us – it’s perhaps my favorite holiday. Taking a moment to reflect in gratitude is such an important – and healthy – exercise. It’s a shame that it sometimes takes a national holiday to remind us to do so.

And I have much to be grateful for, both personally and professionally. Near the top of my list are the CSU’s campus leaders, faculty and staff, this Board, our partners in Sacramento and in our communities – everyone who works so hard to fulfill or support our mission on behalf of our remarkable students and this great state.

Of course, inextricably linked to gratitude is compassion… for those who are enduring hardship… for those who are suffering… for those who aspire to rise from challenging circumstances. No one knew this better than the First Lady of Cal Maritime.

Heather Cropper’s compassion was lived out – embodied in a lifetime devoted to service to others. Her decades of support for military families were recognized in 2012 when she was awarded the Navy Meritorious Public Service Award, one of the Navy’s highest honors presented to civilians. Throughout her adult life, she helped provide educational opportunities for women around the world through the P.E.O. Sisterhood. And, since 2012, she dedicated herself to the well-being and care of thousands of Maritime cadets, faculty and staff – with an ever-present smile and boundless kindness and grace.

Anne Heather Cropper’s courageous nine-month battle with cancer ended peacefully on November 3rd, surrounded by her children and husband, President Cropper.

Tom, I know I speak for the entire Cal State community when I say that you and your family remain in our hearts and on our minds. May the remembrance of Heather’s extraordinary life – and its far-reaching impact – bring you comfort in this time of loss.

Chairman Day, this concludes my report.