Opening Convocation and Celebration: Welcome and Greetings by UC Regents Chairman Gerald Parsky
Distinguished guests, parents, students, members of the UC Merced family, our good neighbors throughout the Valley, our wonderful Chancellor - referred to as Carol by the young and old, and everyone will soon know her as Carol - on behalf of the Regents and the entire University, I thank you for joining us on this momentous day.
UC Merced has been in the making for 17 years since the Regents first proposed adding a 10th campus to address the education needs of the Valley and accommodate the rapid population growth projected for California. That makes the planning process as old as some of the freshmen who will begin college careers here this week.
However, vision takes time, courage and leadership. Throughout that time, UC Merced has been blessed with strong bipartisan support - across four gubernatorial administrations, a period of term limits that brought many new faces to the Legislature, and the arrival and departure of dozens of Regents in this historic campus-building process.
To all of the elected officials and community leaders who have been dear friends of UC Merced, we thank you.
Today, the state of California has the fastest-growing and youngest population in the nation. For the University, this population growth represents a challenge of educational access. For the Valley, the fastest-growing region in the state, these opportunities carry the possibility of renewed economic and community vitality.
UC Merced will help fulfill the promise of access to qualified students from all over the state. Even more inspiring, nearly one half of these students will be the first in their families to go to college. Today, we look forward to this new campus to help inspire the educational dreams of young people and their families throughout the Valley for generations to come.
To the parents and students here today, I cannot fully express how proud I am to share this day with you. As a parent, I have felt the excitement and wonder of sending a child to college, to dream of the future.
While creating new opportunities for students, the innovative research and intellectual energy at the new campus will also be a powerful engine for economic growth, new businesses and job creation throughout the Valley.
We look for UC Merced's presence - its faculty, its research, its alumni - to spark an economic renaissance for the Valley, just as the University has elsewhere in our Golden State.
Almost all of the industries in which California now leads the world grew out of university-based research. We have seen the economic potential realized in regions like San Diego, Santa Cruz and Orange County, where UC campuses were founded 40 years ago, bustling with new industries that didn't exist there before - biotech, telecommunications, information technology and environmental science clusters that lead the world, with companies founded by UC faculty and alumni that are the pioneers of today's economy.
In San Diego, where I live, UC has spawned a telecommunications revolution, creating dozens of globally competitive companies, thousands of high-paying jobs and strong economic growth for the entire community. Likewise, biotech innovations have fueled the regional economy and lead to amazing medical treatments and technologies that improve the quality of life for all Californians.
Across the state, one in four biotech firms was founded by UC scientists and engineers, and the overwhelming majority of these vibrant companies employ UC alumni in key scientific positions. Similarly, one in six California IT and communications firms has a UC connection, and a majority of them employ UC alumni as well-paid executives. More than 1,000 California biotech, high-tech and other R&D-intensive companies put UC research to work every day.
Where will the Valley economy be in 40 years? We look for the Merced campus to do for the Valley in the 21st century what earlier UC campuses did for other parts of California in the previous four decades.
Just as UC research a century ago transformed the alkali soils of the Valley into the greatest agricultural region in the world, UC Merced will again transform the life of the Valley.
To students, faculty and staff, as you join the UC fold today, let me welcome you on behalf of the Regents. We are grateful for your courage and adventurous spirit.