Johns Hopkins Gazette: February 24, 1997

Excerpts From
The President's

(Note: Below are highlights of the prepared text of President Brody's address. To read the full text and view photographs of the event, visit the inaugural web site at

Mr. Chairman and members of the Board of Trustees, students and colleagues on the faculty, honored alumni and distinguished friends of Johns Hopkins: I accept this presidential insignia and the responsibilities it represents with gratitude and reverence and a profound sense of optimism for the future of this great university.

All of us assembled here today are keenly aware of the legacy and accomplishments and unique character of this university. Hopkins is a place where new models are created to solve vexing problems, where a spirit of entrepreneurial adventure imbues our activities. It is a place where individual initiative is prized. Indeed, we can say that spirit is not only prized, it is expected, and this university has prospered greatly because of this tradition.

Although each of my 12 predecessors, stretching back to the renowned Dr. Gilman himself, has had to confront the simple fact that Hopkins has limited financial resources, I would contend today that in many respects we are a very wealthy university. We are rich in reputation; we are rich in talent; we are rich in innovative capability; we are rich in dreams.

To those of you assembled here in Shriver Hall, or watching a live remote broadcast across campus, and to our many friends literally around the world who may be receiving a transmission of these proceedings through the Internet, I extend heartfelt thanks on behalf of myself and my family for your warm support. Truly, we have much to celebrate together.

But we cannot ignore what lies ahead. Poised as we are at the end of the millenium, with more than a century's worth of accomplishment defining our past, we find the greatest challenge in our future is the matter of continuity. How do we continue, and enlarge, the legacy Mr. Hopkins, President Gilman and all their successors have bequeathed us?

For the past century, American universities have provided extraordinary leadership, and Johns Hopkins has been a leader among that group. Now the question confronts us: what must we do to continue our role as a premier research university?

For we find ourselves in the midst of a profound reordering of the political, social and economic fabric of our global village. It is fueled by dramatic advances in science and technology. Facing this, we must ask ourselves how to preserve the fundamental tenet of the university: the freedom to explore new ideas no matter how bold, no matter how much they challenge the established dogma.

We are in the middle of a revolution. It has been brought about by the new manner in which knowledge is generated and information disseminated. And the university is at ground zero of this information explosion. The force of these changes is so powerful that we must adapt or lose our relevance to society.

Those who predict the demise of the university from the new proliferation of bits and bytes are perhaps missing the point. To be sure, the university, and the research university in particular, will have to be configured very differently in the 21st century. Exactly how this difference will manifest itself we cannot predict with certainty.

Fundamentally, we must come to understand that we are just one player, engaged in a worldwide effort to expand and exploit knowledge. It is a pursuit that is no longer the exclusive domain of the universities. There is a very real "knowledge industry" outside our doors now--it is the foundation of the new economy-- and that industry is in the midst of cataclysmic changes.

For our part, we need to acknowledge that universities are no longer the sole focus for the creation of new knowledge. Neither will we have exclusive rights to provide education and training.

As universities, we must remake ourselves in the context of this new information age. This calls for a process, not a single event. It is a process bound to last longer than the term of one university president. But it is a process that, irrefutably, is already under way.

In the course of events that are to come, I would suggest that several areas bear particular attention. The first of these is the way we organize and access information. The academy is changing its role as the central, physical repository of our civilization's intellectual content.

To understand this change, we need to distinguish between information and knowledge. We are in the so-called "information age." This age is quite different and distinct from what I would call the "knowledge age." Perhaps if we're lucky, the knowledge age will come next.

In fact, what we crave is better access to knowledge, not information. Knowledge is content that is assimilated, collated and interpreted to provide a unique perspective that helps us perform a task, solve a problem or stimulate our intellect. The paradox of our times is that we are inundated by information, yet starved for knowledge.

The promise of the libraries of the future is to provide material "just-for-you." In these libraries, faculty and students maintain a database of their scholarly interests and the library will, using intelligent searching methods, provide material that is individually tailored for each person. Such methods are being investigated already on the Internet.

This is an area where I believe Hopkins can, and should, establish a leadership role. Financial pressures alone may make this effort a matter of necessity in the near future. One of my goals is to see this university take up the challenge of designing and implementing the library of the future.

Central to our mission as a research university is the way in which we discover new knowledge and disseminate that knowledge through education.

How will the information age change the way we carry out that mission?

I believe there are three ways we may be affected. First, I think we will witness the transformation of the university from a physical campus, or specific geographic locus, to a dispersed, virtual campus. It will be a university campus in which bits and bytes replace bricks and mortar, one in which scholars and students can communicate and collaborate electronically without the necessity of proximity. Such a network of scholars can preserve the essence of our Hopkins 'hand-tooled' education envisioned by Dr. Gilman, one in which the student is stimulated to learn by working closely with a faculty member to find answers to unsolved questions.

Second, the university will need to expand its horizons to become more global in its outlook and its outreach. This must include the way we reach students, an increasing number of whom will come from other countries. It means we must also provide a truly international education to our U.S. students. We have already established campuses in Italy and China. By capitalizing on information technology we should develop ways to establish our presence in other countries as well, providing innovative programs for both American and international students.

And third, and perhaps most fundamentally, we must view the educational process not as a finite encounter lasting a few semesters, but as a lifelong continuum. During this process, there is a term of intensive collaboration--mentorship, if you will--in which we educate students in "learning how to learn." These are the traditional undergraduate and graduate years. They will be followed by repeated, periodic encounters with Hopkins faculty for continuing education and training.

This, I believe, is the new paradigm of post-secondary education. The pace of discovery is so rapid today that one cannot accumulate sufficient knowledge in a four-year undergraduate curriculum to fuel a lifelong career. Or more probably, a lifetime of several careers. We must make a commitment to lifelong learning for our students. This represents not only a challenge, but an incredible opportunity for Johns Hopkins.

Why? Because we already have a head-start in this arena. Already, we are active with pre-college students through five different programs at Hopkins. We have pioneered adult continuing education since the first part of this century and fully one-half of our students are now enrolled in part-time programs. In addition, we participate in one of the largest Elderhostel programs in the country.

We can capitalize on this intrinsic strength in non-traditional education to expand our commitment to lifelong learning. It is imperative that we do so. For the university, the whirlwind of change brought about by new technologies and new expectations poses distinct challenges. The goal of continuity, to which I first alluded, means developing new programs, new models and new relationships suitable to the 21st century. It means not standing still.

Yet we must accomplish this within a new world economy that places major constraints on our ability to take bold and decisive steps. These new economics dictate that the steadily rising costs of higher education cannot continue unabated.

Therefore, it is imperative that we control our costs and stem the historical growth of tuition at the same time we expand our endowment. We must make higher education more available, and more affordable.

As we look to the future, it is important to remember the university does not exist within a vacuum. Hopkins has always been responsive to problems of national and international significance. Today, more than ever, we cannot ignore the divergence of our world into what former Secretary of State George Schultz calls the two societies: one "rich, aging and stagnant," the other "poor, young and growing."

Our sense of community, increasingly an international one, dictates that Hopkins will focus on finding the means to address these inequities across the world, as well as here at home in our own neighborhoods. We will need to bring that focus to bear more globally, sharing resources and building partnerships that extend across departments and divisions, across the street, across town, across the country and around the world.

Education, we believe, is the key to economic and human potential. And so our mission of teaching and research is not merely an avocation, but a sacred responsibility, forming the basis of our commitment to service in the cause of our fellow human beings. For Hopkins is just one part of a community of scholarship, founded on humanistic principles. I hope the cordial and constructive relationship shared by all the schools represented here today will only grow and deepen in the years ahead. I pledge my personal support to foster this effort in every way possible.

The state of Maryland, which has long been a stalwart supporter of higher education, can only benefit from our collaboration. In the next few years, new for-profit corporations will be entering the education arena, once the exclusive domain of colleges and universities. I envision an entrepreneurial drive to transform the mid-Atlantic region by helping to create new companies from the educational technologies and content many of us are now developing.

The corridor from Washington to Baltimore is headquarters to many corporations engaged in education, telecommunications and software development. Coupled with the large number of public and private colleges and universities in the area, we can set about to create the Chesapeake equivalent of Silicon Valley. I call it "Education Alley," a world center of entrepreneurial leadership in educational technology. Such a strategic alliance of university and corporate partners could provide significant economic benefits to Maryland and to the entire mid-Atlantic region.

[Certain] events--that of the introduction of book publishing, and later printing, and then electronic voice communications--were times of great change. They were also moments of extraordinary opportunity. Some of that change was traumatic. All of it made for an exciting moment to be alive and engaged at the frontiers of knowledge.

It is our fate, and I would say our good luck, not only to be witness to, but to be players in, another such epoch of human history. We have within our hands_now_the chance to build the new academy, founded on an underpinning of mature experience, and flown on the pinions of youthful idealism. For Hopkins, after all, is at heart a young institution, still brash in our second hundred years.

Our efforts to shape the future must be well-considered, but they dare not be timid. Too much is at stake. The unique opportunities of our times are too great to squander. Losing them, it is unlikely they will come again. And yet, standing before you today, knowing this university as I do, and having met and worked with the superbly talented faculty who define and shape our efforts, I cannot help but be optimistic.

I believe the future for Johns Hopkins is very bright indeed. It is a pleasure to be here today.

Thank you very much.

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