Reflect on past and future U

Today marks the midpoint of the University’s Founders Week. For the University, this is a week set aside for reflection and pondering of its roots and mission. However, this year Founders Week is also a time for looking forward; Founders Week will culminate in the installation of the University’s 16th president, Robert Bruininks. Naturally, in the near future, President Bruininks will concern himself with the ever-increasing demands and roles this University has been called on to satisfy. However, while the University moves forward, it behooves it and all its constituents to remember and re-dedicate itself to fulfilling its mission and special role as a land-grant university.

The University’s history and status demand serving a broad community. Initially founded in 1851, the University began as a preparatory school. After closing briefly, it reopened after the federal passage of the Morrill Act. At the time of the Act, private universities were in existence but served only a select elite. The Morrill Act provided federal funding for states to establish land-grant institutions meant to enrich the lives of the country’s largely rural and relatively poor citizenry. In the words of Senator Morrill, “The land-grant colleges were founded on the idea that a higher and broader education should be placed in every State within the reach of those whose destiny assigns them.” The University, as a member of this set, has a special duty to and special relationship with the people of Minnesota.

Moving forward, the University must remember the debts it owes, the roots from which it sprang and how they fit within its modern framework. No longer is there a dearth of higher education in this country. Within Minnesota alone, not including the University, there are seventeen private colleges, thirty-four members of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and numerous other educational opportunities. What these other institutions do not provide, and what the University has been nationally recognized for, is research. The University is the only educational opportunity for Minnesota students who wish to do world-class research and push the boundaries of knowledge in their respective fields. By focusing on research and remaining accessible to all Minnesotans, the University is best able to align its past with the future.