Selected Speeches

Employee Service Awards

April 2, 2015
SMC Campus Center, Elm Ballroom


Good morning. It’s an honor to be here today to celebrate employee service and excellence.

You know, these lunches are rather humbling for me, because my tenure at UMB is comparatively short when placed alongside the service of so many in this room. I’ve been in the presidency just five years. Even if you include my earlier service in the School of Medicine, my time at the University is only half of those celebrating 20 years—a quarter of those celebrating 40 years. I’m surprised you even let me in the room.

Together, the long-serving employees we honor today have dedicated 2,345 years to this University. So it’s clear that UMB’s reputation—our good name and our good works—they say a lot more about all of you than they do about me.

There’s enormous value in the kind of deep institutional knowledge represented in this room. You know the University’s strengths—and our challenges. Our history and traditions. Our culture and climate. You’re the ones whom colleagues seek out when they need the impossible. And they always seem to need the impossible.

You can tell me what’s worth trying, and what’s been tried before—what encourages progress and what stifles it. And, in fact, you do tell me. Every day.

Your perspective is critically important—because if time levels the peaks and the valleys, it means that you have a better view to the horizon.

Yours is the vision we need, and I thank you for it.

In addition to our long-serving employees, today we recognize dozens of others whose commitment to their jobs and to the University stands out as exemplary.

Our Staff Senators are here. Their powerful advocacy improves their colleagues’ working lives; and ensures that every employee is able to help UMB achieve its ambitions. We’re stronger for your efforts.

With us are three nominees for the Board of Regents Award, a system-wide recognition of truly exceptional service. As they say at the Oscars, it’s a great honor even to be nominated. And I wish you all the very best.

Our Employees of the Month are here. From this deep pool of talent and dedication, we’ll select our Employee of the Year. It’s one of UMB’s highest staff honors, and each of you would be a deserving winner.


There’s something incredibly special about 7,000 people pulling together each day to make this University run as well as it does—to make it teach like it’s supposed to, and innovate like it’s supposed to, and engage like it’s supposed to; to serve our many constituencies not only with skill, but with care; and to graduate each spring a group of truly amazing women and men.

I know what you contribute to this University. Not on daily basis—I don’t know what kind of day you’ve had today, what you left behind to come to this lunch, or what’s waiting for you when you get back.

But I do know what your work looks like in the aggregate. I see its profound impact. I meet the people made better by your gift to the public good.

Your work matters. You know it matters. And you do it like it matters. I hope there’s a great amount of fulfillment in that.

I can’t imagine you’d be here as long as you have—or that you’d serve with this kind of distinction—if you didn’t get something from this community that’s made all the early mornings and packed days and barely-there weekends worth it.

It’s been worth it every day for me.

Because five years ago, I inherited a University defined by its excellence, populated by some of the most talented, committed, and passionate people I’ve ever met. I slipped into a job that you’ve made meaningful and interesting and easier than it should be. So I thank you for the very long coattails.


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