Published by David L. Kaufman, 17th President of Capital University
Following a year as interim president of Capital University, David L. Kaufman was selected in July 2021 to serve as the University’s 17th president. These are the remarks he made on July 26 at a celebration announcing his appointment.
I am humbled and honored to be standing here this morning as the 17th president of Capital University. As I look back on my life and career, never could I have imagined today. I recognize this is a rare opportunity and calling to serve and contribute to something special and much larger than myself.
I want to begin by thanking Andre and the Board of Trustees for the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the previous 16 presidents, all of whom wanted nothing more than to ensure Capital University students received a life-changing education. I greatly value the confidence and trust you have placed in me.
I want to thank our faculty for accepting and welcoming me a year ago as a non-traditional interim president, but someone willing to partner with you to continue the legacy of this great university. Your loyalty to this institution and commitment to our students is what makes Capital special. I’ve watched you make personal sacrifices so that you can leave a significant impact on each student placed in our care.
I greatly value the leadership of our executive team and the teamwork demonstrated by an exceptional staff. Faced with unprecedented challenges and conditions, you demonstrated creativity and teamwork that were unmatched. It’s an honor to work side-by-side with you to pursue our mission and transform lives through higher education.
It’s been a pleasure to meet many alumni over the past year who have shared their heartfelt stories of what it means to be “Cap Fam.” It’s a special community of lifelong learners who give back by paying it forward. Thank you for your support.
Most of all, I want to thank our students, who have welcomed me so warmly. You have shared with me your joys, experiences, concerns, and hopes. Your discipline, drive, and creativity over this past year have inspired our entire community.
And finally, I want to thank my friends and family for their support and encouragement. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without your influence in my life. I would like to especially thank Nan for her love and support as we take this next step together.
I want to take a moment to reflect on this past year. As you might imagine, given the pandemic conditions and social unrest, it was a year of unique challenges and unplanned accomplishments.
My goal of knowing every student, faculty, and staff member by name was complicated by the COVID mandates of masks and social distancing. There are trustees, faculty, staff, and students who I still know only as a 2-inch square on my Zoom screen.
This past year in academia and on campus was like no other …
For one, we didn’t get to experience the traditional Gate Ceremony. Our incoming students did not get the customary celebration of officially walking through the gate and onto campus for the first time as a student. Similarly, our graduates did not experience the traditional celebration of walking out the gate and into the next chapter of their lives. I’m excited for these traditions to return.
We didn’t have the opportunity to sit in Bernlohr Stadium and cheer for our athletic teams. Or experience the magnificent sounds of the holidays reverberating throughout Mees Hall during the Christmas Festival. Or shake hands with our graduates as they walked across the stage to receive their well-deserved diplomas.
But despite the hardships brought on by the pandemic, I saw firsthand the transformative learning for which Capital is known and I want to be a part of.
I participated virtually in the 30th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Learning. I was taken aback by the level of engagement and how professionally the event was done.It was a day that inspired reflection, hope, and action.
I watched our students present their research projects with the pride of being part of a community of intellectual and creative connections. They demonstrated how research and experiential learning play a powerful part in the educational experience.
I saw our faculty develop virtual learning opportunities and create innovative ways to build relationships with their remote students – relationships that have been at the heart of a Capital University education since its founding.
I witnessed the creativity of our Student and Community Engagement staff as they modified “engagement” activities to deliver an outstanding campus experience despite the pandemic conditions.
I saw our staff demonstrate superior teamwork and respond to daily challenges to do what needed to be done – whether that was holding virtual recruitment events; keeping the grass cut and the flowers blooming; working with individual families to make a Capital education affordable; taking care of students in quarantine; or walking the beat to keep our campus safe.
Through these unprecedented times and unheard-of challenges, we persevered. I learned what a special place Capital University is and experienced what it means to be part of the Capital Family.
On May 21, 1850, the Rev. W. M. Reynolds, the University’s first president, spoke about the impact of a Capital education with words and ideas that remain true today. Reynolds said:
What, after all, is education, and what is it that it proposes to accomplish? There must be found and developed in man a certain character; a certain state of the heart as well as the head; certain dispositions of love and goodwill to men, and an abiding sense of duty … When we speak of educating our children, we mean not only their literary instruction, but also their preparation for the discharge of the duties of life by the formation and development of such character as they ought to have as intelligent and moral beings.
Today, 171 years later, Capital’s primary goal remains unchanged. Our mission is to transform lives through higher education.We remain committed to the holistic education of each student, whether they learn virtually or in person, on the main Bexley campus, at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, or in Downtown Columbus at the Law School.
We will build on our many strengths to fulfill Capital’s mission and pursue Reynolds’ original vision of the University.
In considering how we move forward, I’d like to share some expectations.
First and foremost … Everything we do will support student success and deliver a superior student experience through academic challenge, personal development, and social engagement. From providing every undergraduate student with an iPad to help ensure equal access to education, to expanding academic support, campus services, and student success programs, we will ensure that each student has what they need to realize their educational goals.
We will leverage the synergy between teaching and scholarship that exposes undergraduate and graduate students to new ideas and new ways of thinking, making them part of a larger world of intellectual discourse.
Our faculty will remain our strength. We will invest in them as true teacher-scholars, whose research advances the sum of human knowledge and informs their teaching. We will continue to support a faculty whose commitment to students is fundamental to their intellectual and professional lives.
A key to our success will be superior teamwork and integrated support across all our business functions and campus locations. We will provide a positive learning culture with career growth opportunities. Our faculty and staff will trust each other and be bound together by shared values and a common mission.
Our alumni form an international network of support for our students through all career transitions. There is a sense of family – a family that generously gives back by donating their time, talent, and money to support current students and the University’s mission. We will expand our alumni mentoring, and support programs to more effectively connect the future with our storied past.
We will also remain a responsible, good, and caring neighbor. For causes that align with our mission, we will not only get involved but assume a leadership role and make a lasting difference. Capital will be recognized broadly as a leader in higher education and a trusted community partner.
The University will continue to offer the benefits of the Lutheran expression of higher education to everyone. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are foundational aspects of our educational programs and teaching methodology. Our diverse and inclusive climate will foster new opportunities, trusted partnerships, and effective collaboration. The University commits to excellence in all programs and strives to keep higher education accessible to a diverse population of students.
As I assume this leadership responsibility, my approach is to establish a foundation of trust with a clear path forward to achieve our mission and sustain operations.
As a trusted leader, I will demonstrate impeccable character with integrity behind everything we do. Trust will be built through frequent, transparent communications. It may not always be what you want to hear, but it will always be what you need to hear. I will ensure everyone has a voice that is heard as I continue to listen, learn, and lead.
On a foundation of trust, I believe our success requires focus and clear strategic outcomes. In collaboration with the President’s Cabinet, we have drafted a set of immediate goals to lead the University forward:
The first is to unite the collective energy and spirit of the Capital community through the collaborative development of a Strategic Plan. An aspirational plan that involves everyone and unites the college, seminary, and law school.
Second, we will transform our current business model and pursue partnership opportunities to expand enrollment, promote student learning and success, and ensure all programs and services are sustainable.
The third is to establish clear accountability to implement the diversity and inclusion priorities developed and approved this past year. The Capital community will welcome all, value differing perspectives, and champion social justice.
Our fourth goal is to define and promote Capital’s value proposition, including our Lutheran identity, through targeted messaging strategies that clarify our brand and extend our reach to new student populations.
And finally, we will create a trusting, collaborative culture that appropriately supports, develops, recognizes, and compensates each individual contributor.
As I accept this opportunity to serve and pursue these outcomes, my leadership style is pretty simple. You can expect me to demonstrate and ask others to commit to doing three things every day:
To keep all my words positive with no blaming, complaining, or getting defensive. You will not find a more positive and accountable leader or leadership team.
To learn one new thing every day. I will make mistakes, but promise to learn from them. I will strive to be better today than I was yesterday, and better tomorrow than I am today.
To give my best effort every day. No matter what the assignment or challenge, I will give my best effort and expect the same from my team. No one will outwork us.
Although simple, leading by this example will create a positive, learning, high-performing organization. It will generate the momentum needed to achieve our mission and differentiate us in a crowded marketplace.
Thank you for this opportunity to contribute to something special that leaves a significant impact on those we serve. Our students, forever transformed by their Capital education, will carry forward the knowledge and personal growth experienced on campus to make a lasting difference in the community where they live, work, and serve.
A difference and impact that we will prepare them to make.
I welcome this special opportunity to serve and appreciate your confidence, trust, and support. It’s an honor to formally be part of the Capital Family.