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President James V. Koch opened his State of the University address Aug. 26 by encouraging the campus community to keep pace with the dynamism of today's world and to accept the challenge of dealing effectively with what Harvard's Clayton Christensen terms "disruptive technologies," those innovations which Koch said usually start small but end up creating new
industries such as telephones and microprocessors.

To close his remarks, Koch turned back the pages of history to the American Civil War, relating a story that he said might serve as a parable for our future.

"(Christensen) argues that large firms -- and most universities -- are not ready to shake up their ways of doing things, not ready to take the risks that are necessary for them to succeed in the 21st century," Koch said. "He suggests that we in academe are so hidebound that the only way we can succeed is by establishing completely separate organizations that can
function almost as startups. Whether or not you are of the same mind, I think you will agree that these are interesting and thought-provoking questions."

The president went on to say that "the penalty for not responding quickly to a rapidly changing world, and not being willing to adjust our procedures and organizational structures, is irrelevancy."

"We at Old Dominion have excelled because frequently we have been quicker to the mark and more adaptable than some institutions of higher education. This must continue to be our mode of operation. '

President Koch shared many highlights of the past year during his address, as well as some recent news. He announced that, thanks to its expanded offerings of classes on nights and weekends, Old Dominion now utilizes the typical classroom 46 hours per week, the highest rate in Virginia.

The president also noted that this fall the university will "purchase home Internet access for more than 600 faculty members so that they are able to communicate with their students and do their work any time and, using a
remote dial-up, do it any place."

He credited Provost Jo Ann Gora for her leadership role in producing a new Strategic Plan, and encouraged faculty and administrators to read the new document.

Koch labeled the past year as a time of "tremendous achievement" for the university, which he said was reflected by media coverage of Old Dominion research and programs. This included major stories in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, as well as C-SPAN's coverage of spring commencement.

"Vice President John Broderick and his colleagues deserve great credit for stimulating such superb coverage," Koch said.

The president also stated that Old Dominion should pursue additional federally funded research to satisfy Carnegie Foundation standards for classifying the university as a Carnegie Research II institution.

"There is no reason why we cannot achieve this goal in the next few years if we focus time, resources and attention on it. The resulting research activity would be highly beneficial to the university and the students it supports, to say nothing of the Hampton Roads region, which directly benefits from Old Dominion's technological initiatives and economic impact. Our new associate vice president, Michael Dingerson, will be working to move us toward this goal."

In addition to announcing the seven faculty members who were selected as this year's University Professors, Koch mentioned many group and individual achievements over the past year, including the election of Mark D. Havey, professor of physics, as a Fellow of the prestigious American Physical Society.

Discussing what he termed important issues and future directions, Koch said the university's higher admissions standards are working well. Old Dominion now denies admission to approximately one in three freshman applicants, which makes the university more selective than 80 percent of all institutions of higher education. He noted that Old Dominion was the second
most frequent choice among this year's outstanding high school seniors in South Hampton Roads, as featured in The Virginian-Pilot.

He also pointed out that the university has maintained its diversity, with 35 percent of last fall's entering freshman class composed of African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and international students.

Offering an update on the progress of the University Village, Koch said Old Dominion now owns or has under contract 60 of the 72 necessary properties for the first phase of the project, which includes the Constant Convocation Center and two parking garages.

"Absent extensive delays, we will clear the building area by the end of this year and seek bids for the construction of (the center) and related parking decks next spring."

Koch said that later next year the construction of housing with 1,200 new apartment beds is expected to begin east of Constant Center.

Pointing out that the new Virginia Beach Higher Education Center is now open for business, the president noted that construction should begin within the next year on a new Peninsula Center on the campus of Thomas Nelson Community College.

On the subject of reallocation of resources, Koch told those assembled in MGB, "I am pleased to report that Old Dominion ranks second among its 24 peer institutions in the percentage of its budget devoted to instruction."

He added, "My hope is that during the next year the Faculty Senate will provide me and other administrators with well-considered counsel about faculty preferences concerning our internal resource allocation, with due
regard for the reality that choice-making will be necessary."

Of his intention to step down as president in July 2001, Koch said the decision "did not reflect unhappiness with any group of individuals."

"I have personal projects as a research scholar that I want to complete, and a finite number of years exist in everyone's career during which these things can be accomplished," he said.

Koch added, "I will proudly assume the position of Board of Visitors Professor of Economics and will teach primarily there and occasionally in the Department of History . . . ."

He closed his address with a Civil War story about Union Gen. Edwin V. "Bull" Sumner, who ignored the entreaties of officers in his command to mount an attack against the Confederates that, according to historical accounts, might well have destroyed their army and possibly have led to a rapid conclusion of the war.

The story, Koch said, offers lessons for administrators and faculty alike:
1. Do not ignore those closest to the action.
2. Know your closest colleagues well, earn their trust and learn to trust
them. You must depend upon your colleagues and subordinates.
3. Opportunities often exist, but they are not always right in front of us.
It may take some vision and flexibility to take advantage of them. We
shouldn't expect God to deliver us an action tablet containing step-by-step
directions. We must be creative.
4. Be open to competing ideas, strategies and approaches. Most good ideas
started somewhere else. Keep an open mind.
5. Seek a diversity of views whenever possible. Stay out of comfortable
intellectual and operational ruts.
6. Be willing to take intelligent risks. The success of firms such as
Microsoft and AOL did not come about because they chose the sure and
certain path.
7. Be quick and agile. Opportunities come and go. Like missed buses,
sometimes they never reappear. Sometimes being prompt and being first often
are more important in a rapidly evolving technological world than waiting
for elusive perfection.

This article was posted on: August 25, 1999

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Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.