Friday, July 1, 2022
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
As July 4th nears, I am reminded of a day that personally has patriotic meaning for me: August 22, 1995, the day I became a U.S. citizen. I vividly remember the sense of excitement and responsibility that I felt on that day when I stood alongside hundreds of other new Americans. As a new citizen in that courthouse in Columbus, Ohio, I felt the excitement of becoming a member of the most dynamic collective human experience in history and imagined that this was how our trailblazing ancestors must have felt. I sensed that we have come not only to benefit from America’s vast offering, but also to contribute to its growth, dynamism and potentialities.
Last week in my message, “The most essential element,” I highlighted the Emancipation Proclamation, which came with the promise of freedom for enslaved people in America. This Monday, we will celebrate the fundamental premise that created a free nation with an innovative system of self-determination and the embodiment of human dignity and freedom that ultimately made the 13th Amendment and the abolition of slavery possible: the establishment of American democracy.
Yes, we will celebrate the birth of the American democracy that has placed faith in the concept of “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” The concept that has resulted in an amalgam of races, cultures, ideas, faiths and yes, differences, that has functioned to create a social experience like no other in human history – the American experience. “We are not a narrow tribe,” as Herman Melville so beautifully expressed. In fact, it is fair to say that we are not merely a nation; rather, we are a world.
Clearly here at S&T, as a microcosm of America, our international students, faculty, staff and alumni contribute greatly to our university, community and country, as I have mentioned in previous emails, such as “Join me for Celebration of Nations,” inviting all to a signature S&T event. Those who have become American citizens or are on their way to becoming the newest Americans, while not abandoning our identities and our past, have fully subscribed to Thomas Wolfe’s committed assertion of America: “I think the true discovery of America is before us. I think the true fulfillment of our spirit, of our people, of our mighty and immortal land, is yet to come. I think the true discovery of our own democracy is still before us. And I think that all these things are certain as the morning, as inevitable as noon.”
I think of alumni like Farouk El-Baz, who came to Rolla from his native Egypt and went on to a career with NASA and helped determine the landing spot on the moon for Apollo 11. And Tyrone Smith, a stellar student-athlete at S&T who earned his bachelor’s degree in history, then represented his home country of Bermuda in the Olympic Games in Beijing, London and Rio de Janiero. And Mariana Rodriguez, a civil engineering graduate who helped found two universities and two technical institutes in her native Peru. And chemical engineer Bipin Doshi, a trustee of our wonderful university who literally “came to America with nothing but the suit on my back” and became a successful entrepreneur with his wife, Linda, providing jobs and livelihoods for hundreds.
Our university and society are also greatly enriched by international faculty such as Dr. Francisca Oboh-Ikuenobe, professor of geology and associate dean for academic affairs for the College of Engineering and Computing, who has mentored our students for decades and was honored for her work in the Museum of the Earth’s “Daring to Dig: Women in American Paleontology” exhibit. And Dr. Vadym Mochalin, whose research team is making intriguing discoveries into physics and chemistry materials on the nanoscale. And Dr. Irina Ivliyeva, professor of Russian, who has led our Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence program to ensure success of our valued faculty members as teaching scholars at all stages of their careers. And Dr. Grace Yan, who leads potentially lifesaving research by using a tornado simulator – yes, you read that correctly – to better understand the destructive nature of tornados to inform recommendations for building safer homes, schools and other structures.
All of us naturalized Americans deeply appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the development of this actuality called America and, more importantly, to the potentiality of the American dream. We hope to be able to contribute to Woodrow Wilson’s beautiful concept of “reducing inhumanity and maximizing hope.” And we hope to be able to contribute to the achievement of what is left to be done on the agenda.
Wishing you a happy 4th.
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