Chancellor Block speaks at a basketball banquet; Chancellor Block, in academic attire, speaks at Commencement; Chancellor Block gestures with his hands

Parents' Weekend Welcome Address

Royce Hall

October 29, 2010


Thank you, John and Kathy [Larson].

Good morning! I’m delighted you’re all here. This is my fourth Parents’ Weekend as chancellor. I can tell you that this is truly a highlight of the year at UCLA.

My wife, Carol, and I look forward to meeting new Bruin parents each fall—and welcoming back a few veterans! This is the largest Parents’ Weekend ever, and it continues to grow.

To the parents of new students, I’m sure many of you are feeling mixed emotions this weekend. When Carol and I visited The Hill on move-in weekend, we were reminded of the anxiety that we felt when we left our kids at college—not so long ago.  Although the experience at UCLA is much better, I understand how many of you are feeling. But you can—and should—be very proud of your sons and daughters. We had a record number of freshman applicants this year—it’s incredible—more than 57,000 for about 4,700 spots. You can tell your children are extraordinary. Our students really are the best of the best. 

The academic year is off to a great start—we kicked it off with our second annual UCLA Volunteer Day. Thousands of new students and hundreds of employees and alumni pitched in at more than 20 sites around Los Angeles. They cleaned up beaches, helped restore nature trails, served meals at a shelter and repainted schools. There was blue throughout the entire city; it was really impressive. They got to experience volunteering, but they also actually accomplished something. 

Carol and I got to join the students who were working at the Union Rescue Mission and Angelus Senior Center. I was proud to see our students—your children—getting out into the community and making a difference in Los Angeles. It was really inspiring to see their enthusiasm—even if it meant they had to wake up before 7 a.m.! Students danced with some of the seniors at Angelus, and you should have seen the seniors’ faces.

They’ll have many more opportunities to volunteer this year, and we hope these activities inspire them to continue volunteering throughout their UCLA careers—and to make service an integral part of their lives beyond college. So we’re building a great sense of community service.

I’m proud to say that our strength in community service was a key reason we were Number 3 in this year’s Washington Monthly national college rankings—ahead of Stanford and Harvard, by the way. The rankings look at social mobility, research strength and service, so they’re especially meaningful to us at UCLA.

Our students were the driving force behind another wonderful event, just two weeks ago. October 14 would have been the 100th birthday of UCLA’s legendary basketball coach, John Wooden. As many of you know, Coach Wooden passed away in June—it was a tremendous loss for the entire nation, especially UCLA. Coach Wooden led UCLA to 10 national championships and is generally considered the greatest coach of the 20th century. As respected as he was on the court, Coach Wooden was admired just as much for what he taught us about leadership, teamwork and the pursuit of excellence. His values are, in many ways, UCLA values, and your children are now a part of his UCLA legacy.

In honor of Coach Wooden’s centennial, a team of students spoke about his legacy to fourth- and fifth-graders at the UCLA Community School—and to students at University High in West L.A. They wrapped up the day with an evening of tributes at the Wooden Center. By the way, the Athletics Hall of Fame in the Morgan Center has a wonderful display of memorabilia from Coach Wooden’s home. If you have time during this busy day, I encourage you to stop and take a look—it’s open until 5 o’clock.

I also hope many of you are planning to join me tomorrow at the Rose Bowl for the football game against Arizona. I’m hoping and praying for a big win for the Bruins!

Now, I want to say a few words about the budget situation. First, let me say that I am keenly aware that the past two years have been a very difficult time for many of our students and their families.

With the economic downturn, many families are stretching themselves to pay for college. I know it has been a challenge. At the same time, state funding for the University of California is at an all-time low, so this has been a difficult time for public higher education. There has been some good news. Fortunately, the new state budget, which was finally passed this month, restored some of the funds that had been cut last year. But it’s clear that state support for public higher education won’t return to the levels we were accustomed to. So we are implementing an aggressive strategy to build a UCLA that is even more efficient and better prepared to thrive in the 21st century. 

One important aspect of the plan is that we’re re-examining academic requirements—taking a closer look at how many courses are really necessary for an academic major. Through any changes we make, we will ensure that students continue to have access to the courses and resources they need to graduate in a timely manner. We’re also pursuing initiatives that will produce new revenue streams. We’re enhancing our focus on translational research—getting more of our faculty’s inventions into the marketplace—especially in biomedical sciences.

Our faculty in those areas create intellectual property that can lead to licensing and royalty revenues for UCLA—as well as launching new businesses and creating new jobs, which will benefit Los Angeles and the state. It’s also clear that private support will be more essential than ever for UCLA. Fortunately, we continue to be the beneficiaries of generous financial support from alumni, parents and friends—in Los Angeles and around the country. UCLA received more than $379 million in gifts and pledges in the past year—especially impressive given the economy. Gifts, both large and small—each gift makes a difference and we are deeply appreciative of philanthropy from our friends.

As we explore each of these new avenues for strengthening UCLA, a guiding principle is to ensure that UCLA remains excellent for this and future generations of students. We must also continue to fulfill our mission as a great public university: to serve California and the nation. 

Despite the economic challenges, we’re continuing to take advantage of opportunities to move UCLA in new directions. It’s impressive to consider what we’re accomplishing.

As many of you have seen, there’s quite a bit of construction on the Hill. When it’s complete, we’ll have 775 new rooms for undergraduates, a total of 1,525 beds—and wonderful new dining and recreation space. We want to continue to attract world-class students, so this is an important investment in our future.

Our research enterprise continues to expand as well. Last year, we took in more than $1.1 billion in competitive grants, which is a record for UCLA.

Our world-class faculty continued to earn the most prestigious awards, including Guggenheim and Sloan fellowships, and election to the top academic societies. 

Also, for the second year in a row, a UCLA alumnus won a Nobel Prize. Last year, Elinor Ostrom, a professor at Indiana, won for Economics. This year, it was Richard Heck, who is retired from the University of Delaware, earning the Nobel in Chemistry. He’s the sixth UCLA graduate to win a Nobel.

Our student-athletes are also achieving at the highest level. In the past year, our gymnastics and softball teams won NCAA championships, bringing our total to 106—most in the nation. And our baseball team came close, making it the College World Series finals for the first time ever. We’re proud of all of them.

So, although the economy has been a challenge, we weathered the past year extremely well. We continued to take major strides in building a stronger UCLA. Most importantly, we also continued to ensure that your children have the resources they need to excel­—both as students and as alumni.

One exciting new project that is scheduled to launch soon is called BruinWorks. It’s a networking website exclusively for UCLA graduates and students. 

During my three years here, I have observed that the UCLA community does a great job of taking care of one another. Now, through BruinWorks and other Alumni Office programs, we’re encouraging our graduates to serve as resources for current students—to share their advice, hire current students for internships or bring them in for interviews when they graduate. I want our students to know that when they come to UCLA, they become part of an incredible legacy. One day, they’ll have the chance to share their expertise with future generations of Bruins. 

I also want to make certain our students are prepared to excel in this global economy. That’s one reason we’re excited about UCLA’s increased focus on global partnerships. We’re actively developing opportunities for shared research, joint conferences and student exchanges—in particular with universities in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. 

UCLA is an internationally recognized “brand” but now we’re working to translate that into stronger engagement with leading institutions around the world. UCLA should be an important player internationally. In fact, we recently hosted three foreign presidents—the leaders of Chile, Croatia and the Dominican Republic all were here during a one-week period last month. 

Your children are an impressive group—I’m constantly inspired by their talent and energy, and their compassion and ambition, and we’re excited by what the future holds for them. 

Now, it is my pleasure to introduce Jasmine Hill. Jasmine is a fourth-year student in communication studies, and she is president of the student body. 

Born in Chicago and raised in the Oakland bay area, Jasmine is actively involved in campus life. She has worked with the Afrikan Student Union, she has been an advocate on issues like access, retention and campus climate. She was a campus tour guide and served as student government chief of staff. 

After graduation, Jasmine plans to pursue a Ph.D. and she wants to launch her own firm that marries political activism with public relations. Given her accomplishments here, I’m confident she’ll succeed! Please welcome Jasmine Hill.