Letter to the Johns Hopkins community

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

I write to you today on my first official day as a member of this wonderful community.

Yesterday, in a striking reversal of what is now the time-honored odyssey of so many American youth, my teenage children helped load our car with my core possessions (including a stereo) and, together with my wife Joanne, drove me to my new home at Nichols House on the Homewood campus. The kids will be staying behind in Philadelphia for the time being to complete their school year. But they have assured me that they will not be helicopter children. And that they will not turn our old bedroom into a den.

This morning, I moved into my new office in Garland Hall. My bookshelves are bare, save for a few critical histories of our university. I look forward to filling them in time with books written by my new colleagues.

Although President Brody very kindly cleaned the office before leaving and packed away the many keepsakes he had accumulated over the years, the signposts of his leadership are everywhere — in the significant strengthening of our research and education mission, in the beautification and expansion of almost every campus, in the enhancement of our ties to our local community, to government leaders and international institutions, and in the remarkable success of the recent Knowledge for the World campaign. We all owe Bill and Wendy a large debt of gratitude.

Over the last several months, in preparation for today, I have read and re-read President Daniel Coit Gilman’s stirring inaugural address marking the establishment of our university. There is much in the address that endures. President Gilman announced the bold experiment that is Johns Hopkins while acknowledging it is an experiment rooted in the timeless foundations of the great universities that preceded it. He emphasized the need for discipline and focus in charting a course for the institution. He celebrated America’s bounty and the community of which we are part, and imagined the ways in which the university can contribute to the advancement of both. And his steadfast belief in the value and interdependence of the whole university demonstrates how it can amplify and enrich the activities of each of its constituent parts.

In President Gilman’s spirit and building upon President Brody’s legacy, I look forward to serving as your president in the days, months and years to come. I am committed to learning and understanding the spirit of our great university — its dreams and hopes as well as its challenges and fears. Together, may we realize the full and magnificent promise of this audacious enterprise launched by the merchant-banker from Baltimore, and given expression by so many extraordinary men and women in the 133 years since.


Ron Daniels