Dear TU community,
Earlier this week, at our final TU Board of Trustees’ meeting of the year, the administration proposed to the board, and we approved, an operating budget based on realistic, yet conservative, revenue estimates, including funding for all FY22 strategic plan prioritieswhile maintaining fiscal discipline. At first glance this news may seem a routine process of a university conducting its business. However, given the year TU has faced, indeed that the entire country and world have endured, it is anything but normal.
The TU administration dedicated FY21 to achieving a higher degree of financial stability and operational excellence, necessary precursors to pivoting to the growth strategy at the root of the strategic plan. All indications are these efforts, with a focus on financial discipline, student success and shared accountability, are starting to pay dividends. TU has been able to simultaneously invest in key growth areas of cyber, online master’s degrees, student retention and career development, building a stronger brand identity leading to stronger enrollment, all the while cutting expenses by nearly $25 million.
Achieving this progress – in the middle of a pandemic – is extraordinary, and the entire community rose to the challenge. Due to the tenacity of our students, faculty and staff, TU – unlike so many universities – maintained an on-campus, hybrid presence throughout the year. The free, continuous testing program was a success and campus positivity rates were consistently below the rate in Tulsa.
Finally, of course, was the vital achievement of the strategic planning process that has been overwhelmingly supported and endorsed by all those who care for this great institution. Our donors are excited, our faculty and staff are on board and working collaboratively and our prospective students, parents and new partners are sensing a moment of change and the opportunities that lie ahead.
As we said, we recognize these many successes in these trying times are simply extraordinary. We also recognize the role good leadership plays in accomplishing so much in such a short period of time. Janet Levit has had a truly remarkable and positive impact on The University of Tulsa, its mission, its strategic direction and its students.
In her previous role as vice president of strategic initiatives, Janet led a strategic planning process that positioned the university and the board on a path of clear institutional goals, including improving retention and graduation rates; expanding representation of diverse students, faculty and staff; and preparing students for careers in the current and future economy.
As executive vice president of academic affairs and provost, Janet shepherded the university through an accreditation crisis that successfully concluded with the affirmation of TU’s Higher Learning Commission accreditation. She spearheaded the creation of the Center for Student Success, which bolstered and centralized support services to improve student outcomes and pushed the university to live up to its goal of being truly student-centered. She oversaw a process that entrusted a committee of faculty representing all colleges and the Faculty Senate to propose changes and alternative structures of the university’s academic footprint to help the university better allocate resources to achieve its strategic goals.
On Jan. 30, 2020, when former President Gerry Clancy stepped down, we immediately knew to ask Janet to lead the university as interim president because of her demonstrated leadership skills, expertise and commitment to TU’s success. As she always does, she readily accepted the opportunity and assumed the role at an extraordinary moment in the institution’s history – in the immediate aftermath of a downgrade in TU’s credit rating by Moody’s Investors Services, just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States, and as the university was preparing for an interim monitoring report to the Higher Learning Commission.
We all know what happened next. TU is on a stronger and more sustainable financial footing despite significant headwinds of COVID-19, and the TU community is united around a new strategic plan to carry this institution forward.
What you may not know is that, even before it became a COVID thing to do, Janet was known for organizing and holding “walking meetings.” Many of the university’s leaders, trustees and other members of the TU community have participated in these walks this past year and a half. So, it seems only fitting to us that, in recognition and thanks for her tremendous service and in honor of the many walking meetings, we name the pedestrian walkway surrounding Dietler Commons “the Janet Levit Pathway.”
Janet also has a passion for rowing and on occasion would spend time and exercise with the TU rowing team. She also viewed it as an apt metaphor for any successful team – one that highlights the team’s individual and collective strength, the need to work together in unison and a sense of team spirit. For this reason, the TU trustees and trustees emeriti donated funds for a new rowing team boat to be christened “The Janet K. Levit.”
These are but small tokens of our profound appreciation for the tireless work and dedication Janet has demonstrated through her many roles during her time here. TU is truly a better place because of her leadership. On behalf of the entire board, we express our deep gratitude for her extraordinary contributions to The University of Tulsa.
Dana Weber, Chair
Marcia MacLeod, Vice Chair