It is bittersweet to write this note after announcing on Friday my decision to step down as chancellor and return to the faculty. Serving as your chancellor has been the greatest professional privilege of my life. We have dealt with taxing challenges and big opportunities, and we have built a solid foundation and momentum for the future. At the same time, I have concluded that the time is right for someone new to take the helm.
As I reflect on the past three years, we have many accomplishments to celebrate from our collaboration on the life-changing work of this university. Foremost among those accomplishments are elevating academic excellence; growing our research enterprise, including earning the prestigious Carnegie R-1 highest research activity designation; establishing four exciting Flagship Constellation areas of multidisciplinary research excellence; launching annual Tech Summits that position us as leaders in STEM education; delivering an academically sound, fact-focused process to put the past into greater context at several sites across the campus; promoting healthier communities across Mississippi by advocating successfully for passage of the Healthcare Collaboration Act as well as increasing our engagement and support through our M Partner initiative; creating several new exciting, fast-growing degree programs; launching the new Ole Miss International program that will matriculate international students starting in August; and, leading a successful appeal of the most onerous NCAA recruiting sanctions against our football program.
There are so many experiences and memories from the past three years that Sharon and I will always cherish. No one has ever enjoyed a better first day on a new job as we watched from the sidelines as the Rebels won the Sugar Bowl in my hometown of New Orleans. We have been blessed to enjoy so many amazing performances by our faculty and students in Carnegie Hall, our great Gertrude Ford Center, and other venues across campus. I was fortunate to lead the university when we welcomed superb commencement speakers in Tom Brokaw, Jon Meacham, and Walter Isaacson. And, I will always smile when thinking about my walk one afternoon across a large campo in Venice, Italy while wearing an Ole Miss cap, when all of a sudden came a distant call: “Hotty Toddy!”
More importantly, our successes are the result of the relationships and collective efforts of so many dedicated people who are committed to ensuring the continued success of the university. Sharon and I have made so many great friends here to whom I am forever indebted for their service, counsel, and support. The talented and dedicated leaders and faculty across all of our campuses are remarkably focused on our students, who bring the passion, vitality, and idealism that makes our university so vibrant. Our staff delivers, day in and day out, to keep the university moving forward and serving our students with distinction. In particular, I want to highlight the staff in the Office of the Chancellor, which worked tirelessly to manage an incredible volume of documents, requests, and materials to support me and help me to put my best foot forward. I am constantly inspired by the passion and dedication that fuels our alumni and friends to support and contribute to building the future of the university.
As we look ahead, the university is fortunate to enjoy the experience and wisdom of so many leaders on campus and across our state who will ensure that this institution navigates this transition well. Our fundamentals are strong. I commit to you that I will do everything in my power to ensure a smooth and positive transition. Sharon and I will remain loyal members of Rebel Nation.
For 170 years, the University of Mississippi has served its students, this state, and the nation with distinction. I remain confident and optimistic about the university’s future. I am grateful for the opportunity to play a part in shaping its tremendous legacy.
Jeffrey S. Vitter
Chancellor and Distinguished Professor