National University

President Emeritus of Stanford Lauds National University at 40th Anniversary Luncheon

One of the most respected leaders in academia returned to National University in January to laud the institution’s leadership in higher education over the past decade and wish staff and faculty a happy 40th birthday.

Donald Kennedy, Ph.D., President Emeritus of Stanford University, one-time commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and former editor-in-chief of Science, the weekly publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was the keynote speaker at a 40th Anniversary luncheon. He praised the “significant role” that National has played, “not only in leading other non-profit, private institutions along the same path, but also in delivering a sound and successful alternative to the several for-profit alternatives that are now getting difficult operating questions from the public, and sometimes critical attention from the Congress.”

It was Dr. Kennedy’s second visit to National University. He was the keynote speaker at the grand opening of the Spectrum campus in Kearny Mesa in September 2000, praising President Jerry C. Lee at the time for “setting new trends in higher education and successfully meeting the needs of “a new set of students.”

“Times change,” said Dr. Kennedy on January 24, before a packed banquet room at the Hyatt Aventine in La Jolla. “And the situation in the world of events, ideas, and the communication media in which those are now brought out for public consideration could not possibly differ more from those that prevailed when I first visited here.”

He went on to emphasize how “these new times surely reconfigure what we need to do for our students -- whether one of them is a 20-year old Stanford undergraduate, or a 32-year-old National University student doing a course in management. Either he or she will need to find a way through an information universe of highly variable content and sometime dubious authority. Educational strategies, beyond clear thinking and sound habits of mind, will be needed to confer on our students a kind of “intellectual taste” that will help them sort the realistic and verifiable new knowledge from the earnest advertisements of opinion.”

Dr. Kennedy went on to discuss the emerging challenges that National and other institutions face in educating older, non-traditional students. He emphasized that those challenges transcend the occupational or workforce requirements that are sometimes categorized as “societal needs.”

“In this age, he continued, “The most imposing societal need is for citizens who can, for example, test the value of a proposal or a claim by recognizing and stripping away the special interests of the proposer or claimant.”

That sort of critical thinking is relevant and pertinent to all the sectors of human study, as Dr. Kennedy pointed out; including economics, the organization of social systems, human behavior, and history.

“The great dilemmas of societies have entailed struggles over competing ideas: communitarianism vs. individualism; authoritarian vs. democratic organization; federalism vs. regionalism. Confronting such differences is one of the ways in which we as individuals evolve the principles we will choose to guide our lives. There isn’t an easy alternative.”

In conclusion, the University’s distinguished guest said he hoped very much that part of the greater educational mission that National and all other universities share will be to prepare minds that are likely to work like that.

“I am sure that the classrooms here are supplying the ingredients for that kind of product, and I wish you all the very best on this very impressive 40th birthday.”

To read the complete transcript of Dr. Kennedy's speech, click here.