As my tenure as president of this great institution comes to an end, the most common question posed to me is about what I will miss most. I do not doubt my answer—I will miss the daily interactions with you.
While serving Central, we have worked together to overcome significant challenges and to create exciting opportunities. We have marshaled our collective energy, talent, expertise, and experience. What I felt and saw during the past 12 years is a community that is fully committed to this great school and the role it plays in higher education in Washington and beyond.
I leave confident of Central’s future because Wildcats are very special people. Even after more than a decade of working at Central, I find it challenging to articulate what it means to be a Wildcat. I often fall back to terms like grit and moxie to explain our students’ and graduates’ exceptional success. I know there is much more to being a Wildcat.
What Central offers its students is a rare combination of excellence and opportunity. Our faculty and staff are talented and dedicated to every student’s success, and their passion for teaching and inquiry is exceptional. What makes them unique, in my experiences, is the culture of learning they have created.
Central empowers its students by challenging them in an environment that values freedom, safety, and inclusivity. Central’s faculty and staff embody qualities such as authenticity, humility, and generosity.
It is the combination of these factors that make Central great. It is why our faculty and staff are recognized for excellence nationally and internationally. It is why our students return victorious from academic, artistic, athletic, and professional competitions against those from other schools. It is why our alumni are thriving personally and professionally.
The excellence of Central is what helped Andre Dickerson overcome challenges in his early life. Andre dropped out of high school before graduating, but his grit drove him to Central. When he engaged Central’s faculty and staff, he earned a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. He is now working on his doctorate while directing our Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.
At Central, Andre found professors like Bobby Cummings, whose teaching and mentoring have benefited countless students. Professor Cummings’s work has been performed humbly and quietly for decades. Central recently recognized her by naming its award for lifetime support of diversity, equity, and inclusion in her honor.
Andre probably did not meet Ruth Harrington or even hear of her contributions while he was a student. That is because Ruth has worked behind the scenes to raise more than $1 million in scholarships by hosting hundreds of small brunches, lunches, and dinners. Her work, performed over decades, was also recently recognized by Central with a special award for philanthropy.
These examples have been repeated many times by many people, including the dedicated members of the Board of Trustees, Foundation and Alumni Association leaders, and the alumni and friends that support Central and its students.
That is why the answer to the question is so simple—for myself and Katie. While memories and friendships will remain, we will miss being a daily part of making Central better tomorrow than it is today.
Thank you for allowing us to serve and for making our time at Central the best professional experience of our lives.
James L. Gaudino