Last week was a wonderful validation of the great network of supporters this School of Public Health has developed and how appreciated the School is by alumni, donors and our own faculty, staff and students. This isn’t only about me – it is about the past and the outstanding contributions our staff, students, faculty and alumni have made to improved public health. It is about the present and the excellent job the School does of educating students, conducting cutting-edge research and serving North Carolina. And it is about the future and how we will adapt to the needs of the 21st century.
We had the pleasure of meeting with a group of alumni (more than 40) at GlaxoSmithKline last week. I was so impressed by the quality of the alumni and the substantive, exciting positions they hold in the company. Many were giving back to the School by contributing money and knowledge. Every time I have the opportunity to interact with our alumni, such as at the annual reception at the American Public Health Association meeting, I come away excited and impressed. Our alumni are doing such inspiring work, and they appreciate how their educations contributed to their professional development. They make us proud! We have a superb new director of alumni relations, Cutler Andrews, and I want him to figure out how we can do a better job of serving our alumni.
Thursday night, we had a spectacular event at the SPH to celebrate donors who had donated at the level of $1000 or more in the last year. We called it the World of Difference Dinner to thank people who were helping us to make a world of difference. The atrium of our Michael Hooker Research Center was full, and there was palpable excitement about the SPH, what we had done in the past and the fantastic opportunities ahead. Many people were giving back, because they appreciated the education they had received, but other friends had come to appreciate the school without ever having been students, faculty or staff. We heard wonderful testimonials from Don Holzworth (a generous donor with his wife Jennifer), Dennis Gillings (who previously had endowed a professorship; this past year, he and his wife, Joan, committed to a gift that will name the school the Dennis and Joan Gillings School of Global Public Health), Stacy-Ann Christian (a recent alumna who talked about why she endowed a scholarship) and Fred Brown, president of the SPH Foundation Board.
I am proud and grateful to lead this School but believe strongly that I have to earn my job every day by delivering. As the dean of a public school, I serve the school, UNC-Chapel Hill and the people of this state. There is so much to be done to improve the public’s health. But we are so fortunate to have jobs where we can make a difference. At the dinner, I quoted Winston Churchill who said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” In public health, we have the opportunity to give in ways that really make a difference.