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The past few months have been the most exciting time in the history of our great university. Hofstra University’s hosting of the third and final 2008 presidential debate put us on the global stage and made the Hofstra name immediately recognizable to people all over the world. It provided our students with a memorable and educational experience. It also created an excellent opportunity for our alumni to reconnect with Hofstra.
Many of you have called or written to tell us of your tremendous sense of pride at learning that Hofstra had been selected to host a presidential debate during this historic election. Some of you told of your fond memories of participating in one of the 11 presidential conferences held at Hofstra, or recalled the positive influence of a particular faculty member in your choice of career. When Debate Day arrived, you told us of your excitement at turning on your TV and seeing news reporters on CNN and Fox and MSNBC doing their stand-ups in front of the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex or the Mack Student Center, or interviewing students who took part in the excitement of that day by participating in events across campus. You told us of your sense of awe at watching the two men who would be president participate in the debate, knowing that the next president of the United States was seated on a stage at Hofstra University.
On behalf of the entire Hofstra community, I had the honor of ringing the opening bell at the NASDAQ exchange on October 14, and later witnessed the seven-story NASDAQ billboard in Times Square announcing Hofstra’s hosting of the presidential debate. I was accompanied for this honor by trustees, faculty, students and debate sponsors, which was appropriate since each of these groups played such an important role in our securing the debate. Hosting a presidential debate requires an extraordinary level of commitment on the part of a university, and our Board of Trustees provided that throughout the process. We owe special thanks to our debate sponsors – the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency, The John D. Miller Fund at the Long Island Community Foundation, and Sondra and David S. Mack. Their generosity made it possible for us to host this historic event and to show the world that Hofstra was up to the task.
I’m happy to report that the debate at Hofstra was a tremendous success in every sense of the word.
The Commission on Presidential Debates informed us that they were extremely pleased with how the debate was organized, with our facilities, with the level of cooperation they received, and with all the Hofstra staff, administrators, faculty and students with whom they interacted. The news media – there were more than 3,100 credentialed media on campus from around the world, plus dozens more who covered events outside of the Media Filing Center – have told us that they, too, were very pleased with our facilities and organization and how helpful they found everyone to be at Hofstra. More than one journalist told a member of our staff how impressed they were at the depth of knowledge, commitment and passion of our students.
That, perhaps, is the greatest measure of success for our debate. Early in 2008 we launched Educate ’08, an unprecedented series of lectures, conferences, artistic performances and exhibitions, town hall meetings, and interactive forums focused on the issues, history and politics of presidential elections. It started with two bus loads of students heading to New Hampshire to witness firsthand that state's primary process, continued through our Super Tuesday Primary Returns Party, and brought to campus guest speakers such as George Stephanopoulos, Mario Cuomo and Richard Haass, Robert Rubin and Paul O’Neill, Mary Matalin and James Carville, David Gergen, William Kristol and Maureen Dowd, Charlie Cook, and many other scholars, historians, journalists and policymakers.
Educate ’08 was created to immerse our students in the experience and excitement of this historic presidential campaign, encouraging them to become active and involved citizens now and in their future lives. Whether they were among the lucky few to receive a ticket to the debate, volunteered with the campaign staffs or the news media, or participated in events on campus culminating with the Election Night Returns Party, every Hofstra student had the opportunity not only to witness, but also to be a part of what the American presidential election process is all about.
As an institution of higher learning, we could not have asked for a better experience for them, nor hoped for a better opportunity to reconnect with all of you.
The debate afforded us a great opportunity to raise Hofstra’s national profile, but we need the support of our alumni to continue to raise our level of academic excellence, attract and provide scholarships for top students, hire the best faculty, improve our infrastructure and provide state-of-the-art technology in our classrooms. I hope that you will support Hofstra as we continue to move forward and take our place among the nation’s most respected universities.
We continue with our ambitious plans to move forward, for our students, our faculty, our community, and our alumni. Our plans to establish the Hofstra University School of Medicine in partnership with North Shore-LIJ Health System continue on schedule, with our accreditation application, fund-raising and facilities plans in place. For the eighth consecutive year, the academic credentials of our incoming first-year class have been stronger than the year before. We continue to recruit our nation’s best and brightest academic minds, to provide our students and community with unique scholarly expertise and relevant and important academic programs. And a few of us have already begun to plan for the application to host a presidential debate in 2012.
As we prepare to celebrate Hofstra University’s 75th anniversary, we call on each and every alumnus to reconnect or to participate in our commemoration in a significant way. For the recognition of our 75th year is more than the marking of the passage of time; it is truly a celebration of both our distinguished past and our promising future. We are, as we always have been, a university of great ambition, an institution that understands how to cherish important traditions while embracing new technologies and disciplines, a place where growth and change have perhaps been the greatest constant in our history. In the life of a university, 75 years is not a long period of time, but Hofstra University and our 115,000 alumni have made the most of it.
Now, more than ever, our alumni, students and faculty can point to their connection with Hofstra University with great pride. I hope that we can count you among them.
Stuart Rabinowitz, President