This remarkable nation was built by brave women and men who committed themselves to the greater good, sometimes at great sacrifice. And it is their sacrifice that we pause to remember on Memorial Day.
Their sacrifice enables our freedoms, including the freedom to pursue whatever future we can imagine through the education and research that is the core of our mission at VCU.
As one of America’s premier public research universities, it is our calling and our charge to invest in and advance our nation — and all of its people — by using what we learn, create, discover and cure here to make a difference in the lives of our fellow human beings. Our nation and our world desperately need this type of leadership: the selfless promotion of the greater good through innovation paired with compassion. What we achieve through education, research, clinical care, and engagement ought to benefit people everywhere.
We can do this, of course, because generations of brave veterans have given us a society where we are free to think, create, innovate and engage. Ours is a society where differences are embraced, not obscured, and where new ideas advance us, not threaten us.
America’s research universities, including VCU — where these ideals are at the core of our mission — are the best in world because we have had the unbridled freedoms to be the best in the world.
We will forever owe a great debt to those who gave their lives advancing and defending these ideals.
I am also reminded, of course, that our own university has been shaped by its commitment to our nation, including distinguished military service. During the American Civil War, we educated countless military surgeons who cared for sick and injured soldiers on both sides, and ours was the only medical school in the South to stay open and graduate a class every year during the war. During the First World War, medical personnel comprising Base Hospital 45 in France were trained at MCV and became one of the most successful military hospitals in history. Of the 17,000 casualties they treated, more than 98 percent survived. This is remarkable, given that the war saw 6,000 men killed per day on average.
VCU is still committed to serving those who serve by investing in the success of our veteran students. In the past 16 months alone, this includes a new director (Stephen Ross) and facility for Military Student Services; Green Zone training for many faculty and staff, assuring our veteran students that they have advocates across the university; and diligent work by our Division of Strategic Enrollment Management to recruit and retain veteran and active duty students.
We also commit to education, research and healthcare that benefit so many, including those serving in our armed services. Professor David Cifu’s remarkable research on traumatic brain injuries, funded by a $62.2 million federal grant; the close collaborations between our School of Business and the Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, focused on logistics and supply chain management; our leadership in caring for veterans at the McGuire VA hospital all have helped us gain national recognition as one of the Top 100 universities for veterans.
More than 400 students and 200 faculty and staff at VCU are veterans or active duty military. They represent an important part of our diverse educational environment, and I am grateful for all they add to our university and our nation.
On Memorial Day, we will pause to remember the sacrifices of so many whose bravery and commitment to a more perfect union enables everything we do at VCU and stand at the heart of our mission to advance the human experience everywhere.