Vice President Robin Beck
Retirement Remarks - December 10, 2012
I've been asked several times recently about what has changed at Penn since I first came here 23 years ago. There are so many thing but I'll mention two today. When I came to Penn it was located in West Philadelphia; today it's located in University City and is the vibrant, beautiful, campus and engaged, good neighbor we all know. The second change of course is the use of technology.
I came to Penn for several reasons but fundamentally for two, a recruiter contacted me and painted a picture of a large complex organization whose leadership recognized that change had to happen and that change needed to be enabled by technology. In addition I am the grandchild of Irish immigrants who worshipped education and so I was predisposed to bring whatever skills I had to further the goals of higher education. And I love a challenge. I met the EVP, the Provost, the Budget Director, the Director of Strategic Planning and their vision was so compelling that it brought me to Penn. I did not anticipate staying for more than 2 years - in that time I felt I could accomplish much of what was asked of me during the interview process and that there would be no further challenges and it would be time to move on. I was wrong. I found at Penn the ideal environment for someone who has a passion for IT and for change. What I did not recognize before coming here is that each year we admit new students and that their thirst for all things digital is never ending.
I came and began an interesting journey that has helped change Penn from an organization that was essentially paper based to one that has a Warehouse and Ben and Penn Marketplace and Penn InTouch and Atlas and Penn Portal and a network that enables worldwide collaborative research. Applicants apply online from anywhere, researchers submit their grant proposals electronically, and students register, drop and add courses. Administrators use electronic catalogs to order goods and services and create and monitor budgets. The research environment is increasingly based on advanced data capture, interpretation, visualization and data mining enabled by high performance computing hardware. Classrooms have wireless networks that support use of tablets to deliver rich content. The university-wide data warehouse supports a range of analysis for decision makers at every level from a department to university leadership. Donors support Penn with on-line giving And Penn is deep into the proliferation of mobile devices and their ability to enhance communications and help us manage our lives. Of course I did not do this alone. Transformations are never accomplished alone. You need others to help you and you must help others. It really is a team sport. First I must acknowledge the skill, dedication and hard work of the men and women of ISC. I have the utmost admiration for their creativity and innovation and their dedication to serving the Penn community. Whether it's day to day operational excellence, responsiveness to problems or their professional management and delivery of new products and services, they have been an inspiration to me to always ask the best of myself.
The IT community at Penn is also a source of inspiration. One of my earliest initiatives when I came to Penn was to hold a Cornerstone meeting of all the IT managers in schools and centers. That was the first time they had all gotten together and I like to think it was a first step in the collaborative IT community in place now. They're always ready to help each other.
The third component of so many changes has been the many colleagues in schools and centers with whom I've been privileged to develop plans, strategies and deliver results. As we know, there are many things it takes a village to achieve and I've always felt the sense of community to be strong at Penn.
I'm not a Pollyanna - we collaborate but we are also always frank with each other and set high standards for each other but we also set them for ourselves. During my interview process, one of the people with whom I met, strongly advised that I not come to Penn; that is was "tough" - I've always been glad I didn't follow that advice.
I thank Amy, Vince and Craig not only for their kind words but for their leadership and their support of technology initiatives and of me.
I've worked for four different presidents, six Provosts and seven Executive Vice Presidents (counting interims). I have always felt that the diversity of leadership was one of the strengths of Penn - we build on the past and always move forward. And now I'm moving forward again. Retirement means change to me and as I've said I love change. And for me it doesn't mean becoming a different person with different interests it does mean flexibility to enjoy all the richness of my life ever more fully.
There is one more person I must mention and that's my husband, Bill. He has given me love and encouragement to look as far as possible without ever losing sight of the wonders of our life together.
I've been privileged to do what I love, with people I respect and admire, for an institution that has deserved my dedication. Thank you all.