Jahanian Installed as Carnegie Mellon’s 10th President
Published October 26, 2018 in CMU News
By Bruce Gerson
Announces $80M in commitments for scholarships and new Scaife Hall
With a nod to the university’s impressive past and a bold, enthusiastic eye toward its limitless future, Farnam Jahanian today was formally installed as Carnegie Mellon University’s 10thpresident.
In an elegantly transformed Wiegand Gymnasium in the Cohon University Center, CMU Board Chair James Rohr and Faculty Marshals Mary Shaw and Baruch Fischhoff presented Jahanian with Carnegie Mellon’s charter, chain of office and medallion to officially appoint him president. Nearly 1,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends attended the investiture ceremony and many more witnessed the historical event at watch parties on campus. The ceremony also was webcast for members of the university community around the world, from Pittsburgh and Silicon Valley to Africa, Australia and Qatar.
Following stunning vocal performances by CMU alumni actors Tamara Tunie and Corey Cott, and several opening speakers, Jahanian shared his admiration, optimism, ambition and passion for Carnegie Mellon in his inspirational inauguration address. He also announced a history-making $50 million gift for undergraduate scholarships and support from alumni Tod and Cindy Johnson, and a $30 million grant from the Allegheny Foundation for a new Scaife Hall in the College of Engineering.
Jahanian began his speech by charting his course to CMU and to Pittsburgh, where he found a city, university and community, he said, that “embodies all of my most fervent beliefs, and my greatest passions.”
Jahanian spoke about the “people and the ideals that have set CMU apart from the very beginning,” from university founders Andrew Carnegie and Richard and Andrew Mellon, to trailblazers Allen Newell, Herbert Simon, Alan Perlis and Raj Reddy.
“At a time when computers were barely understood, we were among the very first to recognize the power of computing, and we made some big bets,” said Jahanian, who noted CMU established its Computer Science Department in 1965, the first Robotics Institute in the U.S. in 1979, the Software Engineering Institute in 1984 and the world’s first School of Computer Science in 1988.
He reflected on how closely the university has retained its connections to the early years by creating new “fields of inquiry,” like machine learning, transition design and the science of learning, and by influencing society through new technologies like autonomous vehicles and additive manufacturing.
“And we did all of this while also cleaning up at the Tonys, the Emmys and the Putnam Competition,” Jahanian said.
The Carnegie Mellon story of exceptionalism must continue, said Jahanian, who spoke of the leadership of the late Richard Cyert, the university’s 6th president who pioneered a new model for the business school and took risks that transformed the university from a small regional institute into one of national prominence.
“The time to be intentionally bold is once again upon us,” Jahanian said. “We have a singular opportunity to wield our exceptional strengths and make the next big investment in our global leadership.”
He outlined two critical areas in which CMU must aggressively move forward: enhancing CMU’s societal impact through research and creativity; and preparing the next generation through a world-class education.
Jahanian said CMU’s distinct expertise and leadership at the nexus of technology and society — working across disciplines to create transformative technology that enhances lives and shapes modern culture — is desperately needed amid the rapidly accelerating changes in the world. He quoted CMU’s late Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon.
“We are not observers of the future; we are actors. Our job is to design a sustainable and acceptable world and bring it about,” Simon said.
But with technology often comes unintended consequences, which must be addressed. That’s why, Jahanian said, CMU balances technical knowledge with measured wisdom.
“At CMU scientists and engineers work together with the philosophers, artists and economists who will shape what might be possible; with the ethicists, humanists and policy experts who will guide our path; and with the behavioral scientists who will measure the impact of our work on humanity,” Jahanian said.
President Jahanian said reinforcing and advancing the university’s leadership at the nexus of technology and humanity is the next frontier for Carnegie Mellon. He pledged to support this effort by investing in a diverse community of faculty and researchers, by “doubling down” on external partnerships and by creating “living laboratories” around the world.
Jahanian said he was equally committed to CMU’s educational mission and that students will always be at the heart of his presidency.
“To the CMU students here today and at our campus watch parties, you are my most important motivation,” he said. “And as a CMU parent, the responsibility of preparing the next generation is deeply personal for me.”
Jahanian spoke about the university’s commitment to establish interdisciplinary groundbreaking programs to re-imagine higher education with the interests of students and the needs of society in mind. As examples, he noted CMU’s program in behavioral economics, its neuroscience initiative and the IDeATe network. He cited investments in supporting new ways for students to learn and collaborate, like the new Tepper Quad and Scott Hall. And he highlighted CMU’s expertise in the science of learning to help each individual student learn in a way that is best for them, and programs to support holistic growth that will help nurture and develop tomorrow’s leaders.
To help support CMU’s momentum and aspirations, Jahanian announced two commitments that will provide critical resources moving forward. The Allegheny Foundation has made a $30 million grant toward the transformation of Scaife Hall into a modern, new home for the Mechanical Engineering Department. Alumni Tod and Cindy Johnson have committed $50 million to create an endowment to support undergraduate scholarships and student success.
Jahanian closed by asking the university community to work together to write the story of this century and to build an exhilarating future for Carnegie Mellon University.
“Each one of us has a role to play in bringing beauty and dignity to our mission, through the impact we make on society, the leaders we develop and the opportunities we create for others,” he said.
Prior to Jahanian’s inaugural address, Board Chair James Rohr and University Professor Marlene Behrmann conveyed their support for CMU’s new president.
Rohr called him the “right leader at the right time” with the “experience, passion and leadership necessary to steer CMU.”
Behrmann spoke of Jahanian’s commitment to students and in fostering an institution of the highest caliber that is inclusive and equitable for all of its members.
Faculty Senate Chair Jeanne VanBriesen, Student Body President Roshni Mehta, Staff Council President Jessica Owens and Alumni Association President Alex DiClaudio represented the CMU community in presenting Jahanian with a commemorative sculpture of a thistle, the national flower of Scotland. The thistle, prominently featured in the university seal, consists of five leaves, symbolic of core university characteristics — strength, bravery, durability, determination and devotion.
Salesforce Co-CEO Keith Block and Cornell University President Martha Pollack were guest speakers.
Block, a member of CMU’s Board of Trustees, earned a master’s degree in management and policy analysis and a bachelor’s degree in information systems from Carnegie Mellon in 1984. In his role at Salesforce, the world’s leading provider of customer relationship management software with more than 150,000 customers, Block serves on its board of directors and leads the company’s day-to-day operations.
Block called Jahanian a great leader.
“I’ve witnessed his leadership here at CMU personally, whether uniting our community in support of the Special Olympics, or fostering engagement between students in different colleges,” Block said. “He conducts every interaction with grace, dignity, intelligence and warmth. I cannot imagine a better leader and torchbearer of CMU’s future than Dr. Jahanian. There is no question that his vision and values will carry this amazing institution to new heights,” he said.
Pollack is Cornell’s 14th president and a professor of computer science, information science and linguistics. A longtime friend, Pollock was a member of the Computer Science and Engineering faculty at the University of Michigan at the same time as Jahanian.
“Farnam, I can assure all of you, is the perfect choice to lead Carnegie Mellon and to ensure that it continues its proud tradition of changing lives for the better,” Pollack said.
She cited his “high integrity” and his experience in academia, industry and government, and his personal characteristics — creative, innovative and entrepreneurial — that align with CMU’s culture.
“I can’t imagine Carnegie Mellon finding someone who fits better than Farnam,” Pollack said. “He will be a brilliant and inspired leader for this wonderful university. And who knows, he may even learn to play the bagpipes.”