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rudd grover cook

By now you will have heard the news that Michael W. Cook, founder and CEO of SouthernSun Asset Management, and his wife Jennifer, recently committed a generous $1 million gift for development and operation of a new, state-of-the-art finance trading lab in the Fogelman College of Business and Economics. Included in this agreement is a $500,000 matching pledge, which will bring the total endowment to $1.5 million.

I found Michael’s recent remarks in recognition of his gift inspirational, challenging the U of M to pursue greatness, and offering a unique perspective of hope critical to our work.  Here is the text of Michael’s remarks:

“I am grateful for this recognition; it is an honor and, as is true of any honor one receives, achieved as a result of the tireless efforts and sacrifices of others.  From my wife and children, to those with whom I work each and every day as well as those who have gone before us to show us the way.

As Jennifer said to me earlier today, “we never knew it would look like this—we worked, we sweated, we prayed—a lot, and we worked some more—we are fortunate above all people that it looks like this for now.”  We are enthusiastic about the opportunity to be a part of what not only we but others also, believe is something special in the works here at The University of Memphis.

As a native Memphian, but not a University of Memphis alumnus, I’ve likely suffered from a bit of incredulity for the past 57 years.  It has so oft times seemed as though the University was saddled with a perpetual inferiority complex-- a sense in which, as many thought, as the City of Memphis goes, so goes the University of Memphis.

In 1937 Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her diary, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Our family is convinced from the vision and leadership of Dean Grover to that of his colleagues across other U of M colleges, and from President Brad Martin to our new President Dr. Rudd, there is no consent.

What we see today leads us to conclude that going forward, as The University of Memphis goes, so goes the City of Memphis.

We believe that new financial analytics and trading lab offers the opportunity to be:

The Epicenter of Innovation and the Talisman for our College, our University and our City with its rich heritage in finance—

And maybe one day, the model for public institutions of higher learning across the country to follow.

One of my favorite writers, philosophers and mathematicians Blaise Pascal wrote: “ In any picture of a life laid out before us, there are abrupt moments of pivotal formation and gradual phases of transformation.  It is a paradox that insight seems to grow gradually and yet it also seems to arrive in overpowering moments of abruptness.” I think this is one of those moments, one of those times  here at this university and at this college, and we are so blessed to be a part of it.

Thank you for being a part of this special day for our family.”

This is a gift that provides a solid foundation for an innovative, cutting-edge educational experience that will help prepare our students and develop the skills necessary for a highly competitive job market. Michael’s hopeful and generous remarks this month are another example of the tremendous support from the Memphis community for our great University.

View Michael Cook’s entire speech at:

Go Tigers!

M. David Rudd, President

Dear Faculty and Staff:

We can be proud that we are the only university in Tennessee that did not increase tuition for 2014-15. In fact, out-of-state students will notice their tuition has fallen a minimum of $3,000 since last year. The new 250-R Program students will be paying a rate closer to half of last year’s out-of-state tuition.

As of July 9, the University has received more than 16,500 applications for fall 2014 (15,750 for the main campus; 750 for the Lambuth campus), an increase of 65% in one year. This overall growth has been fueled by an impressive 87% increase in new freshman applications - which top 10,760 to date - and a 28% increase in transfer student applications. We have already seen over 2,000 students register for orientation programs this summer, an increase of almost 300 students over this same time last year.

This year’s state budget does not include funds for salary increases for state and University employees. The lack of state funding means that we are unable to provide an across-the-board salary increase to U of M employees.  As funds are available, we will continue to consider individual salary adjustments, such as promotions, reclassifications and certification attainment. The good news is that although the state’s original proposed budget included a 5.5% health insurance premium increase, the state will use its reserves to delay the increase, meaning there will be no increase in group health insurance premiums in January 2015.

The University remains committed to improving the salaries and wages of all employees, particularly those at the lowest end of the pay scale.  We will continue to work on this important issue and advocate on behalf of all employees with the Governor, the Tennessee State Legislature and the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Thank you for your continued dedication and for caring so deeply about the University of Memphis and our students.  We are making great progress toward meeting our enrollment goals, and we will continue to address our financial challenges in a thoughtful and strategic way.


M. David Rudd, President

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