Calling the state of Texas A&M University “strong and vibrant,” President Michael K. Young started his annual speech Thursday by showing the range of the university’s research.

In one day in September, Young toured the JOIDES Resolution ship, which is part of a research program that explores the Earth’s history by drilling through sediment miles below the ocean, and met in San Diego with Pooneh Bagher, who is researching the physiological effects of the International Space Station’s microgravity on the cardiovascular system.

“At the end of that day, I realized based on those two examples from miles below the Earth’s surface to 250 miles above the Earth — the deepest depths of the ocean to the farthest reaches of space — our university mission is driving education, research and discovery,” he said.

During his speech Thursday in the Memorial Student Center’s Bethancourt Ballroom, Young announced the addition of a fourth strategic pillar for the university. As of Thursday, “community” will join the existing pillars of transformational education, impact on the state, nation and the world, and discovery and innovation.

“As we have progressed and grown, it has become increasingly clear that our ability to achieve our goals is intimately and directly related to our capacity to come together as a community,” he said. “So today we add a fourth important strategic pillar. … Embedded within our local communities, forged by Texas and embracing our global presence, Texas A&M University is committed to enriching the learning and working environment for all visitors, students, faculty and staff.”

An example of the university coming together, he said, was the funeral of President George H. W. Bush on Dec. 6, 2018.

Introducing a tribute to President Bush and showing clips and pictures from the funeral procession an emotional Young said, “I truly believe his choice of playing The Aggie War Hymn was one last message to us. It was an ‘I love you’ for who you are, what you do and what you stand for. One last ‘I love you’ to Aggies everywhere.”

When it comes down to it, he said, Aggies are citizens of substance who have a willingness to help humanity and are committed to helping other succeed.

Young highlighted the approach of the end of its Vision 2020 strategic plan, which was created in 1998, and the conclusion of the Lead By Example fundraising campaign, which will end at the close of 2020. So far, the campaign has raised $3.6 billion of the $4 billion goal, noting that the campaign is not just the largest of its kind for the university and in Texas, but the fourth largest for a public university in the country.

Young announced the upcoming dates for the university’s strategic planning forums: Oct. 17, Oct. 28, Nov. 8 and Nov. 18. The 10-year plan will take the university through 2030 and will include the university’s 150th birthday in 2026.

“As we move into 2020 with vigor and a firm commitment to the success of this institution and to each other, let us be grateful for what we have been given, optimistic about the future, and enthusiastic about serving our university, our community, our state, nation and world,” he said.

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