Capital Univ. Chapel Choir at Peace

The Capital University Chapel Choir kicked off its 2016 Concert Tour with a stirring performance at my church, Peace Lutheran Church in Gahanna, OH on Feb. 25, 2016. I was delighted to hear Leif Nilsen and his fellow choir member sing here before they appear in NYC’s Carnegie Hall on Feb. 29th!

I have posted my photos from the concert on Facebook. Here are the video clips I managed to take with my little handheld Sony point-and-shoot camera and post on YouTube. I’m pleasantly surprised that my camera managed to capture some of the Choir’s magnificent sound. I hope these clips give you a sense of the majestic performance the capacity audience enjoyed.


Urbana University: 2013 Fall Commencement Address

Urbana University

Fall 2013 Commencement Address

“Lessons of a Lifetime”

Roderick G. W. Chu

December 14, 2013


President Peterson, Chair Polsley, Rev, Coffman, Provost Hasan, Mr. Workman and your fellow members of the Urbana University fall graduating class of 2013, Trustees, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, family and friends …

On this very special day for our graduates, their families, faculty, and the many others who have been so instrumental in helping them reach this achievement; on a weekend we will remember as challenging us with warnings of severe winter weather; in a week the world paused to remember the life and example of an extraordinary man dedicated to harmony, equal opportunity, democracy, and learning: I am honored to receive this degree and to join the ranks of you graduating today as an Urbana alumnus.

Lessons of a Lifetime

Honorary degrees are somewhat like a “Lifetime Achievement Award” issued by the Academy. Indeed, I guess I have achieved a lot during my life.

I am a child of immigrant parents who came from China to America as teenagers with very little. They worked hard and sacrificed to provide me the best education I could get.

I pursued my career, first in management consulting, rising ultimately to become a worldwide managing partner in Accenture, the world’s largest technology consulting firm, and making enough money to live comfortably for a lifetime. I accepted the opportunity serve as the Commissioner of the New York State Dept. of Taxation & Finance – second largest tax department in the nation – at the ripe old age of 34. I later moved to Ohio to oversee the policies and activities of its 140 public and private college and university campuses as the Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. In the process, I became one of the highest-ranking Chinese-Americans in government and education at the time.

By any measure, I have led a successful life. I’ve lived the American Dream.

I’ve learned a lot in that journey – and I’m sure I have more lessons to come. As you leave Urbana today to set on your journey, I’d like to share a few of the key lessons I’ve learned so far.

To do that, I’ll need this banana.

Urbana University

Before I get to that, though, let me ask “Why should you bother listening to what I have to say?” – other than the fact that you are gracious, well-mannered, and polite, and I occupy this traditional segment of your commencement program and you don’t have much else to do – other than perhaps texting your friends.

You who are graduating here today and your family, friends, Urbana faculty and staff who have guided and supported you – this is YOUR day.

Recognizing that fact, I came to visit your campus 3 weeks ago to talk to some of your fellow students, faculty, staff, and trustees.

In that visit, I learned a bit about what makes Urbana such a special place – and thank you, Josh Brown, for showing me around campus!

Many of you chose Urbana because you could be student athletes – Blue Knights. You have developed something extra from your engagement in sports that you don’t typically get from sitting in classrooms: your character – determination, perseverance, experiencing the rewards that come from hard work and postponing gratification.

You’ve formed close bonds with your faculty, being comfortable texting them even in the wee hours of the morning – a practice many of you might continue long after you leave here.

You’ve grown through your liberal education, recognizing that everything is connected; learning not just how to tackle and solve problems, but to see things differently, to ask the relevant questions, to seek out and find the problems.

You’ve become part of this warm, caring place where people are committed enough to you and your future to keep challenging you, yet at the same time to stay focused on your individual needs – be it advice, coaching, a kind word, or just a piece of chocolate – to let you build the confidence you need to realize the potential you’ve always had.


With your Urbana education and experiences, you leave here, like Johnny Appleseed, with the challenge to better the world – or at least your part of it.

Yet, I must confess, for the last few decades, we who have graduated before you have left that world with much more to make better. We Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have been so focused on our own need for immediate gratification and amassing personal wealth that we’re leaving our succeeding generations with trillions of dollars of debt, immeasurable environmental damage, a crumbling infrastructure, and governments in which our elected officials feel they can’t even talk civilly with each other, let alone develop answers to our most pressing problems.

Your college degree today is not the guarantee of success that mine was over 4 decades ago. Your degree is only a ticket to enable you to compete.

On this, your graduation day, I don’t mean to deliver a downer of a message, for there is, indeed, great hope in what I have to say.

You are, after all, members of the best-educated generation America has ever seen. You have a passion and commitment to help others that reflect the values and ideals of a prior generation of Americans: the one Tom Brokaw labeled “The Greatest Generation.”

What will you do, though, with that education, that passion, that commitment, to address the challenges you are inheriting?

In the issue of The Lancer announcing my selection as your commencement speaker, your fellow graduating student Zach Iiames, stated his hope that I would “deliver a speech that is honest and real.” Well, Zach, be careful what you ask for, for you may get it.

Lessons & advice

If you are to fix the mess that prior generations are leaving behind, you are going to have to work hard – really hard.

The experience that most of you have had at Urbana, though, shows that you know how to work hard. I’m afraid that you’re just going to have to keep that up. These are not simple problems we are leaving you – after all, if they were simple, we would have solved them by now.

So in addition to working hard, you’re going to have to be smart.

Your professors and years at Urbana have taught you how to learn. But with knowledge doubling every 2-5 years in most fields, about half of what you’ve learned since starting at Urbana may already obsolete.

So you’ll need to keep learning. To do so, you’ll need to be thoughtful. You’ll need to keep an open mind. You’ll need to think critically. Don’t let yourself be lulled into thoughts and actions made on autopilot.

As I said, you’ll need to keep learning. I certainly have. Remember my banana? Of course, I’ve eaten bananas almost my entire life: A wonderful fruit, with delicious flesh that comes in its own handy, stay-fresh wrapper. Getting it out, though, is sometimes a challenge. The stem is quite hard when it’s not very ripe.

Well, just last year, I learned there’s another way to open a banana: Turn it around, pinch each side of the nipple end, and pull. Voila! It’s said that this method was discovered by observing monkeys eat bananas; monkeys don’t have energy to waste on inefficient methods.

Now if you already knew about bananas, come see me after the Commencement and ask me about the new way I just learned to eat an apple!

Keep an open mind and don’t be lulled into doing things the way you’ve always done them.

But the problems I spoke of are a lot bigger than opening bananas. Most recently, I’ve been studying research in human behavior, behavioral economics, learning theory, and spiritual growth. Look for the problems that need solving – for example, creating a new economy that unlike the one you’re inheriting, is efficient, fair, and sustainable for future generations.

To put a new spin on an old saying, you will need to work both harder and smarter.

You’ll also need to figure out what you’re working harder and smarter for. Is it to make a lot of money? That certainly was my answer when I left college. But here’s something I’ve learned in the 42 years since I left grad school: The root of success is not money.

Money doesn’t buy happiness.

I’ve read a lot of research in the past few years that concludes that chasing money to increase happiness is a losing game. Beyond a point of basic subsistence, when asked how much money do people think it would take to make them happy, there’s a surprisingly universal answer: Twice what I have now. Unfortunately, you never reach that point. For if you’re fortunate to get twice what you have now, that becomes another base point for needing twice as much. Seeking happiness through money becomes a never-ending rat race for twice as much.

Alas, this everlasting quest for ever more – consumerism – has become the lynchpin of our capitalist system. But the dirty little secret is that increased consumption doesn’t make us happier.

America is the wealthiest nation in the world, but studies on happiness find that we’re way down in the pack in terms of our individual and collective national happiness. We have the world’s biggest economy, based on the stuff we consume, but I’ve learned that the old maxim “he who dies with the most toys wins” just isn’t true. I have a beautiful house in New Albany, full of a lifetime’s collection of “stuff” that doesn’t make me inherently any happier than I was with my teeny apartment in NY with far less “stuff.”

My advice to you: Collect experiences, not things. Don’t get trapped in the money-grubbing rat race. Look for what makes you truly happy and gives meaning to your life.

Figuring out what you’re working harder and smarter for may change during your life. In fact, I hope it does, for that would indicate your are continuing to grow in your understanding of yourself and taking charge of creating your own life instead of letting your life be driven by “isms”– capitalism, consumerism, conservatism, liberalism, Liberatarianism, or the many other “isms” – that are set by others.

As you do figure these things out, you may eventually recognize that fulfillment comes from thinking of and serving others instead of just yourself.

We’ve heard it all our lives, especially at this time of the year: “Tis better to give than to receive.” But honestly, I went through a lot of my life thinking how foolish this aphorism was.

Yet the exhortation to be generous is as old as the Bible and as new as current research.

When you finally recognize that questing for “twice what I have now” is a losing proposition, you’ll find the joys of giving – of your money, your time, your passions – to someone or something other than yourself is fundamental to building deep personal happiness.

Alas, as we’ve all seen, from the financial antics of those on Wall Street to the buying of political influence in Washington for corporate gain, there are some who don’t recognize this reality.

But there are many others with whom we’ve been blessed with having in our own lives – our parents, our families, our teachers and professors, our neighbors, and friends – who through their generosity have found this answer and made themselves happier through their love, support, and caring for us and others.


I know that almost no one remembers what speakers said at their graduation – I certainly don’t – though some of you might remember the lesson of my banana. So if some day you wonder who spoke at your graduation and what was said, instead of trying to remember me, Google Ashton Kutcher – the celebrity who was the first with a million Twitter followers – and his acceptance speech at the Teen Choice Awards, and you’ll get a very tweetable Cliff Notes version of my lessons: Work hard. Be smart. Be thoughtful. Be generous.

As you leave Urbana, with testy memories of Rose in Brown Hall, but knowing you can now safely touch the Rock after dark, I offer you my congratulations and best wishes for finding happiness and living up to your potential of making your community, your state, your nation, and the world better places to be.

Thank you and Godspeed.

CERPP Conference Remarks: 2012

21st Century Knowledge and Skills:
The New High School Curriculum and the Future of Assessment

Perspectives: Media, Politics, and the
Responsibility of Higher Education

Roderick G. W. Chu
Chancellor Emeritus, Ohio Board of Regents

January 13, 2012
I delivered the following presentation and remarks in Los Angeles at the USC CERPP 2012 Conference.

1. The Case for Change from Within

As Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents (the state coordinating board for Ohio’s public and private colleges and universities), I lived at the interface among the worlds of K-12, higher education, and politics, so I’m delighted to reiterate some of what I learned from our conference speakers and participants, to offer a few observations of my own, and to hear those my fellow panelist, Scott Jaschik, representing the Fourth Estate of the press and media.

Before getting into the topic, however, I need to ask: Why change? Harry Brighouse kicked off this conference with his though-provoking challenge regarding the purpose of education. Yet mine is a serious question, because in many ways, the school curriculum fundamentally hasn’t changed for about 100 years.

Indeed, our agrarian school calendar hasn’t changed for over 200 years, despite the fact that less than 2% of our population – and virtually no kids – work on farms and many students lose 70% of what they’ve learned in the school year during their summer breaks.

Despite the local control authority of over 10,000 school districts, our industrial one-size-fits-all model of education has persisted, in the face of students who learn different subjects better at different times and in different ways – the age-graded instead of ability-graded system that Morgan Polikoff mentioned yesterday – and of cognitive research that has found that our model successfully educates mainly the 25% of students who are abstract learners but not the 75% who are contextual learners.
Why do we continue to educate kids for our past, instead of for their future?

NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote so persuasively on the impact of globalization and the Internet in The World is Flat – now almost 7 years ago. He brought popular attention to the fundamental sea changes that have occurred in the past decade.

At this conference 2 years ago, I noted forces driving change because of state policies. Since then, the impact of the Great Recession has settled in.

Per capita state funding in constant dollars for public colleges and universities has shrunk to its lowest point in 25 years and hefty increases in tuition has barely kept resources level, in the face of the highest enrollments in history. [SHEEO SHEF 2010]

Yet things continue not to change much, driving higher education further down the death spiral I described then of inadequate higher education funding resulting in graduates without the requisite capabilities to produce growth, leading to economic and social decline, producing further shortages in funding for education.

As one who has been tweeting the pearls of wisdom I’ve picked up during this conference, I am hopeful that a tipping point of public understanding on the critical need for dramatically improved educational outcomes may come about through the social media.

For example: this excerpt from the viral YouTube video, Shift Happens.

It has become clear to most Americans that the objective of making students college-ready is critically important economically – since an educated populace is the key to winning in a world of global competition, and a knowledge and creative economy – and continues to be the main defender of a free and democratic society. But it’s also becoming clear that we need to re-ignite the American Dream that Jaime Aquino spoke of so passionately last night – of enabling future generations to do better than the current one, socio-economically.

On the political scene, I see a continuing building of the Perfect Storm. Because of a muddling economy in most states and communities, there will be a continued inability and political unwillingness to invest what’s needed to dramatically improve educational attainment with 100-old strategies, techniques, and attitudes. Further, increased public demand will pressure politicians to transfer the heat they’re feeling, resulting in their demanding better performance and greater accountability for results, while at the same time, they continue not to invest more in the education of our children and adults.

The educational establishment will continue to do what it’s proven itself best at doing: resisting change. Millions of the K-12 teachers and college and university professors who will be retiring in the next several years will deny there’s a need to change, hoping to ride out this perfect storm until they retire.

Tristian Stobie’s graph yesterday Accelerating Change Demands Different Skills reminded me of Al Gore’s graphs in An Inconvenient Truth. Yet educators seem to be very much like those who deny global warming and their need to do something to contribute to a solution. Where is our Union of Concerned Educators, crying for action by our own colleagues to rescue our future?

So what hope is there for change? Will the Academy recognize higher education’s responsibility for school reform?

(continued ➛)

2. Higher Education’s Responsibility for School Reform

Despite my gloomy introduction, I’ve always been tremendously optimistic about the ability of our higher education institutions to change the future.

After all, we in higher education have the privilege of working with the single biggest concentration of intelligence our country has!

If we adopt 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey’s habit of focusing on our circle of influence (what we can do), rather than our circle of concern (what we need to rely on others to do), we can reignite the American Dream for vast numbers of Americans!

Of course, changes to the Ivory Tower will be required. Higher education needs to take some responsibility to instigate and facilitate change. The Academy needs to become the change it wants to see in others.

For the first time in 900 years, the Academy no longer has oligopolistic control over the transmission of knowledge, as demonstrated by the Khan Academy and Sal Khan’s thousands of video instruction clips on YouTube, and MIT’s Open Courseware initiative.

For the Academy to remain relevant, it must become more than transmitters of knowledge. It must generate graduates who are critical thinkers and synthesizers, who can and do – as Trevor Packer stated – employ their thinking skills to translate knowledge into action.

But even if the Academy is willing to accept its responsibility as a collaborative partner in K12 curriculum reform, the challenge will be enormous.

We need to bridge the K-12/higher education divide.

  • The K-12 world has mainly been about authority and control, not results.
  • Our education colleges are now seen as our institutions’ cash cows rather than creators of colleague educators.
  • Higher education faculty disdain what’s being taught in their disciplines in K-12 schools, yet do little to change this sad state of affairs.

An example: Prof. James Loewen’s revealing picture of the sad inadequacy of K12 history texts and instruction in his book Lies My Teacher Told Me. Yet, as Trevor Packer noted, until faculty are recognized for helping their K12 colleagues, most won’t invest their time doing so.

In general, most colleges and universities don’t work effectively with elementary and secondary schools, despite their inability to successfully remediate the academic preparation of entering students in most disciplines, let alone the needed non-cognitive skills we don’t try to remediate.

Perhaps one reason for this failure of engagement is that we have competing objectives:

  • Some seek authority and control;
  • Others focus on job protection and salary increases;
  • Most faculty are concerned with professional regard,
  • research and publication, and
  • creating the next generation of professors.

Will the enlightened self-interest that David Conley mentioned – or public or political suasion – convince K12 and higher education that we must work together and agree on the primacy of one objective: Educational Equity, Excellence, and Success for All?

As Jaime Acquino challenged last night, America’s colleges and universities educate our nation’s educators and we are somewhat culpable for their shortcomings. We also educate many of our local, state, and federal policy makers, and, I shudder to think, we are somewhat responsible for their shortcomings as well.

Higher education has claimed to be about developing critical thinking and synthesis abilities in our students. As we’ve heard throughout this conference, we need to be about more – about nurturing dispositions and the ability to act effectively on the knowledge we have imparted.

As Allison Jones and Christyan Mitchell noted, we need to define what students need to be life-ready and help them acquire these skills. We also need to help politicians, as Doug Christiansen mentioned, by declaring the achievement level required – cut scores on assessments – to do college-level work.

If “it takes a village,” we need to get out of our ivory towers and work with others in our villages to define and develop the needed knowledge and skills, attitudes and beliefs, motivation and behavior for many, many more to succeed.

We need to get beyond eduspeak and express cognitive and non-cognitive standards in terms students and their families can understand. If we want them to take responsibility for their own education, standards need to pass the “refrigerator test”: be in language and succinct enough to put up on the refrigerator door, so students and their families can work on and monitor their attainment progress.

As a former businessman, I was heartened by Carolyn Adams’ observation: Educators need to work with the employers of our villages. For when we do, we’ll find their standards for career-ready employees are the same, academically, as those for college entry. Actually, as Patrick Killonen just reported, recognized workforce needs are greater than those for college entry, since workers must have non-cognitive skills and dispositions not required to enter college:

  • Interpersonal skills such as teamwork – which, as I noted yesterday, schools call “cheating” – and
  • Intrapersonal characteristics, like integrity – in an era in which 70% of high school graduates admit to have cheated in school.

Getting American education out of our death spiral will take far greater wake-up calls than a former chancellor can muster. Perhaps the cries of public opinion and a greater exposure to the new realities from respected members of the media can help.

With that hope, I’ll turn the session over to Scott. Thank you.

CERPP Conference Remarks: 2010

What Matters Now: College Access and Success 
in the Age of Obama

In Sync: Linking State Higher Education Imperatives 
to the New Federal Agenda

Roderick G. W. Chu
Chancellor Emeritus, Ohio Board of Regents

January 14, 2010
I delivered the following presentation and remarks in Los Angeles at the USC CERPP Conference on College Access and Success.

1. A Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal

Faced with the greatest recession since the Great Depression, President Obama has offered not just an “audacious goal,” as others have referred to it earlier in this conference, but a BHAG – a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal

– that “by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” We all welcome the President’s recognition of importance of higher education in meeting the challenges of a 21st century world.

The State Higher Education Executive Officers – SHEEOs – have been carrying this message for years and provided important input to President-elect Obama’s transition team as they formulated their agenda, and are delighted that they listened.

I’m honored that I was elected by my fellow coordinating and governing state system heads to chair SHEEO during one of my years as Ohio’s Chancellor and am especially proud of the outstanding work that SHEEO’s president, Paul Lingenfelter, has done in leading the organization’s work –

so proud that I’m happy to borrow some of his slides to help inform my remarks today.

If you’d like more information on state higher education policy thoughts, please go to the SHEEO website where you’ll find some of Paul’s and others’ presentations and white papers.

(continued ➛)