After the OU Board of Regents voted for interim OU President Joseph Harroz to continue as permanent president after his 12 months as interim, he shared his outlook for the future and looked back at how he arrived at this moment.
He was selected after a nearly six-hour executive session Saturday, which followed the board’s regular meeting Friday.
“To the board,” Harroz said, “I’m overwhelmed by the ability to work with you all. This board has changed so much in the last several years and this board has taken on so much. This is true selfless service, and each of the regents here are public servants. ... This is not some honorific job you come into, it has come with lots of strains. To a person, every regent in here is spectacular and I'm humbled and honored to work with you.”
Harroz said making progress is not about gaining a role or a title, but about understanding the university’s mission and working toward that through a respectful relationship between the board and president.
“And (it takes a) president who understands the role of the students, our obligation to those students,” Harroz said. “Who understands the role of the faculty, and how you work with the faculty. Who understands the staff, and what they do, the alumni, all of those that make this place so special. My job is not to carry a title, it is to understand what our purpose is and to serve to serve as part of something that is so remarkable in our society.”
Harroz mentioned aspects of the university’s mission.
“We serve the next generation of students, and transmit knowledge,” Harroz said. “We create knowledge. We engage in creative activity. We serve society. … I take this very seriously. I will give it everything I have.”
Harroz discussed in brief his personal story, as the descendant of Lebanese immigrants. Members of his family were in attendance at the in-person meeting, sitting in chairs separated for social distancing amid COVID-19.
“My dad proves why a great, public, accessible flagship university matters. My father’s dad came over, his parents sent him on a boat from Lebanon, to find a better life. He came to the U.S. and Oklahoma because of the oil fields. My grandfather never learned to read and write. He had nine children, none of whom went past high school besides my father. And my dad, because of the University of Oklahoma, was able to go to college, and then on to medical school, both at OU, and provide a life for his family.”
Harroz said his family’s story is not just his, but the story of the university.
“To be a great university, to be a truly great university, those are the stories we have to continue to allow to occur over time,” Harroz said. “And so I accept with pride, with humility and with obligation. Thank you.”