Inaugural Address of Dr. Synn Ilhi
The 11th President of Keimyung University
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It seems that I have stood here a few times in the past giving the inaugural address as a new president, a fact which makes me feel rather embarrassed in front of all the distinguished guests and members of the academic community of Keimyung University who are present here. Nevertheless, I stand here hopefully with God’s blessing and thank all the people who have helped me in the past as we made our joint efforts to realize the educational objectives of the university. I am especially thankful to the members of the Board of Trustees of Keimyung University for entrusting me once again with the task of running the university.
We have often talked about the crises of higher education in the past. We did so during the Korean War and during the period of poverty after the war. We also did so during those times characterized by the rapid expansion of universities, by ideological conflicts, and by the trials and errors of democratization. More recently we have witnessed the threats to excellence caused by tuition decrease. As it was in the past so it is today. But the crisis we face today is fundamentally different from those crises of the past. The current crisis is one directly related to the actual physical survival of universities in Korea.
This crisis caused by a rapid drop in student registration, which in turn has been caused by demographic decline, is more threatening to large private universities outside of the capital area. There is no need to dwell further on this clear and distinct problem. However, the assumption that universities are safe havens untouched by social catastrophes simply because they have overcome all types of crises in the past—including the national crisis of the IMF period when many companies went bankrupt and many people had to suffer family tragedies—is a false and complacent one. The comforting but deceptive thought that we will continue to overcome any crisis in the future without much pain can easily lead us into an institutional quagmire that will, this time, bring about the downfall of universities.
Keimyung University has just celebrated the 117th year of its foundation, and its 60th year as an educational institution two years ago. When we became a university in 1978, we established the educational objectives of the university as the pursuit of academic excellence relating mainly to faculty research and the cultivation of ethical quality relating mainly to student development. Now that we face increasingly formidable obstacles and challenges, we need to reevaluate our original educational objectives and modify them in accordance with the changing social landscape. (I had hoped that this task would be carried out by my successor, but now that I am my own successor, I will have to take on this difficult challenge, and take it on gladly, with the help of the entire Keimyung family.)
The pursuit of excellence must now become the advancement of research in more comprehensive areas than self-contained fields of interest and must be transformed into interdisciplinary and industry-related studies. The goal of research must now be well-orchestrated products of multi-major scholarship and of patent-directed entrepreneurship. The cultivation of ethical quality in the character-building of students must now be structured upon the creation of a new curricular environment, where the instructional goal must be a more tolerant humanity and a more viable internationality, not to mention greater academic capability. If the primary duties of professors and staff members were solely the publication of papers in learned journals or the transference of accumulated knowledge or finding desirable solutions of academic problems arising from administration, then the lives of all of us in academia could not avoid the fate of becoming like old textbooks that just gather dust on some corner shelf of a half-forgotten library somewhere.
But we believe in the latent capability of Keimyung people. We believe in the reserved and tempered strength of Keimyung people who will continue to develop the six campuses of the university at Dongsan, Gyeongju, Daemyung, Seongseo, Chilgok, and Dalseong, who will begin a new age of medical service with the completion of the new medical building, who will surmount the rugged mountain ranges of the various crises that face higher education today, and who will dedicate themselves to the betterment of the greater family of humanity through research and education. May the blessings of God be on our efforts and prayers as we open this new chapter in the life of Keimyung University.
Thank you very much.