Robbins Calls for Innovation From UA

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Broadway star Ben Vereen are among those welcoming the University's 22nd president at his Centennial Hall installation.

By:
Doug Carroll — University Communications, Chris Richards photos

Dr. Robert C. Robbins issued a challenge to be "bold in our thinking and in our actions" as he was formally installed as the University of Arizona's 22nd president Wednesday on campus.

Robbins, who has been on the job since June 1 after arriving from the Texas Medical Center, where he was president and CEO, received well wishes in person and by video from a host of dignitaries and officials, ranging from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to Broadway star Ben Vereen.

The hourlong ceremony in Centennial Hall even included a medley of songs from Robbins' personal playlist, performed by the UA Dance Ensemble and a backing band: "Start Me Up" and "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones, "Jump" by Van Halen and "Man in Motion" from the film "St. Elmo's Fire."

The last of those seemed especially appropriate for Robbins, who has hit the ground running as president, eager to connect with students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community.

Ducey praised Robbins for the "fresh energy" and "big ideas" he already has brought to the UA.

"I can think of nothing more important for this university than having a visionary leader at the helm," Ducey said of Robbins. "To know Bobby Robbins is to like Bobby Robbins.

"It's fitting that an internationally recognized cardiac surgeon is the one bringing some new heart and soul to the UA."

Bill Ridenour, chair of the Arizona Board of Regents and co-chair of the committee that selected Robbins, noted the myriad demands placed on modern-day university presidents, requiring a broad set of skills, and said Robbins "is the right CEO for the University of Arizona."

Robbins returned in his remarks to a familiar theme of his first few months at the UA, that of meeting the challenges presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution — the 21st-century convergence of the physical, biological and digital sciences that is the subject of a 2016 book by German engineer and economist Klaus Schwab.

"In every area, our goals must be ambitious enough to accelerate the rise of the UA among the ranks of the leading public research universities of our nation," Robbins said.

The president said the UA is positioned for such a higher profile, adding that this will require a combination of collaboration and vision. An example, he said, would be a greater emphasis on translational research.

"Fundamental discovery is necessary — it is the lifeblood of our role in society — but it is not sufficient," Robbins said. "The UA must be a source of innovation in products and services that benefit the world and drive the economy of Arizona."