President Drake on higher education success: Do your best today, and try to do better tomorrow

​Economic Club panel features Drake and presidents of Harvard and Stanford to discuss challenges facing colleges and universities

By: Chris Booker

Published on April 28, 2017

For Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake, the future success of colleges and universities in the United States may depend on following the advice of Hall of Fame baseball player Willie Mays.

Drake joined Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust and Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., Tuesday, April 25, for a conversation about higher education. Drake told a story about meeting Mays and asking him about the famous over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series.

“So how did you feel about that?” Drake asked Mays. “He said, ‘Well that was a good play, and my job was to come back the next day and try to do something a little bit better.’”

That sentiment should guide leaders in higher education, Drake said.

“You work hard to make yourself the best you can be, but the way you stay there is to try and improve tomorrow. I think we have to continue to do that with higher education,” he said.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Economic Club regularly invites eminent leaders to share their insights about major issues with the goal of strengthening global awareness of the pivotal role Washington plays in national and world economies.

Economic Club president David Rubenstein questioned the university leaders on a range of topics as part of an hour-long conversation. The leaders addressed their efforts to combat sexual violence on campuses, the role of student-athletes and the relationships built from fundraising.

“I think our universities are the envy of the world, for good reason,” Drake said.

Rubenstein asked what the greatest challenge is facing universities today. Drake said it’s about finding balance among competing values.

“The balance of access, affordability and excellence is the nexus of that challenge,” he said. “We want to continually be excellent in searching for the best ideas, the best discoveries, the best teaching. We want to be broadly accessible because we think education is a great life accelerator for young people in the country. And we want to be affordable. It’s a real challenge for American families to afford education.”

Each of the university leaders discussed the critical role of federal research funding for higher education.

“Particularly since the Second World War, there’s been a great partnership between our federal government and our university that have led to incredible discoveries,” Drake said. “It’s been the way we’ve maintained and improved the quality of life in this country and for people around the world.”

Drake’s visit to Washington included the Association of American Universities semiannual meeting of university presidents, a meeting with the Ohio’s congressional delegation and an event with D.C.-area alumni.

“There’s competition for the best ideas around the world every minute of every day. The way we got to where we are is by working hard and focusing. And we’ll stay where we are by doing that.”

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