At the reception to honor departing College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Jeff Armstrong last week, Provost Kim Wilcox reflected on the meaning of the word “farewell.” He noted that the word originates from an older English phrase “fare thee well,” in which the speaker shows compassion for a departing friend or colleague by wishing them prosperity, good health and strong social support. He shared that having worked with Jeff and having seen what he can do, he genuinely felt the word “farewell” captured his sense of wishing Jeff and his wife, Sharon, prosperity, good health and strong support in their new role at the helm of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
The economic and state budget news from California isn’t any better than the news in Michigan has been during much of the time Jeff has served as our dean. Within two weeks of his departure to California, the news that the California governor had targeted the state’s investment in higher education for significant budget cuts didn’t seem to bother Jeff at all. He’s dealt with similar challenges throughout his time at Michigan State University. And in wishing him “farewell,” it struck me that the provost’s wishes probably aren’t so much that he would avoid those kinds of challenges – that’s unrealistic. But with the kind of support implicit in “farewell,” Jeff and Sharon will lead Cal Poly with the confidence and optimism that they need. So in that spirit, I’m pleased to repeat Provost Wilcox’s parting comment: “Farewell, Jeff and Sharon.”