Let's Talk About Tenacity
Dear Cougars and Friends,
Tenacity is a word that sportswriters like to use. In football, defensive linemen are often making tenacious goal line stands, digging in and refusing to let the other team score. In baseball, a pitcher recovering from a devastating elbow operation tenaciously rehabs for a year before recovering and playing again. In basketball, a prolific scorer can be having an off night, but he keeps hustling, scrapping with the tenacity to help the team any way he can. But tenacity is certainly not limited to the world of athletics.
As I’m sure many of our geology professors and students could tell you, tenacity has a special scientific meaning as well. It refers to a mineral’s toughness, its resistance to breaking or being deformed.
I have been thinking a good deal about tenacity lately and how it applies to the University of Houston. Last year about this time, our usually bustling campus was all but empty, as we moved our academic instruction and most of our operations online. We did so reluctantly, but with good reason. Our concern for the safety of our campus community in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic trumped everything else. So, we took on the considerable challenge of doing whatever was necessary to stay safe while trying to fulfill our basic educational mission. Yes, it was difficult, but we did it. With tenacity.
Professors adapted. Students persevered. Staff endured. Despite the considerable hurdles before us, we managed to deliver high-quality higher education and enjoyed a record-setting graduating class. It was perhaps the single greatest test of our University to date. And we passed.
Now, we find ourselves steadily returning to normal – perhaps a “new” normal? – and our campus is starting to come alive again with energy and exuberance. Sensible safeguards remain in place as we remain understandably vigilant, while an almost palpable eagerness to “get back to business” is taking hold. But something that surely remains from that darker, more demanding time is our tenacious nature. I believe it is part of our Cougar culture. And it never goes away.
True, it may not be called upon to confront as formidable a challenge as a global pandemic – or a hurricane or serious economic shortfall – but it will always be operating in the background, moving us steadily forward. That’s the difference between tenacity and resilience, which we have certainly exhibited as well. As I explained in my recent Fall Address at UH, resilience is the ability to withstand adversity, but tenacity is the ability to move forward despite adversity. Tenacity has a purpose; tenacity has a goal. At UH, it means to meet our commitment to excellence in general and our strategic plan, “Together, We Rise. Together, We Soar,” specifically.
It is this same tenacity that resulted in our joining one of the elite athletic conferences, the Big 12, after decades of trying. It is the tenacity that led to a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. Earned Tier One status. Established a College of Medicine. Completed a $1 billion fundraising campaign 18 months early. Became one of the top-producing Fulbright institutions in the nation. And turns our campus Cougar Red every Friday. And, perhaps most notable of all, it is this tenacity that has made our alumni proud to stand up and say, “I went to the University of Houston. I’m a Cougar.”
With warm regards,
President, University of Houston
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Shhhh! You’re in a library! The University of Houston’s original one-room library, as a matter of fact. This was UH’s central depository of knowledge, circa 1945. It was housed in the University’s first structure on campus – the Roy G. Cullen Memorial Building, still standing proudly but undergoing a thorough refurbishing after more than eight decades of service. And it has a historic claim to fame as the first air-conditioned college building in the country! You could look it up.