Thank you all for joining us on the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Universidad del Norte. On this sunny March afternoon, wrapped in the greenery of our gardens and shaded by trees, we are delighted with the flitting, singing birds and many other species of animals that are part of the exuberant life on this campus. Today we stand with a sense of gratitude to the past and with our gaze fixed on the future: an invitation to dream, to create, and to work towards building the future.
In the middle of the sixties of the last century, this University came into being as a promising solution for higher education with a clearly defined mission statement: to provide quality education, to pursue relevant research, all with a firm commitment to advance culture. By then, the Colombian Caribbean was already blooming with the creative force of painters such as Alejandro Obregón and Enrique Grau, poets such as Meira Delmar and Héctor Rojas Herazo, and world-renowned writers such as Gabriel García Márquez, who had defined the cultural path of the nation in an unequivocal sign that inspired our institution to become a guiding light, setting forth the path to freedom and knowledge, under the name of Universidad del Norte.
In the beginning of the seventies, we were already planting the first buildings and gardens of the new campus at the outskirts of Barranquilla, right here where we are now. The location of these lands was an important milestone that has outlined the growth of the university with modern constructions that are home to quietness and discipline, study, and the fruits of intellectual production of excellence… spaces where we, students and professors from the Colombian Caribbean, have become a reference for the nation.
Academics, research and culture have been the founding pillars on which the institution has been able to strengthen itself since the eighties. From then on, the Universidad del Norte has strengthened the basis for planning its future by consolidating academic life and creating new tools for scientific and technological research.
The fruits of this strengthening of the institution were harvested during the nineties when the new library building was erected on campus as the epicenter of knowledge. Thus, a clear message of our commitment to providing excellent higher education was delivered, based on the quality of teachers with doctoral training from the best universities in the world.
We entered the twenty first century progressing steadily. In 2003, the Universidad del Norte and two other higher education institutions were the first Colombian universities to obtain an international accreditation, a solid proof of our robustness. Thereupon, further goals were achieved, such as national and international accreditations, growing internationalization, and the opening of doctoral programs that few other universities have succeeded in doing.
An important and significant achievement for the institution, in the year of its 50th anniversary, is its social dimension: to this date, out of the 12,400 undergraduate students, nearly 4,200 of them, whose financial resources are very limited, are receiving professional education thanks to scholarships.
This has been made possible by the grants and scholarships that the University has created over the last fifteen years through the financial support of organizations, companies and friends that believe in our educational project, and, of course, with the tremendous help of the scholarship and credit program led by Gina Parody, the Minister of Education.
These facts, all of them of immense significance, are a tribute to fairness and a valuable contribution to help build a more just and developed society. For there are huge social disparities that we firmly want to eradicate by creating alternatives and solutions, more specifically, in the field of higher education, as our remit demands. That is why I can say, with all certainty, that peace with equality that Colombians so yearn for, has started to be a tangible fact here at our university thanks to our unequivocal commitment to social inclusion.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us celebrate this momentous occasion, our fiftieth anniversary accompanied by you, and by our good friends from European and American universities that have gathered here for our great Cátedra Europa in the Caribbean, an event that expressly highlights academic cooperation, inner peace in our hearts and minds, a song of friendship and joy.
And we do so by leaving as a testimony the great “50 Years Book” that you now hold in your hands in its abridged version.
Although the future is unpredictable and threats are imminent, we shall face it together as a fearless and thriving community. This university hereby proclaims excellence in knowledge as its core principle of education and the pursuit of scientific knowledge as its ceaseless commitment given the seriousness of the widespread deterioration of bioclimatic conditions that both the Earth and humanity are exposed to. Only our willingness and faith to work together can change this and allow us be the hope for a better tomorrow.
Dear friends: On our 50th anniversary, we are entering the future through a golden door. Thank you for being here as witnesses of such a memorable moment in our history.
By Jesús Ferro Bayona, President of Universidad del Norte on the occasion of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Universidad del Norte March 15, 2016.