5:30 pm- Guild Hall
September 28, 2012
It is a pleasure to be with all of you this evening, and it's indeed a singular honor to attend this year's Homecoming as the new president of Saint John's University.
For alumni, colleges can seem like places of perpetual change. You find new buildings: where did that Sexton Commons come from and what happened to Flynntown? Re-purposed buildings: what happened to Mary Café and when did Rat Hall put on airs and become Guild Hall? New faculty: these new profs are younger than me. New academic programs: when did they add environmental studies and what exactly are gender studies? But most obviously and importantly, new students: a generation at a college is only four years long.
While all of this change is happening, my recent conversations with alumni from across the country and across generations tell me that Saint John's is a place of continuity. Of course, each of us in this room had his own unique four year Saint John's experience. But everyone in this room also had a timeless Saint John's experience. An experience that makes for a powerful connection across generations. An experience that creates a deep tie to our alma mater. Last year, my classmate Fr. Michael Byron addressed alumni in a homily. He told us that alma mater means much more than just "the school one graduated from." Literally alma mater means "heart mother or soul mother." Fr. Michael said that this meaning "speaks to a sense of stability and security and common memory." Alma mater in this deeper sense speaks to this place that shaped and formed us.
The timeless part of our Johnnie experience that links all of us across our superficially different four year generations is built on four traditions. Pillars that remain part of our students' experiences today and will remain at the core of our mission into the future.
These are four fundamental pillars of the shared experience that stretches across generations and bind Johnnies together regardless of age. As President, I will not only preserve these time-honored traditions, but I will work hard to make them even stronger and better.
These four pillars tend to focus on the experience of students while in Collegeville. But there is a fifth pillar of the Johnnie experience--the exceptional generosity of Johnnies to Johnnies--the gift of time, talent and treasure that we are celebrating here tonight.
I want to acknowledge the Reunion classes and all of our benefactors for your generous support of Saint John's. We can't thank you enough for your dedication to our Benedictine educational mission. Your commitment and loyalty to Saint John's are admirable.
In these challenging economic times, when some have called into question the value of the residential liberal arts model, the future of Saint John's absolutely depends on your generosity. You can and do make an extraordinary difference in the lives of our students and our academic community and our future. You epitomize one of the best Saint John's traditions - generosity: Johnnies giving to Johnnies. In the words that motivated our last capital campaign, from one generation to the next.
I am grateful to the Saint John's community for entrusting me with my new role. It is a sacred trust that I will safeguard and pursue with energy and enthusiasm.
I am deeply grateful to the Alumni Association and the Alumni Board for their leadership and for their key role supporting our mission and vision by building lifelong relationships between our alumni and Saint John's.
I look forward to working with many of you to continue to strengthen Saint John's University, our alma mater, in the months and years to come. Thank you.