On Sept. 27-28, the Board of Trustees of CUA gathered in Chicago for its annual retreat. Like the American Cardinals Dinner, the annual board retreat meets in cities across the country to give some added exposure to the university. Following the board’s ordinary business session — during which the financial audit was accepted and tenure applications were approved — Mass was celebrated at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral. Since it was the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, founder of the Vincentian community to which I belong, I preached the homily of the Mass and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick presided. Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, a member of the board, hosted us for Mass the next morning, before we began our retreat conversation. The topic of the conversation was “Creating a More Effective and Involved Board.” Dr. Roger Raber, president/CEO of the National Association of Corporate Directors, facilitated the retreat.
VP for Development Bob Sullivan and I stayed in Chicago for a few days to visit with some alumni and other benefactors. Dani Fay from the Office of Alumni Relations set up a very nice alumni luncheon at the Union League Club and, along with other staff, we had the occasion to speak with Chicago alumni/ae who had gathered for the event. One of those present, Jane Philbin, graduated from CUA in 1940! It was a very successful gathering.
October is a very busy month on campus. On Oct. 8, I am conferring the President’s Medal on William Pincus, the founder of clinical legal education, at a ceremony in the Columbus School of Law. On Oct. 15, the beginning of “Family Weekend,” I am dedicating our new Student Health and Fitness Center in honor of deceased trustee, alumnus and benefactor Eugene I. Kane, whose generosity made the center possible. On Oct. 19, I am conferring an honorary degree on Robert Prince, president/CEO of Duratek Inc., a company that has partnered with and supported the on-campus work of our Vitreous State Laboratory for many years. The month will end with an Oct. 28 celebration of CUA’s Metropolitan College, commemorating 25 years of the college’s service to adult and nontraditional learners in the metropolitan Washington area. Dean Sara Thompson will join me in conferring an honorary degree on former CUA trustee, alumnus and benefactor Vincent Sheehy. U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige will give an address on this occasion.
It is an exciting time at CUA, to be sure!
I had contemplated addressing the recent controversy on campus regarding invitations extended to pro-choice/pro-abortion advocates but have decided that there’s not much more to add to what I have already said. At the end of the day, as our speakers policy and university bylaws indicate, the CUA president has ultimate responsibility for university policy. I try to exercise my best judgment for the good of the university in light of its Catholic identity and mission. To be an academic institution of the highest quality that is faithful to our Catholic identity and mission is the principal focus of my attention as president. That’s the commitment I made seven years ago and I intend to honor it until my last day on the job. I consider any pro-choice advocacy — whether deliberate or accidental, whether presented under the guise of academic freedom or right to free speech — as incompatible with that fidelity and not worthy of The Catholic University of America. That some members of the university community disagree, even vehemently, with my judgments does not make those judgments right or wrong nor does it dissuade me from making them. In applying university policy and, quite frankly, in everything I do here, I pray for wisdom and ask your prayers that I will make the best decisions for CUA. I consider carefully the reasoned input that I receive from members of the university community and I am open to civil and respectful discussion of my application of university policy in appropriate university venues. I cannot compromise, however, on the matter of our Catholic identity and mission.
I regret ending on so serious a note but I could not completely ignore “the elephant in the room.” I believe in The Catholic University of America and all that it can and should be if it is faithful to its founding mission and identity. I shall continue to work with and for the university in the realization of its potential. My very best wishes and gratitude to all of you.
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