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July, 2019


I was privileged to begin the new semester by participating in the U.S. University Presidents Summit convened on Jan. 5-6 by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Education to discuss a variety of issues related to international education in our country. President Bush addressed the group of almost 100 university presidents from all over the country, launching a foreign language initiative to encourage instruction in Arabic, Chinese and other languages at schools and colleges. Secretary of State Rice, Secretary of Education Spellings and members of their senior staffs also spoke throughout the two-day event about study abroad and international outreach programs, faculty and student exchanges as well as progress in dealing with student immigration issues. The university presidents were assigned to small groups to discuss various aspects of these topics.  I was the only Washington-based president in attendance and I found the conversations fascinating.

Father O'Connell on the rooftop of the pope's apartment with Pope Benedict XVI's secretary, Monsignor Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki.

On Jan. 7 I left for Rome and the first meeting of the consultors to the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education.  About 20 rectors and faculty members from all over the world attended. Bishop Allen Vigneron (CUA trustee) and I are the only two consultors who live in the United States. The meeting focused on the role and competence of the congregation, the rights and obligations of ecclesiastical and non-ecclesiastical faculties, the state of educational reform in western Europe as well as the Catholic identity and mission of universities throughout the world.  While in Rome for four days, I had the occasion once again to visit some of the other departments of the Vatican with which the university conducts business.  It was a quick but pleasant trip.

On Jan. 16, the national holiday honoring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a number of our students and staff, under the leadership of Associate Campus Minister for Community Service Emmjolee Mendoza, spent the day in service to the elderly in the metropolitan community. The theme of the day, “Not a day OFF but a day ON,” was a fitting tribute to the slain civil rights leader. I thank Emmjolee and all who participated.

Prior to my departure for Rome, I learned the sad news of the death of Pittsburgh native and CUA undergraduate senior Zachary Billotte. A politics major who was very active in university life on campus, Zack was scheduled to graduate in May. On Friday, Jan. 20, the university hosted Zack’s family for a memorial Mass in Caldwell Chapel. I presided at the Mass as University Chaplain Father Bob Schlageter preached a wonderful and touching homily to a standing-room-only crowd of family, friends and fellow students. Our students provided beautiful music for the liturgy. After Mass, CUA friends of Zack presented a program of tributes in the presence of his parents and family. It was a very moving event, filled with obvious love and affection for one of our own.

I am most grateful to all the CUA students and staff who, in collaboration with the Office of Campus Ministry, hosted thousands of visitors to CUA for the annual “March for Life.” Special thanks to Associate Campus Minister for Women’s Issues and Social Justice Lauren Heckman for her leadership in making this year’s event such a success. Every nook and cranny was taken over by visitors from all over the country. Hundreds of our students braved the elements on an overcast, drizzly day to participate in the march. For some photos of our students, I invite you to review the CUA photo gallery located on the home page of our Web site (

On Jan. 26, the Administrative Council will meet with CUA’s new marketing manager Emilie Wittenberg to discuss strategies for marketing the university, especially its academic programs and strengths.  CUA has been seeking to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy for years and Ms. Wittenberg’s presence on the university staff will provide a serious direction for our efforts.  At 12:10 p.m. that day, the university community will celebrate its patron, St. Thomas Aquinas, at an annual Mass in the Crypt Church of the basilica. The Dominican community will provide the music for the Mass and the provincial superior, Very Rev. Dominic Izzo, O.P., will preside and preach.

A Mass in memory of Monsignor Frederick McManus, co-sponsored by the schools of canon law and theology and religious studies, will be celebrated on Jan. 31, at 5 p.m. in St. Vincent’s Chapel. A reception will follow in the foyer of Caldwell Hall.

As we go through the academic year, it is gratifying to observe our university marketing slogan “Do It All. Discover Excellence. Experience Success.” being validated in the actual experiences and successes of members of our university community. To cite but a few recent examples:

- CUA trustee Mark Tuohey and his two sons (one of them – Sean – a CUA alumnus) being named Washingtonians of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine;

- the women’s soccer team, coming off a spectacular season (the best in its history), receiving an award from the National Soccer Coaches Association for posting a team grade point average of 3.0 or higher;

- the CUA cheerleading team finishing fifth in a national tournament in Orlando, Florida and earning a No. 5 national ranking in the Division II/III women's division;

- Dean Murry Sidlin being featured in the Jan. 6, 2006, issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education for his annual practice of conducting the National Symphony Orchestra on New Year’s Eve at the Kennedy Center;

- our Office of General Counsel, led by Craig Parker, being profiled in the Jan. 27, 2006, issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education for its national leadership among universities in the area of preventive law.

Four CUA alumni will lend their acting talents to a fundraiser for drama scholarships.


Though February is our shortest month, if the calendar of events is any indication, it will be a busy one on campus. To view what has been scheduled so far, I invite you to visit . I especially commend to your attention a dramatic reading of Shaw’s “Don Juan in Hell” by four of our distinguished drama alumni on Feb. 3 to Feb. 5 in Hartke Theatre to raise scholarship funds for drama students. This should be a very interesting production for a worthy cause.

On Feb. 2, I’ll be rooting for world-renowned groundhog Punxsutawney Phil to emerge and take in the scenery without seeing his shadow so that we will have an early spring.  So far this winter, mother nature has been merciful to our heating and utility budgets! May she continue to be! And I ask you to please continue to do your part by turning off lights and electronic equipment when they’re not in use.

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Last Revised 25-Jan-06 03:38 PM.