In many ways, October was a month worth celebrating. I’ll mention just a few things briefly. On Oct. 6–7 we marked the Year for Priests with a highly successful academic/pastoral symposium on the priesthood in the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center Great Room. This event, co-sponsored by the School of Theology and Religious Studies and Theological College, drew hundreds of participants. One of the most impressive among its many achievements was that the entire proceedings of the symposium (i.e., the presentations by the speakers) were pre-printed and sold to participants on the morning of the first day of the event. How is that for great planning?! My thanks to Monsignor Kevin Irwin (dean/STRS), Rev. Mel Blanchette (rector/TC) and their staff members Julia Burton and Jane O'Brien; Victor Nakas, Donna Hobson and the staff in the Office of Public Affairs; Bob Sullivan and Tracy Dowling in the Office of University Development; as well as Suzanne McCarthy and the staff in the Office of the President for all the work preparing for the conference.
||On the roof of Flather Hall, Father O'Connell announces the installation of solar panels on campus.|
Then on Oct. 21, we announced, to much fanfare in the media, that CUA would be installing the largest solar energy system in the D.C. area. Thanks to Vice President Cathy Wood as well as Carl Petchik, Kevin Petersen and Brian Alexander in the Office of Facilities Operations and Katie Lee and the staff in public affairs.
On Oct. 23, I was able to share the news of the granting of a $2.5 million gift to endow a chair in the School of Philosophy. The donors, who wish to remain anonymous, indicated that the endowment was in honor of the outstanding leadership of the school’s dean, Rev. Kurt Pritzl, O.P. I am beyond delighted for Dean Pritzl and for his school!
That same day, as the philosophy school absorbed this piece of good news, the students, faculty, staff and alumni of the School of Architecture and Planning commemorated the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Edward M. Crough Center for Architectural Studies with a program that paid tribute to all those who had a role in transforming the old gymnasium into the school that we are so proud of today.
On Oct. 23-25, CUA welcomed hundreds of alumni back to campus for the annual Homecoming and Reunions Weekend. It was the best homecoming that I can remember! I am so grateful to Marion Gosney, Sarah Richards Burton and Meghan Comey in the Office of Alumni Relations for creating such a spectacular series of events and receptions! Thanks also to Dr. Mike Allen and Head Football Coach Dave Dunn for providing an exciting homecoming game. Although the results didn’t go our way, it is always great to see our students out there on the field giving their all under the leadership of a great coach! This was truly an alumni event to remember!
Each semester I convene a meeting of the Administrative Council, which comprises the university vice presidents, the academic deans and other senior administrators. I use the occasion to provide important information updates to the leadership of the university. The council met on Oct. 22. University Provost James Brennan provided an update on the Middle States accreditation process and the First-Year Experience. Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Cathy Wood reported on the financial state of the university and the budget for the upcoming year.
Though Dr. Brennan’s presentation on the First-Year Experience was brief, listening to him I could not help but be impressed by the way in which this program so thoughtfully draws our new students into the life of the university. Of course, we will need to await an assessment of the program at the end of the current academic year, but the multi-layered structure of the program and the feedback thus far indicate that we are on the right path!
During her report, Vice President Wood emphasized that the United States is in the midst of a slow and long economic recovery. For that reason, she said, CUA’s financial planning needs to be conservative and prudent. I think it’s precisely because we used that approach in our planning last year that CUA has weathered the financial storm well. While other universities and colleges have been forced to furlough or lay off employees, eliminate programs and take other painful measures, we have been able to move forward with modest belt-tightening. Over the next year we need to be cautious but not fearful and to reinvest in ourselves in a way that will pay the most dividends for the institution.
On Oct. 29, I welcomed to campus Dr. Antoine Garibaldi, president of Gannon University, the chair of the team that will be evaluating Catholic University for its reaccreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. His daylong visit and meetings with CUA vice presidents, deans and members of our Middle States Self-Study Steering Committee represent an important step in the process of the university’s reaccreditation as an institution of higher education. As a member of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools we undergo a reaccreditation process every 10 years. Since October 2007, the university has been engaged in a self-study as part of the process and recently completed a preliminary draft of the self-study report. In the coming weeks the university community will be acquainted with the draft self-study and invited to provide its feedback. In April 2010 Dr. Garibaldi will return to campus with a team of Middle States evaluators to conduct an official site visit. I have had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Garibaldi for many years and can say that we are fortunate indeed to have someone of his caliber heading up the evaluation team.
|Father O'Connell meets with Antoine Garibaldi, president of Gannon University and chair of the team that will be evaluating CUA for its reaccreditation.
At the Administrative Council meeting I also announced that three deans — Lawrence Poos in arts and sciences, Sara Thompson in professional studies and James Zabora in social service — have all been reappointed for new four-year terms. My heartfelt congratulations and thanks to all three! I also announced that Dean Murry Sidlin of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music had informed me that, after serving two terms as dean, he did not wish to be reappointed to a third term. He will, however, stay on at CUA as a tenured member of our music faculty. Please join me in thanking Dean Sidlin for his faithful service to the university. We look forward to his continuing contributions here. I am in discussions with the faculty regarding succession plans for the deanship of the school.
The next time you hear from me, Thanksgiving will have come and gone. I hope that all of you will enjoy this special holiday by celebrating with those who are closest to you, and that you will use it as an occasion to thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed on you and CUA. I will remember all of you and your contributions to CUA with special gratitude during this time.