The Catholic University of America

Inside CUA Nameplate

From the President's Desk


125th anniversary cake  
President Garvey cuts a cake on Founders Day to celebrate the University's 125th anniversary as Randy Ott and Bart Pollock, co-chairs of the Anniversary Committee, look on.

Last fall we got our academic year off to a dramatic start with a hurricane and an earthquake. Lucky for us, getting off to a stormy beginning was not a bad omen. We have made some important advances in planning for the future of the University, witnessed great successes in many of our schools, and welcomed new faculty, staff, and students to campus.

In many ways this year has been marked by a renewed commitment to our identity and mission. We started making arrangements last fall to return to single-sex residences, something we believe will help our students to cultivate the virtues they will need down the road. We also kicked off our 125th anniversary year, marking the occasion with a special Cardinal Service Commitment. The commitment was a tremendous success. Our students, faculty, staff, and alumni nearly tripled the goal of 125,000 hours of service, logging an overwhelming 352,627 hours. In addition to the service commitment, our 125th Anniversary Committee, in collaboration with our schools and offices, organized a number of excellent events – from lectures and exhibits, to concerts and dances – to celebrate the occasion. We owe special thanks to the committee and its chairs, Dean Randy Ott and Bart Pollock, for their remarkable dedication in organizing the anniversary events. Next fall our 125th anniversary will officially conclude with a conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.

In addition to the events celebrating our 125th anniversary, here is a sampling of the other exciting things that happened this year:

  • In December our Board of Trustees adopted our University Strategic Plan. The plan, the fruit of more than a year of work, lays out four main goals for the University over the next 10 years: Promote the Distinctive Catholic Culture of the University; Strengthen Academic Excellence; Enhance Student Collegiate Experience; and Improve the Experience of Work.
  • Our 15-year Master Plan for the improvement of our physical plant and facilities was approved last evening by the Washington, D.C., Zoning Commission. This is a major milestone in a months-long process that has involved a number of parties including members of the Catholic University community and our neighbors. I want to extend my thanks and congratulations to Vice President Cathy Wood for her highly effective management of this process. We will seek final approval of the Master Plan from our own Board of Trustees at its June meeting.
  • Last fall we saw a promising development in our admissions statistics. Our incoming first-year students had higher average SAT scores and GPAs than previous years, and for the first time we had a waitlist of about 600 students. These are signs that we are becoming a more competitive university, and that we are working our way toward a higher profile among American colleges and universities.
  •   Monroe Street Market construction
      Construction of Monroe Street Market
  • We broke ground on our South Campus development project, Monroe Street Market, in November. It will bring restaurants, real estate, and retail to our students, faculty, and staff, as well as to our neighbors in Brookland. A stroll down Michigan Avenue reveals that this project is in full swing and gives one a sense of its scope and transformative nature.
  • At a press conference on campus in October, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced that Catholic University’s Metropolitan School of Professional Studies and its partners received a $4,175,500 grant to train health care workers.
  • We welcomed the new Rector of Theological College, Rev. Phillip J. Brown, S.S., to the University family. We also welcomed to campus Ken DeDominicis, our new vice president for institutional advancement, as well as John Rist, the first Father Kurt Pritzl, O.P., Chair in Philosophy.
  • Our School of Architecture and Planning celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. Students from the school received a coveted invitation to participate in the 2013 Solar Decathlon. They are one of just 20 teams worldwide to be selected, and the first team from Washington, D.C., to be selected in the decathlon’s history.
  • Two of our athletic teams achieved firsts this academic year, with field hockey and women’s basketball winning their first conference championships and earning bids to their first NCAA tournaments. As we head into the end of the spring season, we still have a number of spring sports teams competing in their conference tournaments. We wish them the best of luck.
  • Throughout this year I had the opportunity to meet with and learn from officials from Catholic universities all around the world – Chile, Argentina, Taiwan, and the Lateran University in Rome, to name a few examples. We hope to continue to build a network of Catholic universities around the world in order to increase opportunities for our students, and to bring a more global scope to our campus in D.C.

I began this column noting that this 125th anniversary year has been a moment in which we have affirmed our Catholic identity and mission. This year has also brought a rather serious challenge to that identity and mission. As I explained in my March update to you, it has come from the Department of Health and Human Services mandate under the new health care law requiring Catholic institutions to pay for certain “preventive care” services, like contraception, abortifacient drugs, and sterilizations. To date the White House has declined to strengthen conscience protections for religious institutions like ours that have moral objections to covering the services. The accommodation announced in February changed nothing of substance and does not relieve the moral burden the original mandate placed on religious institutions. Unless the Obama administration has a change of heart, I expect that in the months to come Catholic institutions such as ours will continue to vigorously oppose the mandate.

As the semester comes to a close we are tying up loose ends before our students depart for the summer. We have several dean searches in progress – at the School of Theology and Religious Studies, the Columbus School of Law, and the National Catholic School of Social Service. We hope to conclude at least one of these this spring, and will be working hard on the others over the summer. Last week Associate Dean George Garvey agreed to serve as the law school's Acting Dean while we proceed with that search. Provost James Brennan joins me in thanking Dean Garvey for taking on this responsibility.

American Cardinals Dinner  
Garvey speaks with Cardinal George at the American Cardinals Dinner.

Last week, with Cardinal George in Chicago, we held our 23rd American Cardinals Dinner for Catholic University scholarships. Cardinal George was a wonderful host and the venues for the Mass (at Holy Name Cathedral) and the dinner (in the Hilton Chicago ballroom) were beautiful. The 15 undergraduate seniors who accompanied us to the dinner were marvelous ambassadors for the University. At the dinner we premiered a new 10-minute video highlighting the history of the University and its unique characteristics. I invite you to view it here.

Commencement is less than two weeks away. We will welcome as our Commencement speaker Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is Archbishop of New York, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and a Catholic University alumnus and trustee.

On May 25 the Columbus School of Law will hold its Commencement exercises. Daniel Gallagher, a distinguished alumnus and Commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, will be the speaker. Mr. Gallagher is the first alumnus of our law school to be appointed SEC commissioner.

I wish you all a successful completion to another semester at Catholic University. Have a happy, relaxing summer. I look forward to seeing you in the fall. And to our graduating students, please come back and visit!