The Catholic University of America

Feb. 1, 2016

From the
PRESIDENT'S DESK
 

Comings and Goings

Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to the staff of the Office of Facilities Maintenance and Operations, Aramark, and the Department of Public Safety officers for their service in Winter Storm Jonas last week. Facilities staff stayed on campus over the weekend and worked hours of overtime to clear our roads, lots, and paths; Aramark staff ensured that our dining facilities remained open for students; and the DPS watched over us faithfully. It was a herculean effort, and we are tremendously fortunate and thankful for their care.

The snow held off just long enough for the University community to lead the March for Life on Friday, January 22. The first snowflakes started falling as we neared the Supreme Court. I was proud of our students for braving the weather and leading the thousands of demonstrators. I am also pleased to report that more than 600 students, faculty, and staff participated in our MLK Day of Service. Both events demonstrate Catholic University’s respect for human dignity at every stage and in every walk of life.

Catholic University students at the March for Life

I want to say that we will all miss Jerry Conrad, who left the University at the end of January after four years of service as associate vice president for facilities operations. Jerry’s contributions to the University are tremendous, from the completion of the 2012 Master Plan to the renovation of Father O’Connell Hall. I am sorry to see Jerry go and grateful to him for his service.

At the same time, I am pleased to report that the University has filled several key positions in the last month. On January 5 I announced that the University has hired Robert M. Specter as our new vice president for finance and treasurer. Rob has served ably as interim vice president since August 2015. He brings more than two decades of experience in senior finance leadership positions at higher education institutions including the University of Maryland and the University of Delaware.

On January 15 I announced that the University has hired Elise Italiano as the new executive director of university communications. Elise has served as the director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington in Virginia and as spokeswoman for Bishop Paul S. Loverde and the diocese since August 2014. I have mentioned in previous columns that marketing and communications are a strategic priority for this year. We do remarkable work at Catholic University. We need to find better ways to share this with the world. The redesign of our website is one way of doing this. Hiring an executive director of university communications is another. Elise will join us February 15, and will be moving with her communications staff to Father O’Connell Hall.

Over the last year the University has also invested more resources in University Advancement. That investment is starting to pay off. At the end of December, Mr. Joseph Della Ratta made a $5 million gift commitment to be paid over three years to the School of Business and Economics — in addition to endowing a chair in the School of Business last fall. The School of Nursing received a four year $4 million gift commitment in December from Bill and Joanne Conway, to fund a new cohort of Conway Nursing Scholars. These gifts are measureable indications of the growing success of our advancement efforts. In the months to come we will be adding advancement staff to many of our schools and our athletic program. Working within the schools, our advancement officers will be better positioned to understand the schools’ needs, accomplishments, and goals, and better prepared to share these with potential donors in order to increase the level of external funding across the institution.

February is a short month but full. I’ll mention just a few upcoming events.

Today a number of us are speaking at a Safety Forum hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA) at 6:00 p.m. in the Great Room. The panelists are vice president for university relations, Frank Persico; associate vice president for public safety and emergency management, Thomasine Johnson; vice president for enrollment management and marketing, Christopher Lydon; director of environmental health and safety, Luke Alar; general counsel, Larry Morris; senior associate dean of students and director of campus activities, Katie Jennings; and vice president for student affairs, Mike Allen.

In November, SGA passed a resolution calling for DPS officers to be equipped with firearms, and in the wake of our December 8 Shelter in Place event, many in the University community have called for increased security. I asked DPS to review its practices concerning the use of weapons. In light of this review, the University has decided to purchase several new weapons that will be safely stored in two locations on campus. In the event of an emergency, responding officers would retrieve weapons from the nearest storage locale. The University will also strive to ensure that at least two senior public safety officers on each shift are trained and certified in the use of weapons so that the University is able to respond immediately should the need arise. We shared this information with the Administrative Council last week. The Safety Forum will provide another opportunity to discuss this decision and other measures the University has taken to keep our community safe.

This Thursday (February 4) Joseph Zahra, one of the architects of Pope Francis’s financial reforms of the Vatican will give a lecture on financial and administrative changes at the Vatican. On Thursday, February 18 we will welcome Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa to campus for our annual School of Theology and Religious Studies’ Cardinal Dearden Lecture. Cardinal Napier has served as president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference and president delegate of the 2nd Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. He will speak on “Collegiality and Synodality in the Light of Vatican II.” It’s a timely topic. The recent Synod on the Family has brought these two ideas to our attention. Cardinal Napier will also deliver a second lecture to a University-wide audience, on February 17, on the topic of racial reconciliation, a cause to which he has been long committed in South Africa and one that is close to home for his American audience today. 

Finally, the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music will perform Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods February 19-28. I have never seen the musical and am looking forward to it, Our students always put on a marvelous production. I encourage you to attend.

I want to congratulate several of our departments, schools, and faculty members for recent significant achievements. Last Friday the biology department had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new molecular biology lab. The new facility is designed as a collaborative research-oriented teaching laboratory and will put modern molecular biology and cell biology tools at students’ disposal. I congratulate Dr. Rao and the biology department for this significant accomplishment.

The School of Theology and Religious Studies has received a grant of $565,689 from the Lilly Endowment to establish a Light the World! Institute for high school students. The weeklong program will help students understand the role of their faith in everyday life. TRS will host its first institute June 12-18.

Xiaolong Luo, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, recently received a National Science Foundation CAREER award. The award of $504,000 is for a five-year project. It is one of the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher.

Lent begins next Wednesday, February 10. I encourage you to read Campus Ministry’s column in this issue of Inside CUA and to check Campus Ministry’s website for more details on Lenten practices and activities. I hope it will be season of grace for all of us.