University of Dayton chapel

Heart and Soul

In the span of a few short days last week, I met dozens of students who are taking classes, conducting research in engineering laboratories and participating in special programs that nurture the spiritual life.

They energized me with their passion, intellect, joy for life — and faith. I’m convinced they will change our world in ways we can’t even imagine.

One group on Stonemill invited Karen and me over for an evening of conversation and desserts.  I now understand why we talk about the front-porch hospitality of the student neighborhood to prospective students. It’s an extraordinary place to live —  and it symbolizes our deep sense of community with its small-town charm. We certainly felt a warm, welcoming spirit on the front porch that night.

Another group hasn’t yet stepped foot in a UD classroom, but they’re already diving into the heart and soul of what our Marianist university is all about through a weeklong pre-orientation program called “Callings” through the Program for Christian Leadership.  Over dinner and an icebreaker with program director Elizabeth Montgomery and her student leaders, our soon-to-be students showed me the face of future leadership.

I left with a deeper appreciation for the Marianist philosophy of education. We ask our students to explore the big questions: How can I make a difference in the world? Who is God calling me to be? How can I connect my studies with my faith and values? It’s a spiritual journey — and for some it begins even before the official student orientation in August.

In another wonderful outing, Karen and I picnicked with the staff and students of the Lalanne program and enjoyed the fellowship of the Marianists at the home of Susan and Dick Ferguson. What a remarkable group of young educators who have made a commitment to serve in under-resourced Catholic schools as they learn and live together in community. It’s a high-impact program that exposes students to the important role the University plays in service to the Catholic church.

After my first two weeks as president, I’m inspired by how we build and nurture community — and the support we provide one another as we help students develop their gifts. I, too, feel that I’ve found my calling here.

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