Saturday September 10, 2016

Path of Selfless Service

By Eric Spina

Good evening!

Thank you, Hailee, for that kind and generous introduction.

From our campus to our alumni communities, my family and I have felt welcomed from the moment I was named Dr. Curran’s successor last fall. We’ve been overwhelmed by the graciousness, warmth and hospitality shown us.

Karen and I have quickly discovered that “community” is not a word used lightly here; it truly is what makes the University of Dayton special. It's a way of life. And I already know that this is a special place, heavy with accomplishment and full of grace and promise.

Friends and family have been asking me over the past couple months what about UD is most striking to me, most different from other institutions? There are many aspects that have been striking — from the spectacular campus to the deep caring of faculty and staff for the students to the world-class quality of our academic and research programs — but invariably, the first thing that I mention are the students. They really are different. They are not here to get a degree so that they can become rich or achieve personal fame or glory. They are here to become educated so that they can make a difference. Sometimes they frame this as giving back to their local communities, sometimes as addressing a critical societal ill, sometimes as supporting those less fortunate than them. But they are focused on others, not self. 

And I firmly believe that they are drawn to UD because of the path that all of you have charted as students and alumni. A path of selfless service to others, to your communities, to your cities, to the world. There is a virtuous circle here at this great University, and I thank each and every one of you for the critical role that you play in defining our difference and enabling our greatness.

As I discerned whether I wished to pursue a presidency last year, I knew I wanted to be part of a special place like this — a place that strives to make a difference, a place where the campus community puts its heart in its work, cares deeply and works together to achieve greatness.

I saw that opportunity here at Dayton, and we are simply thrilled to be here.

In my early days as president, I have tried to get around and spend time in small groups with faculty, staff, students and, now, alumni. If we are going to ensure that our University is not just sustained but thrives, we are going to need to get to know each other well and communicate regularly. I will continue to tweet at you, blog and post Instagram snippets of my day (shameless plug: DaytonPrezSpina), but I also want to create the opportunity for some focused conversations about our future.

Today, we did just that. I met alumni leaders from around the country and heard, in their own words, from their hearts, why they love UD so much. Their passion for their alma mater is second to none. Like all of us in this room, they are ambassadors for this wonderful university, our university.

I asked our alumni leaders to think big — even audaciously — about the future.

How do we honor our past as we imagine and shape our future?

You will hear much more about our strategic visioning process over the next six months. I invite you to join me at alumni community gatherings around the country as I listen to your ideas, hopes and aspirations for the University of Dayton.

Tonight, though, we’re here to celebrate. As I’ve gotten to know our five alumni award recipients, I’ve come to deeply admire the way they live the mission of the University of Dayton in their everyday lives. They are making a real difference in the world. And to be able to celebrate their achievements is truly a blessing. Thank you for being here tonight to honor them. I offer a special thanks to Rick Granite, president of the Alumni Association, and the Alumni Awards Committee for shining the spotlight on these outstanding individuals.

Our winners will tell their stories in their own words, but they all have one thing in common. They are servant-leaders who inspire us with their lives of action and faith. I’ll say just a few words about each before we present the awards.

Matt Maroon heard a calling and turned a year of service in Malawi into a vocation. In an impoverished country about the size of Pennsylvania, he founded a non-profit organization, Determined to Develop, that focuses on education, youth support, women’s empowerment and other needs. For the past four summers, students from all majors have traveled to Malawi to conduct research on human rights and development issues — all in an effort to affect real change. His work is inspirational.

I admire Dennis Marx’s strategic leadership on our board of trustees and deep commitment to his alma mater. Like Mary, he said “yes” every time UD asked for his help — whether serving as president of the alumni association, helping to organize class reunions or shaping curriculum in the School of Business Administration. His dedication is inspirational.

Allen Hill, former chair of the board of trustees, brought his business acumen to the board as the University rapidly expanded in size and prestige.  Now retired, he made his corporate mark as the president and CEO of DP&L, but he’s really an architect who saw the possibilities for UD’s greatness. His visionary leadership is inspirational.

Toni Moore once said, “Doing something you really love can be so much fun and have a lasting impact on others.” From serving as principal of nearby Holy Angels School to supporting Catholic school teachers through the St. Remy Initiative, she has touched the lives of generations of teachers and children with her passion, professionalism — and belief in the possibilities. Her positive can-do spirit is inspirational.

Fred Tenover is a brilliant, world-renowned, prolific researcher in the fields of antibiotic resistance and infectious diseases. What’s infectious is his faith. As Pope John Paul II observed, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” For Fred, science and religion are not two different worlds. Rather, they intersect. His faith-filled journey on the road to scientific discovery is inspirational.

Our five alumni award recipients are living the University of Dayton’s mission visibly through lives of leadership and service.  They are each essential elements of our virtuous circle: defining our excellence, highlighting what makes UD special, and drawing in new members of our community.

Congratulations — and thank you — to tonight’s honorees. We are so proud of all you’ve accomplished — and the mark you’re making on the world.

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