Friday September 26, 2014

An Enduring Legacy

The University of Dayton will honor the longest-serving president in school history by renaming the College Park Center as Raymond L. Fitz Hall.

The University of Dayton will pay tribute to the longest-serving president in school history by renaming a building in honor of Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M.

The College Park Center at the corner of Brown and Stewart streets will be dedicated at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15, as Raymond L. Fitz Hall. The public is invited to attend the dedication and community open house. RSVPs are appreciated. Send an email to events@udayton.edu.

"As president, Brother Ray moved the University of Dayton into national prominence," said Daniel J. Curran, president. "He's still hard at work on issues of social justice and faith that have defined his life and left a permanent mark on this university. He richly deserves this honor, though it certainly was not easy talking him into it."

Fitz served as president from 1979 to 2002. His twin abilities to think boldly and empower people led to remarkable growth during his tenure with dramatic gains in the operating budget, endowment and sponsored research. An engineer by training and a deeply humble and spiritual man, he is known for his systematic, persistent approach to addressing complex community issues.

In the 1990s, Fitz chaired Montgomery County's Child Protection Task Force after five children in Dayton's child welfare system died. He also helped to shepherd two human services levy campaigns to victory. For the past dozen years, he has served as the Ferree Professor of Social Justice at the University of Dayton, where he provides leadership on community boards and teaches classes that connect Catholic social teaching to urban justice issues.

"What Ray does is bring people together around the table, levels the table, engages all the people, and helps them to find shared vision and approach to what they are trying to do," said colleague Dick Ferguson, executive director of the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community.

Fitz is comfortable being at the table, but not so much with being put on a pedestal. Which is why, when Curran presented the idea to rename the building, Fitz said he needed to think about it.

Fitz said he remembered back to a conversation he had with Joseph Keller. Keller gave the lead gift that built the School of Law but did not want his name on the building. As president, Fitz sat down with him and explained the value in taking credit for contributions to a community.

"I told him it is important — so that people will see you made a contribution to the University, and they may want to follow in your footsteps," Fitz recalled.

His name will be over the door, but Fitz is more excited about what will go out front of the new Fitz Hall. Joseph Aspell, a 1968 alumnus, is designing a statue of Jesus the Teacher. Aspell's other campus works include statues of Mary, of William Joseph Chaminade and of Joseph carrying a young Jesus.

"Jesus came into the world to provide the Word of God — he's a model teacher," Fitz said. "And one of the most important things we can do is teach as Jesus did — both challenging and caring."

Images of the statue will be shared at the dedication. It is expected to be installed next year.

The building and statue are only a part of Fitz's legacy on campus. Also named after him, the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community educates students in a collaborative style of community building. As president, Fitz focused on educating students to be servant-leaders who integrated faith and learning.

Every year, the Montgomery County Family and Children First Council gives the Raymond L. Fitz, S.M., Ph.D. Award to a front-line agency worker or grassroots community member "who exemplifies Brother Ray's dedication and commitment to the cause of nurturing and protecting children as evidenced by his years of leadership and service." In 2012, Fitz was inducted into the Dayton Walk of Fame. In January, he will accept a national award — the 2015 Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, Award for Outstanding Contributions to Catholic Higher Education from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

Contact Teri Rizvi at rizvi@udayton.edu.

Related Links

Latest News