Wednesday October 15, 2014

Learner. Leader. Servant.

At the University of Dayton, we cultivate leaders who serve through leading by example. No one embodies that spirit more than Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M., the longest-serving president in school history.

That's why this fall, we renamed the College Park Center after one of the University of Dayton’s greatest servant-leaders.

Brother Ray is humble and unpretentious. Yet he inspires people to commit within the depths of their souls to causes that bring people together in a spirit of collaboration.

"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. For our students, he exemplifies what it means to use your education and faith to work for justice, serve others — and change the world, in ways big and small."

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 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 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.

"We challenge students to learn beyond what they thought they could," he said when he stepped down as president. "You're not given an education for yourself. There's a social obligation to make a difference in society and the community in which you live. …The very essence of this work of leadership is faith. Thomas had faith because he touched the wounds. Can we have the power and strength to touch people today, the dispossessed, the poor?"

At the University of Dayton, we educate students to lead through service to others. Our name signifies our commitment to the Dayton region, but our outreach is national and even global. We've been singled out as the "most innovative of all engaged colleges and universities" nationally in the "Savior of Our Cities" survey.

Whether it's re-establishing urban schools as neighborhood centers or bringing fresh drinking water to a village in Cameroon, we're always learning lessons about humanity. Our passion for this work springs from a central tenet of our Catholic, Marianist identity — a powerful belief in what people working in community can accomplish together.

In the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community, also named after Brother Ray, students build and sustain partnerships with the Dayton Public Schools, after-school education programs, nonprofits, local governments, businesses, and cities and associations in the Great Miami River watershed.

"We're trying to create an environment where students are excited about volunteer service," Fitz once reflected. "We have a responsibility beyond our jobs. We have a responsibility to build our communities.

"My greatest joy has been to witness the growth of many of our students and see what a difference they have made in all facets of society."

-By Teri Rizvi

For more information, contact Meagan Pant, assistant director of media relations, at 937-229-3256 or mpant1@udayton.edu.

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