The theme was inspired from a group of faculty who were invited last fall to read and discuss the book The Catholic University as Promise and Project by Michael J. Buckley, S.J., and they invited Buckley to be among initial and primary speakers at the daylong event.
Buckley joined other Jesuit education scholars during the first panel discussion of the day to not only discuss the subject but to also set the tone for the remaining activities, which also included an interfaith service, faculty panel discussion following lunch and a town hall-style discussion in the afternoon.
Academic vice president and provost Roger Fortin concluded the day’s formal events with an update about events about the University. Calling his concluding talk “The Wind is at Our Backs: This is Xavier’s Finest Hour,” he examined Xavier’s present and near future by recounting pieces of its past.
Much like those in the early part of the 20th century saw the University expand out of downtown and the new campus grow with the construction of buildings along what is now Xavier’s Academic Mall, he said, so too will those at the University now see vast changes and growth to the University, both in terms of physical structures and academic advances. He pointed to the Xavier Square project and the Academic Quad development as changes that will have a profound impact on the way Xavier both looks and learns.
These new buildings are the windows to Xavier’s future, he said, and these windows will be open wide within the next four years creating a new teaching and learning environment. The academic quad is inevitable, he said. The University has sufficient funds, the trustees have approved it and the momentum is strong.
“Let me quote you from an alumnus in 1913 who wrote about the move from downtown to Avondale," he said. "‘Is it too much to expect that in the not too distant future, alumni will come to campus from the east and west with brightening eyes and shining hearts and see a much bigger campus than the downtown location?’ Well in the next three to four years, alumni from today will be returning to this campus, with brightening eyes and shining hearts, and see a bigger and better Xavier University as well.”
Fortin actually kicked off Academic Day earlier in the week when he was joined by John O’Malley, S. J., in a discussion about the history of Jesuit education in general and Xavier in particular. In hopes of expanding the conversation beyond a single day, that talk and other events were organized preceding Academic Day. In addition, two small, informal discussion sessions were held on the topic of mission and identity. A wide range of faculty, with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, were also invited to submit short essays reflecting on Xavier’s mission and identity.
Academic Day began in 2001. Its intent is to celebrate the University’s academic life with a day of presentations, speeches and student performances centered on a certain realm of academics. Previous Academic Days have focused on:
• “Learning, Faith, Service: Crossroads in the Academy.”
• “The Xavier Experience”
• "Ethics: Educating for a Good Society"
• “Perspectives on Diversity”
• Proposals for new honors program on “Philosophy, Politics and the Public” and a new interdisciplinary minor on “Catholicism and Culture”
• A new academic vision statement that was crafted by faculty as a road map for the University’s direction for the next decade.