Michael J. Graham, S.J.
Snow day. They are the favorite two words of all students of any age, anywhere. And it is exactly what we have here at Xavier University today. It is a snow day.
Too far north for winter to be a complete non-event but too far south for winter to pack a real punch, Cincinnati exists in a belt in between, where freezing rain, sleet and snow mix it up and make a mess of our hills and streets. So what started as snow last night now has an ice crust on top of it, and the University is a pretty quiet place right now—except for the scraping of the snow plows. Which reminds me: The Few! The Proud! The Physical Plant!
Just as it wreaked havoc on our traffic, so the storm tossed a monkey wrench into my schedule. Not that I ever especially mind a cancelled meeting (or two), but we have a Board of Trustees meeting bearing down on us at the end of the month, and there is just too much going on for a winter storm to interrupt.
On the other hand, a snow day brings along with it exactly what a regular day doesn’t—namely, time to look things over and actually think about them. Maybe even savor them a little. Certainly reflect on them a whole lot more than a schedule usually permits.
There is that stack of materials on the capital campaign that Gary Massa, our University Relations vice president, dropped off the other day: Who we have talked to; what we have talked to them about; what the follow up is; who’s committed and who hasn’t—yet; what my assignments are. Jot down some names and phone numbers. Check my schedule for breakfasts and lunches that are open and free to try to get some meetings scheduled. (And all of a sudden some Big Picture seems to swim into view.)
And then there is that pile of stuff pertaining to Xavier Square. The first draft of the comprehensive development agreement between ourselves and a local developer is due any day now. But the list of stuff that has been happening so far is certainly impressive. Focus groups with students have zeroed in on options for all the new housing and retail that we will be building. The report of the hotel consultant—that looks good. It will be great to have a hotel so close to campus. I can’t wait for the new Xavier sports club that will be a part of the mix, right down to the climbing wall. Got to have a climbing wall nowadays. And the new University bookstore as well. That is going to free up some terrific space in the Gallagher Center for additional room for everything from Multicultural Affairs to a commuter lounge to that expanded student service center we have been hoping to do. (Hmmm. That Big Picture again.)
Or maybe I should tackle that packet from the architects who are massaging final plans for the Quad. The initial cost estimates are starting to come in and they don't seem too far out of whack. Looks like the “value engineering” to bring the project into budget shouldn’t be too painful. And the exterior elevations keep coming along. The new business school and Learning Commons buildings are going to create a terrific new gateway to campus at Ledgewood and Dana. Given how successful our “prototype” Learning Commons is over on the first floor of McDonald Library right now, I can’t even begin to imagine the impact that the full-scale version will have in not too many years. I really like the planning suggestions of clustering together the various services students are going to want to access—career services, academic advising, learning assistance programs, Student Success and Retention, all the rest-into “neighborhoods.” Pretty inventive. Should work well. (And there’s that Big Picture again.)
And then there are all those recommendations from the rank and tenure committee. Seems like an exceptional crop of faculty in this year’s tenure class—nine of them from across the University. To an individual, they look like terrific people: dedicated teachers, committed scholars, people who advance the mission of the University in ways as diverse as they are. Precisely the kind of professors who will build on the deep foundation of care and excellence their predecessors have provided to guarantee that generations of students that I will never see will be as well cared for as they are well challenged. What a pleasure to be able to recommend them for tenure to the Board. (And again, that Big Picture shimmers into view.)
The capital campaign, To See Great Wonders. Xavier Square. The James E. Hoff, S.J., Academic Quad. This year’s tenure class. Too bad that the day-to-day demands around here all too often blind our eyes to what all these things and more really mean; That we get so caught up on all the individual trees that we fail to notice the forest.
For in all these ways, a future University is taking shape. Built on the shoulders of those who came before us. Built through the generosity of those who believe in our dreams. Built with the good, patient labor and dedicated spirits of the faculty and staff who make up this place now. And built for the students whose ringing voices I can hear outside my window. Celebrating a snow day. God love them.
Wherever it is that you are weathering winter this year, I hope that this issue of Xavier magazine finds you well—whether or not God gives you snow days.