Starting Our Engines
By Michael J. Graham, S.J.
On Monday, Sept. 8, the beginning of the third week of classes, the bulldozers arrived on campus to make way for the Hoff Academic Quad. And they have been a long, long time in coming.
The last several months have been a blur of financial planning—projecting gift income, matching cash flows to debt service, making sure all our important financial ratios are maintained. All of this has been spearheaded by our crackerjack new chief financial officer, Maribeth Amyot, and her capable staff in the Office of Financial Administration. But Gary Massa, our vice president for University relations, and his team have also been hard at it in the last several years. Like them, I am deeply grateful to Xavier’s many friends who have stepped forward financially to make sure that we can pull off this great and important project. Likewise, Bob Sheeran, our associate vice president for facilities, has coordinated the work of our architects with all the interested parties—faculty, staff, students, trustees, community members. The bulldozers could not have arrived without them.
And then there’s the terrific work of the faculty and staff in the Williams College of Business over the last few years, work led by Ali Malekzadeh and Raghu Tadepalli, dean of the college and dean of the graduate school respectively. All their work has significantly repositioned the Williams College of Business locally, regionally and even nationally. And if you don’t believe me, just check The Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report and Entrepreneur Magazine. By launching innovative programs that weld together our three key stakeholders—faculty, students, business community—most significantly through our mentoring program, this work has recreated the Williams College of Business. And the bulldozers will make way for a striking new building to wrap around their good work.
Across from the new Williams College of Business building on Ledgewood at Dana, the new Learning Commons will allow faculty and staff to re-imagine what they do so as to deliver better on our student-centered mission. Xavier’s chief information officer, David Dodd, has led an exciting integration of information systems, library services and instructional technology—and, in this, he has had the pleasure of working with an equally motivated and visionary team. Kandi Stinson, associate provost for academic affairs, is foremost among these important collaborators. Last year, she began reorganizing areas that impact faculty life (faculty development, grants services) and student success (career services, academic advising, student retention). The staffs in these various areas will find a vibrant new home in the Learning Commons. Our bet is that the bulldozers today will help them to do their work even better tomorrow.
None of this progress would be possible without the remarkable success of Xavier’s faculty and staff over the last many years. It is always deeply gratifying to see their work, our work, lauded nationally: this is our 14th straight year of ranking in the top 10 of Master’s-level schools in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report, for example, while Kipplinger’s Personal Finance lists Xavier as 39th on its 50 best values in private education in the country for 2007, and The Princeton Review rates us as among “the Best 366 Colleges in America.” These “points of pride” and others rest upon all the faculty and staff who, day in and day out, make sure that how we deliver on our mission lives up to the promises we make to our students. They, too, have paved the way for those bulldozers.
But the work of all current Xavier faculty and staff rests upon a rich history. The era just before our own was perhaps the most crucial in preparing us for the future before us now, and no one name shines more brightly in that history than that of Fr. Jim Hoff, Xavier’s 33rd Jesuit President. From the Board of Trustees he assembled, to the Cintas Center and Gallagher Student Center whose creation he envisioned and construction he oversaw, to how he inspired the many friends of Xavier University, to the way he set and then reset the bar of our achievement ever higher before us, Fr. Hoff made possible the future we can begin to see now. I can’t help but think that he, too, was delighted when the bulldozers showed up.
But even Jim Hoff built his mighty contributions upon those of so many other people—just as our contributions today rest upon his, just as the contributions of those who will come after us will rest upon ours. From the Jesuits who took over the administration of the Athenaeum of Ohio in 1841 and then shepherded it along downtown before moving the campus to its present location, to the uncountable number of lay men and women who have always labored by their side to make this the remarkable place it is, to all the generations of students we have had the pleasure of seeing come to life before our eyes over the years, this present moment has been long in the making. It is easy enough to imagine the bulldozers now on campus driving here past a long, long line of people—all the people who have ever made up Xavier University—a line stretching all the way back to 1831. And if they were all cheering, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
But here they are on campus now, those bulldozers. And right behind them, the future. Gentlemen, start your engines.