What We have become And what we are about to be
By Michael J. Graham, S.J., President
I passed a pleasant weekend in early June welcoming better than 300 brother Jesuits to campus. They gathered from across the Midwest. The majority came from Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky—the footprint of the recently joined Chicago and Detroit Provinces. The rest—and a good number indeed—came from the Wisconsin Province states of Wisconsin, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Iowa and more. Insofar as the Wisconsin Province will be merging with the Chicago-Detroit Province in the coming years, our Provincial Superiors thought it a good idea for us to begin socializing with one another. And it was a very good idea indeed.
The reason I relate this to you is that it was a great deal of fun to watch people react to our campus here at Xavier. If you have been following our progress through the magazine or on the web in recent years, you know that we have been building a good deal. And so, it was fun for me indeed to have Jesuits who spent a bit of time here at Xavier years ago come up to me—often with eyes bulging and jaws hanging low—and express their astonishment at what the campus has become. And even those Wisconsin Province Jesuits who had never been to Xavier before found themselves more impressed than perhaps they expected to be. I deeply enjoyed the opportunity to accept on behalf of the entire Xavier Nation their hearty congratulations for all we’ve accomplished, for it took all of us to accomplish it.
But it all got me to thinking as well.
I’ve been around these parts long enough to watch a number of projects grow from inception to completion: the Cintas Center, the Gallagher Student Center, the Commons Residence Hall (where I live), the Conaton Learning Commons and Smith Hall. And in August, when we open up the new residence hall and dining complex, we’ll add one more big project to that distinguished list. I’ve learned just how much time goes into paving the way for these buildings before anyone anywhere puts a single shovel in the dirt. Whether it is raising money or putting together a capital financing plan, sounding out the building’s programming with critical stakeholders or getting all the permits together, pulling off these projects is complicated indeed.
Which, curiously, is kind of where we are now: dreaming the dreams and planning the plans that will help shape what comes next at Xavier University.
We have just brought onboard, for example, a talented new Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Scott Chadwick, whom you will meet later in this magazine (page 14). As he gets settled, Scott will have a great deal on his plate, all of it having to do with what Xavier University will become in the coming years. Just like the other talented individuals who have joined Team Xavier over the course of the last few years, Scott will bring his own energy and expertise to begin envisioning now the University that we will become over the next 10 years. And that is a very exciting thing indeed.
But there is one more very important aspect to this.
Because I found myself speaking with a lot of Wisconsin Province Jesuits during the course of that weekend, I had occasion to thank them for giving us Fr. Jim Hoff, Xavier’s President from 1991 through 2000. Some of those big building projects were Jim’s, of course—most notably the Cintas Center and the Gallagher Student Center. But more than anything else, Jim taught us to dream big, to work hard and to be confident in our abilities to realize what we ambitioned as a result. Jim’s most lasting legacy, therefore, is not the Cintas Center or the Gallagher Center or anything else that he built. It’s something far more intangible but vastly more important. It’s the knowledge that, here at Xavier, we can do just about anything we want. Not everything we want, to be sure. Who can? But “anything” still gives us quite a bit of room.
And so that’s what the next year or two will be here at Xavier University, as Scott gets himself acclimated: a conversation across the University and beyond concerning those next things we will do or ambition or become so as to deliver better on our Jesuit, Catholic mission of forming students intellectually, morally and spiritually, with rigor and compassion, toward lives of solidarity, service and success. It will be a lot of work, of course, but it’s also going to be a great deal of fun. I look forward to keeping you tuned-in to the process along the way.
But summer is likewise a time to take some time off. I certainly intend to do that myself, and I hope that you do, too. And that, when the summer is over, we can all find ourselves back where we all most need to be, making the differences we are all called to make in the places and with the people we are called to make them.