Jenkins articulates vision for Notre Dame
Maddie Hanna | Monday, September 26, 2005
University President Father John Jenkins weaved tales of Notre Dame yore into his inaugural address Friday at the Joyce Center, but he built his presidential vision on the idea of progress and a “bigger and better than ever” University.
“With respect and gratitude for all who embraced Notre Dame’s mission in earlier times, let us rise up and embrace the mission for our time,” Jenkins said. “This is our goal. Let no one ever again say that we dreamed too small.”
The “bigger and better than ever” and “dreamed too small” phrases were references to words spoken by University founder Father Edward Sorin after the Main Building burned down in 1879. Jenkins told the story of how a determined Sorin immediately began the rebuilding process a day later.
Challenge was a key theme in Jenkins’ address, especially the difficulty of maintaining Notre Dame’s deep roots in ethics and Catholic faith while continuing to branch into the terrain of research and scientific breakthroughs.
“Notre Dame will provide an alternative for the 21st century – a place of higher learning that plays host to world-changing teaching and research, but where technical knowledge does not outrun moral wisdom, where the goal of education is to help students live a good human life, where our restless quest to understand the world not only lives in harmony with faith but is strengthened by it,” Jenkins said.
He described academic excellence and religious faith as “two indispensable and wholly compatible strands of higher learning.” Given Notre Dame’s Catholic character, Jenkins said he would devote his presidency to the promotion of both ideals.
Jenkins listed three Catholic principles that he said must guide Notre Dame: the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, the harmony between faith and reason and the role of community and call to service.
The goal to increase student research efforts was also featured in the address.
“Complacency has never characterized this University and must not now,” Jenkins said. “Currently one in 10 of our students participates in a significant research effort. In coming years that number must double, and then double again.”
When discussing the need to increase diversity, Jenkins went beyond racial, ethnic, gender, socio-economic and geographical categories, delving into the sometimes-overshadowed idea of religious diversity.
Former University Presidents Father Theodore Hesburgh and Father Edward Malloy, who bestowed a blessing on a kneeling Jenkins, seemed omnipresent at the ceremony. Event speakers, including Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, thanked Hesburgh and Malloy and commented on the legacy left to Jenkins.
“I am compelled to note that Father Jenkins is off to a somewhat shaky start,” Daniels said. “He has violated the first rule of all great leaders, which is to never follow a superstar.”
Daniels continued by saying Jenkins made his situation worse by following “not one, but two” such superstars.
Provost Thomas Burish emphasized the term lengths of Hesburgh and Malloy, which collectively spanned a 53-year period.
Noting that only Malloy had received an inauguration ceremony similar to this one, Burish said the event provided a unique opportunity.
“The inauguration of a new president provides an apt time to celebrate not only a new leader, but also a historical institution,” Burish said. “It provides a time to reflect on what is distinctive and distinguishable about Notre Dame, to reaffirm our commitment to the University’s mission and to dream about our future.
“It is, in short, an occasion to talk about things that matter,” he said.
Some of these matters were addressed at the inauguration. Student body president Dave Baron urged Jenkins to study “paradox,” a theme similar to those Jenkins later raised in his address.
“Father Jenkins, your paradox, like ours, is embracing an institution crafted by other people and taking it as your own, conforming its identity to your individuality, and determining your unique way to be a powerful means for good in this country and the world,” Baron said.
Other featured speakers included Alumni Association president Timothy Brady, Kellogg Institute for International Studies fellow Sabine MacCormack, Faculty Senate chair Seth Brown, Holy Cross provincial superior David Tyson, Board of Trustees chairman Patrick McCartan and Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy.
An inaugural procession beginning at the Main Building led program participants and hundreds of onlookers across campus to the Joyce Center. The University band, stationed at multiple points along the route, punctuated the walk with fanfares.