University President: Inauguration Speech - September 19, 2004
The Journey Calls to Us
I am struck by two powerful symbols of who we are as a University. One is on the south edge of the campus, out on our frontier - Michael Dente's sculpture of William Clark and his scouting party, who stood on this very bluff and connected the University forever to that great journey of discovery that Clark and his friend Meriwether Lewis were leading. Lewis and Clark were fearless and driven explorers, but they were also educators; their small community advanced not only the nation's boundaries but the world's knowledge. They catalogued flora and fauna, learned new languages, engaged new peoples and civilizations, identified new resources, and fired the imagination of a pilgrim people ready to use God's gifts to reach beyond the known to new horizons and possibilities. In fact I would argue that William Clark was among the first and best teachers to set foot on this campus.
The other telling symbol is right in the heart of the campus - Donovan Peterson's memorial to Father Tom Oddo, his sculpture of Christ teaching a small group of companions. This reminds us of two other visionary men and their journey of discovery to The Bluff: Archbishop Alexander Christie and Father John Zahm, who joined forces to establish the University of Portland less than a century after Clark trod this soil. And it reminds us also that Christ the Teacher has always been the model of all that we do or hope to be, and that we are a Catholic university, with a tradition traceable to the Middle Ages, a tradition of scholarship and culture, of service and community.
It is these two legacies that have brought us together here today, still exploring, still seeking to discover, still probing the boundaries of heart and mind, united by our history, our curiosity, and our passionate devotion to fine teaching, active faith, and selfless service.
It wasn't an easy trip for the Corps of Discovery from Missouri to Oregon; neither has it been an easy journey for the University, these 103 years. And make no mistake about it: as with all colleges and universities, the challenges continue. The journey ahead of us will have its share of difficulties.
We will be faced with ever-increasing costs, and we must be prepared to offer additional financial assistance to gifted young men and women so they can come here to pursue their dreams.
We will have to increase our endowment and other resources to make sure we will always continue to have first-rate faculty and staff.
We will have to renovate old buildings and build new ones to enhance the academic and residential experiences that are the hallmarks of this University.
We will have to continue to enrich the experiences our students have in our classrooms and laboratories.
We will have to continue to enrich the experiences they have outside our classrooms, in our campus community and beyond.
We will have to continue to enrich the opportunities they have to explore and express their beliefs and their spiritual longings.
And we will have to enrich the opportunities they have to share their minds and hearts with others.
And we must do this as a community - the idea that defines this University. It is community that has shaped a university that focuses the extraordinary energies of students, faculty, alumni, parents and friends toward one driving goal: to create opportunities for our students to find their best selves, and hone the God-given talents to be leaders and healers and teachers around the world.
None of this will be simple or easy, and it will require us to labor long and sacrifice much. But we are inspired by our own history; in the past, faced with enormous challenges, the University grew and prospered. And so will the University of Portland of the future. We believe in the power of an educational community to open and shape minds and hearts and lives, and in so doing, change the world.
My own optimism is steadfast and unshakable because I know I do not make this journey alone. With us are the men of Holy Cross; and a faculty of superb scholars and teachers; and a passionate staff; and a talented, energetic, and gifted student body; and so very many devoted and generous friends and benefactors; and selfless regents; and alumni who treasure their time as students here and who want to make that experience available for others; and finally, and most importantly, with us is the Lord, to whom this place is dedicated, for Whom all things are possible, and Who travels with us always.
So I do not set off alone today. We go together.
Nothing great is ever accomplished alone. Together we will venture into uncharted lands. Together we will learn new languages and engage new peoples. Together we will fire the imaginations of a pilgrim people and inspire them to use God's gifts to reach beyond the known and to embrace new possibilities.
The journey calls to us: let us begin.