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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Faculty Convocation -- Spring

Georgetown University
April 9, 2002

This has been an academic year like no other, a year of national tragedy and heartbreaking losses in our university family. It has been a year of administrative transition for Georgetown. Yet for all we've had to come to terms with, the distractions and disruption, this university never wavered from its academic mission or sacrificed its standards of achievement.

After the terrorist attack within sight of this campus, our university pulled together in countless ways to console and support one another. Through faculty-led dialogues, through prayer services, blood drives and public lectures, we experienced a powerful yet unforced expression of community. In helping students to make sense of unfathomable events, we may very well have undertaken some of the most important teaching of our lives.

I've had an opportunity over the past few months to moderate town hall meetings across the country, and this has given me the opportunity to see the strong educational role our faculty play in shaping public discourse about September 11 and its interpretation. At each event, a panel of three or four faculty and in one case, four members of Campus Ministry, contributed perspective and meaning to the events of September 11 and thereafter.

I remember the Boston town hall in particular because Joe Lepgold, just a few weeks before his trip to Paris, was a panelist. The evening was one of the most remarkable in my many years at Georgetown. More than 600 alumni and parents filled a ballroom and for more than two hours listened to four brilliant, perceptive members of our faculty as they helped to make sense of the changes in our world.

It says a great deal about the reputation of our faculty that they can pack a hall hundreds of miles from Georgetown with alumni, parents and friends attracted to the light that shines from the candle of your scholarship and intellect.

There have been many outstanding examples of faculty achievement this year. Cutting edge biomedical research conducted at our Medical Center in cancer treatment, spinal cord injury, and HIV/AIDS therapy made headlines. President Bush named Alfonso Gomez-Lobo, professor of metaphysics and moral philosophy, to the President's Council on Bioethics. Law Professor Larry Gostin drafted the model public health emergencies act now used by states to update their laws relating to bioterrorism and other emergencies. Time magazine honored Dorothy Denning as an innovator for her scholarship on cyber crime, cyber terrorism and security.

Student scholarships are another measure of academic excellence. This year Georgetown student Kateri Dubay earned a Gates Scholarship and Courtney Peterson, the daughter of history professor Sandra Horvath Peterson, won a Marshall scholarship.

Another measure of the strength of an educational institution is the number of people who seek to invest more than $120,000 to be educated within its walls. Our undergraduate applications remain at last year's record level of more than 15,500. Admission letters were mailed last week to approximately 20% of those applicants, making us one of the 10 most selective universities in the nation. Law School applications jumped by 20%. And while Med Center applications are slightly down, they declined less than the national average for medical schools.

Georgetown University has remained profoundly competitive in a year that some predicted a drop-off in applications to universities in Washington, D.C. and New York.

I wonder what John Henry Cardinal Newman would have thought of today's competitive admissions environment. This is the 150th year of Newman's seminal work, The Idea of the University, in which he captured some deep truths about the nature of higher education. For Newman, the University was a setting for the engagement with knowledge, and specifically the transmission of knowledge from wise teachers to students in the most impressionable time of their lives. He called the university "... a place where inquiry is pushed forward, and discoveries verified and perfected, and rashness rendered innocuous, and error exposed, by the collision of mind with mind, and knowledge with knowledge. It is the place where the professor becomes eloquent, and is a missionary and a preacher, displaying his science in its most complete and most winning form, pouring it forth with the zeal of enthusiasm, and lighting up his own love of it in the breasts of his hearers."

The modern university has interpreted this challenge to require an even deeper engagement in research and scholarship than Newman imagined. Newman had a deep appreciation for "Thought or Reason exercised upon Knowledge." Nevertheless, our contemporary appropriation places a greater emphasis on the advancement of that knowledge--through discovery, construction, and creation of knowledge.

There is another dimension of our contemporary appropriation, which is a particular challenge for an institution that calls itself Catholic, and Jesuit.

Several months ago, I talked about the idea of the modern Catholic and Jesuit university as captured in the metaphor of three houses. To borrow a phrase from Jacques Barzun, we are a House of Intellect. But more is expected of an institution that is Catholic and Jesuit. As Catholic and Jesuit, Georgetown is both a House of Faith and a House of Justice. I would like to say a few words about this additional responsibility specifically regarding our commitment to this third house--our commitment to justice--in the context of an idea that began to form for me in the weeks after September 11.

Thirty-five years ago Pope Paul VI wrote what has been called the first encyclical of the 21st century, Populorum Progressio, offering theological reflections on issues of global poverty and development. In 1987, the 20th anniversary of the encyclical, Pope John Paul II issued his letter On Social Concern. In a prophetic challenge, he introduced a new term--a new way of thinking about a dimension of our lives together. He asked each of us to see ourselves in solidarity--solidarity--with one other. Whatever our national, racial, ethnic, religious, economic, or ideological differences, we must acknowledge that we are inextricably linked in ways that demand of us to live the love command to love one another, to love our enemies, to love our neighbors as ourselves. A challenge in its own right, but now we must learn to live the command in ways that have never before been experienced given the new nature of our interconnected world.

Only through solidarity, only by working together, can the human family meet the worldwide challenges of hunger, ignorance, disease, and violence. As Howard Gray, S.J., the Jesuit leader, has taught, solidarity means extending care to those close at hand who have been ignored or abandoned within our society. Solidarity demands a commitment to change the economic, political, and social structures that enslave and destroy the human person. Solidarity demands that we acknowledge our brotherhood and sisterhood in order to authentically engage the crises we face.

  • Can we inspire people to reach out beyond the so-called boundaries of nation, class and culture to see the humanity that binds us all?

  • Can we acknowledge the roles we can play in helping the half of the world that lives on less than $2 a day?

  • Can we help citizens of the world resist the twin forces of secularism and sectarianism that blunt the appeal of religion for young people, the future of our planet?

  • Can we offer a compelling vision to young people, our hope for the future, who have so much to give, but in a strife-filled world are at risk of throwing away life in a nihilistic gestures of alienation and hopelessness?

For the past 10 days, I have found it impossible to shake the image of an 18-year-old girl who wired herself with explosives, walked into a Jerusalem market, and died taking the lives of innocent people.

It reminds us of the story a few years ago of the 15-year-old American inner-city child for whom violence was such an inescapable reality that she spent her days planning her own funeral.

These two gestures represent a sense of hopelessness among the young to which America, but especially the university--given our history, our tradition, our location--simply must strive to offer a powerful response.

The ideal of solidarity is not limited to global gestures. It is an idea, a practice, a moral commitment, a way of engaging that unites us on this campus as we work to achieve together what we could never do alone. A few moments ago, we honored several of our colleagues who have lived a 20-year commitment to the character of this university. Without such commitment, Georgetown could not be the University we are today.

Throughout Georgetown's rapid ascent in the last 30 years, we have confronted some significant challenges: the lack of endowment, an inadequate infrastructure, the need to strengthen ourselves academically. The only way to explain our success as an institution is that we--as colleagues--have embodied solidarity. Without it, no university with our limited financial resources could have achieved what we have achieved.

Consider where we are today:

  • The quality of our faculty is the finest it's ever been.

  • Our students are the most qualified and talented we've ever had.

  • We're educating the most selective group of students we've ever admitted, on all of our campuses.

  • Our graduate programs are stronger than ever.

  • We've maintained a commitment to need-blind, full need admissions.

  • We have more federal research dollars than at any time in our history.

  • Georgetown is considered the place to articulate a moral message and we've experienced that this year with such individuals as Hamid Karzai, Desmond Tutu, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Laura Bush and many others.

But of course our challenges continue. I can speak about our achievements, and about our promise, because I believe deeply in this institution. You also know, by virtue of my being here for so long, it is impossible for me to pretend that things are better than they are. I know this place too well to idealize it. But, while we are seriously challenged as an institution, those challenges are a result of our decision to take on an incredibly ambitious mission. And I don't see any of us wanting to scale that down.

Our challenges will inevitably involve our financial situation. We cannot raise tuition beyond the rates of our competitors. We cannot increase undergraduate enrollment in any significant way. We've reached the cap of our ability to borrow, and we have an operating deficit in biomedical research that can no longer be covered by clinical profits and will require philanthropic investment over the next few years to get us to a break-even point.

Given the modesty of our $700 million endowment, it is astonishing that Georgetown maintains our critical edge in academic excellence, seriously and successfully competing with peer schools that have endowments nearly four times the size of ours.

We recognize that we must spend our resources wisely while aggressively seeking to generate new revenue through fund-raising, graduate and professional education, technology transfer and partnerships.

The Third Century Campaign, our flagship fundraising effort, experienced a slow autumn but is now completing a very strong quarter. In fact, our third quarter will surpass that of the same quarter last year. At the end of February, we stand at $772 million toward our $1 billion goal, with an additional $40 million in verbal commitments.

To derive the greatest benefit from our limited financial resources will require entrepreneurial leadership, faculty participation in the development of institutional strategies, and a commitment across the university to protecting areas of current core academic excellence.

Georgetown will continue its ascent to become even more an international model as a Catholic and Jesuit student-centered research university committed to academic excellence. To do so requires that all of us confront the reality of our situation and coming together, working- together, in solidarity-to clear away roadblocks to our success.

I'd like to briefly share with you our early work during this transition year to address key challenges that will occupy us for a decade.

  • First, regarding the Medical Center:This has been a very positive year in terms of preparing for the future. We have recruited Dr. Richard Gaintner, a nationally known physician and health care executive, to serve as interim executive vice president for health sciences. Dr. Gaintner will be responsible for all educational and research functions until we complete the search for a permanent executive vice president. Dr. Gaintner's arrival enabled us to place Dr. Sam Wiesel in his new role as Senior Vice President/Dean of Clinical Affairs of the Medical Center.

  • Medical Center faculty, joined by faculty from all three campuses, have developed a new governance plan that addresses the needs of basic science and clinical faculty, is consistent within our overall institutional commitment to shared governance, and provides a framework that will allows us to achieve many key goals at the Medical Center.

  • In January, I appointed Dr. Michael Zasloff as Dean of Research and Translational Science. Dr. Zasloff is an internationally known biomedical researcher with more than 30 years at prestigious medical schools, NIH, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

  • We are again, for the second year, ahead of budget for the Medical Center this year, but that is not necessarily the best metric of progress. The growth rate of sponsored research is a little behind where we'd like it to be, so our efforts focus on the area of growth in the research program.

  • In other new senior appointments, I am pleased we have recruited James J. O'Donnell as Provost. While I don't envy anyone who has to succeed Dorothy Brown, Jim brings an impressive combination of scholarship in the classics and success as an innovator in information technology. He is completing his duties as professor of classical studies and Vice Provost for Information Systems and Computing at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • We recruited Dr. Spiros Dimolitsas as senior vice president and chief administrative officer in November. Spiros, an outstanding scientist and engineer, systems designer, and project manager, came to us from the University of California's Lawrence Livermore National Lab where he was chief engineer and senior vice president. He is managing our construction projects with extraordinary attention to efficiency and cost containment, and is responsible for day-to-day operation of many university administrative functions.

  • We are in the process of searching for a new chief financial officer and a new head of campus ministry. As we face this significant transition within the administration, I believe it is critically important to recruit to Georgetown outstanding individuals who will help us develop creative solutions to the challenges we face, in ways consistent with our Georgetown tradition.

  • We are all captivated by capital projects. The Southwest Quadrangle is rising majestically out of the ground, a little more slowly than we'd hoped, but still on track for the residence halls to open in the fall of 2003. The challenges of excavating and constructing in a fill site caused us to lose time early in the project, which inevitably led to greater costs. How much of that cost will be borne by the university and how much by other parties is being determined. While we can expect some increased costs, we believe they will be manageable.

  • We expect to break ground for the performing arts center in late summer, pending approval by the Board and the city.

  • We continue to work aggressively to develop a new Center for Science and home for the school of business. These projects have been in the pipeline for many years. I feel so strongly that they are necessary to the next stage of growth and development that in December, we created a special committee of the board of directors. That committee has begun to address roadblocks that stand in the way of these projects.

  • Aggressive fundraising continues for both projects as well as the renovation of Harbin field, which may make sense to do at the same time as other construction.

  • This summer we intend to break ground at the Law Center for the major new facility that will provide much needed academic and student space.

  • We're also juggling a number of other capital projects including renovation of the Wormley School on Prospect Street and the National Academy of Sciences building on Wisconsin Avenue whose uses are still being determined.

We face a set of perennial administrative challenges that will require serious attention in the months to come. Two of particular interest to faculty and staff are the reduction in available parking and an increase in the cost of health and retirement benefits, both of which are being addressed by working groups or committees including faculty and staff.

Important as these issues are, ultimately, they are operational challenges. We can never forget the deeper challenge that we live every day, the fact that we are all heirs to a tradition, to a sacred trust handed down from generation to generation, from faculty member to faculty member, to ensure that a way of teaching, a way of learning, and a way of proceeding, endures. At this moment we as a faculty need to consider other, deeper questions.

In November, I was asked to address the presidents of the COFHE schools on the educational response to the events of September 11. In that talk, I suggested that the Academy faces deep work that cuts at the core of our academic identity. We at Georgetown can and must bring focus to the challenges we face for our academic life.

Let me share some questions that I believe we need to think about:

  • What more can we do to provide a context, a safe place where rival and competing perspectives can co-exist, in a dynamic tension, in dialectic, in dialogue?

  • Historically, the role of a university in society is to both build culture and critique culture. Specifically, a natural culture. Now Georgetown is a global institution with students from 125 nations. Can we expand our thinking to apply the same attention to 'trans-national' culture?

  • Do we reconsider any of our assumptions and refocus any of our questions in light of September 11? We've been faced with such moments before.

  • Do these events represent a defining change for the Academy?

In the Academy, we are slow to draw conclusions. We need time. We need distance. We need to let the clear light of objectivity illuminate events like those of September 11 before we settle into any final analysis about their meaning. But we are asked--we are expected--to join in the collective process of making meaning, to shape the continuing narrative of public life. Much is at stake and much is expected of institutions with such a concentration of wisdom.

I have confidence in the Georgetown community to grapple with these defining questions. Together, with our gift for solidarity, we can resolve any challenges that come before us. Together, we can become all that we are called to be.

Now I would like to take one more moment to pay special tribute in a way that is distinctive to a university. I would like to acknowledge with our highest honor two leaders who have lived this tradition and made contributions beyond measure to the excellence of our academic program and to the humanity of our community. We say a reluctant farewell to both this semester.

Associate Dean of Students Bethany Marlowe has been part of this community for 16 years, and in my view, is one of the great unsung heroes on this campus. Few people see her extraordinary, and very personal, support for at-risk students, but if you had a child in crisis, you would want that child to turn to Bethany Marlowe. She is a best friend, and on occasion, a lifesaver to young people grappling with depression, alcohol dependency, eating disorders, and other serious problems. Year in and year out, day in and day out, hour by hour, Bethany has responded to the most urgent needs of our students, assuring them of the best possible support in their time of need. She is the personification of our tradition of cura personalis.

As Director of Residence Life, Bethany has created a program that serves some 4,200 students and 90 staff members. Many undergraduate students are engaged in one of the most successful student leadership program on campus, our Residence Life program. She is an unfailing advocate for students and deeply committed to empowering them with a sense of responsibility for their lives. She has been instrumental in creating sensitive policies on sexual assault and harassment and collaborated with administrators and students to address the full range of issues that constitute student life.

After 16 years of dedicated, selfless service, with profound gratitude for the exceptional contributions she has made to this University, I am honored, on behalf of the Directors of Georgetown University, to award Bethany Marlowe the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Bethany, would you please step forward.

[Presentation of honorary degree.]

I'd like to acknowledge a second leader. With her retirement this summer, Dorothy Brown brings to a close more than 35 years of distinguished service to Georgetown University. A celebrated teacher, cherished colleague and accomplished administrator, she has left an indelible mark on individual lives and the life of this University.

Dorothy was my professor 25 years ago, a teacher with that magical gift that awakens students to a universe of ideas. In her class, the 20th century came alive for me in ways I'd never considered. She introduced me to historic archives that became cherished resources.

A scholar as well as a teacher, Dorothy is a notable historian of the Progressive Era. She has contributed significantly to the scholarship regarding the Catholic Church in the 20th century. Through her work at Georgetown, her service as interim president of the College of Notre Dame, and her trusteeship of two Catholic preparatory schools, she is an acknowledged leader in Catholic higher education.

In the years that Dorothy has been a neighbor and colleague, my admiration has grown for her balanced and fair leadership and her unwavering commitment to this institution, its faculty and its students. Last week, we memorialized Royden Davis, former much-loved dean of the College. Roy and Dorothy were cut of the same cloth; their compassion for others touched and enriched countless lives. At certain times in the history of an institution, the challenges call for someone special to step forward. At a very important moment in the history of this institution Dorothy stepped forward to serve as Provost and provide leadership consistent with her character.

On this 40th anniversary of her receiving her doctoral degree from Georgetown University and with deep gratitude for the extraordinary contribution she has made as a member of the Georgetown family, on behalf of the Directors of the University, I am pleased to award Dorothy M. Brown the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Dorothy, would you come forward please?

[Presentation of honorary degree.]

 

 

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