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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Reunion Weekend Address 2004

Georgetown University
June 5, 2004

It is a privilege and a personal pleasure to welcome all of you back to campus. As we told the Class of 2004 just two weeks ago today, you leave the Hilltop, but Georgetown will remain a part of you forever. Our newest graduates will be excellent additions to the wonderful and inspiring community of 140,000 Hoya alumni throughout the world.

Let me begin by recognizing the Class of 1954, celebrating their 50th reunion! I had the opportunity to speak with them last night. Their loyalty to Georgetown is an inspiration to all of the classes that followed. This is also the 25th reunion of my own class, the class of '79.

Much has changed since we all attended Georgetown, certainly the physical campus. I hope you have taken time to tour the beautiful new Southwest Quadrangle, which we opened this past fall. Every building has a name on it-- three residence halls, a dining facility, a new home for our Jesuit community-- and it sits on top of five levels of parking! It's the largest construction project we've ever undertaken and adds an additional 25% of square footage to campus.

There's more construction underway right next door in the old Ryan Administration Building-- in fact you will probably be able to hear some of it while I speak. We are transforming that building into the Royden B. Davis S.J. Performing Arts Center. Hopefully later this summer, we'll begin the next stage in the development of a new building for the School of Business.

As you can tell, we don't have much space left. We have a compact 104-acre campus, so we have designed the academic, recreational, and living space in our academic village to encourage maximum interaction between students, faculty, staff, and members of the Jesuit community. This is very much in keeping with Georgetown's commitment to cura personalis, that Ignatian ideal of care for the whole person.

While the physical campus continues to evolve, what has not changed is Georgetown's defining character. We are the nation's oldest Catholic and Jesuit University. We are located in the heart of the nation's capital. We were founded in the same year as the Republic. We are international in scope and have been throughout our history.

When we founded the institution in 1789, 20% of our students came from abroad. Over the course of the last 35 to 40 years, we've emerged as one of the top 25 institutions in the nation. That combination-- 1) Catholic and Jesuit 2) location here in Washington, part of the metropolitan region, at the crossroads of democracy 3) international in scope 4) one of the elite institutions of our world-- the blending of those elements makes this a unique moment in the Institution's history. I'd like to say a little bit about what's happening here, to talk about some of our challenges -- the most significant that we face are financial-- and then talk a little about the direction for the future. Then we'll have some time for questions.

As a community we have never been more engaged in the realm of ideas, more involved in the vital issues of our day, or more important to the future of our country.

Let me tell you a little about some concrete manifestations, particularly in the work of our faculty. Our faculty of scholars and practitioners are at the forefront of their fields, creating and critiquing culture while taking the time to mentor, guide, and inspire our students. We share in the pride of two faculty recently honored by the Graduate School with distinguished research awards. One will be familiar to many of you: Darlene Howard, who has devoted her career to studying the effects of aging on learning and memory. We also gave an award to Ariel Glucklich, associate professor of theology, who, upon the heels of his award winning theological study Sacred Pain: Hurting the Body for the Sake of the Soul just published a novel entitled Climbing Chamundi Hill: 1001 Steps with a Storyteller and a Reluctant Pilgrim. These are two incredibly distinguished members of our faculty who are on the cutting edge in their respective fields.

John McNeill, newly inaugurated Cinco Hermanos Chair of Environmental and International Affairs, has published The Human Web, a Bird's Eye View of World History, co-authored with his father, the distinguished historian William H. McNeill. It's important to know that John's dad was probably the most distinguished historian of his generation, an emeritus professor at the University of Chicago. John is at the cutting edge of his generation. A book he wrote prior to this, Something New Under the Sun was probably the most important environmental history piece written in this past half century.

John tells a funny story about trying to write a book with his father. At one point after working together, John was critiquing chapters his father had written and he came across a rather common historical reference to the struggle between "barbarism and civilization." John sat down with his dad and said, "We don't use those terms in contemporary history anymore." His father looked at him and said, "Son, if it was good enough for Herodotus, it's good enough for you."

Victor Cha, associate professor of Asian studies and preeminent authority on North Korea, has co-authored Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies. Just this past month, Bob Gallucci, Dean of the School of Foreign Service coauthored a book called Going Critical: The First North Korean Nuclear Crisis. Bob was the lead negotiator working to limit nuclear proliferation in North Korea in 1992.

Viet Dinh has returned full time to the Law Center after a two-year leave to serve as Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy, where he had primary responsibility for drafting the U.S. Patriot Act. Across the hall from Prof. Dinh at the Law Center is one of the most outspoken critics of the Patriot Act, Prof. David Cole, who recently published Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing Civil Liberties in the Name of National Security. Not only are the two professors friends and congenial debaters, they illustrate the rich spectrum of opinion represented on our campus. The work of another law professor, Larry Gostin, is also having important national influence. Prof. Gostin drafted the model public health emergencies act used by states after 9-11 to update their laws relating to bioterrorism and other emergencies. And just this past semester, he published a book called The AIDS Pandemic. Larry is probably one of the leading policy experts on the field of HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Peter Phan, a renowned authority on Christianity in Asia, was recently named to the Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J. Chair in Catholic Social Thought in the Theology Department. Ken Dretchen, professor and chair of pharmacology, has been named sole consultant to the Infrastructure Protection Division of the Department of Homeland Security for all issues concerning biological and chemical agents.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development recognized Craig T. Ramey, professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies and, with his wife Sharon, director of the school's Center for Health and Education, for his comprehensive body of research into factors affecting young children's development of intelligence, social competence, and academic achievement.

The Lombardi Center has received important affirmation for its research and treatment of cancer from the National Cancer Institute, which extended for a total of 5 years its official designation of Lombardi as a comprehensive cancer center, the highest distinction granted by the NCI, and the distinction that allows for the highest level of funding.

Research at Lombardi is making a difference in the lives of cancer patients. In one significant development, researchers recently announced the discovery of a key marker in breast cancer tumors that may help determine which women in early stage breast cancer have a better chance of survival.

This is just a small snapshot of the work being done here at Georgetown. We have almost 1,000 faculty members; 500 here on the main campus, 100 at the Law Center (the largest faculty of any law center in the country), and more 400 full-time faculty members at the Medical Center. It's a rich, diverse group of people and they have accomplished incredible things.

In addition to their access to an extraordinary faculty, our students benefit from Georgetown's location at the crossroads of global influence. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz defended the Iraq war on campus just five days after escaping a rocket attack on his Baghdad Hotel. Two weeks after he resigned as president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada came here to talk about his experience. Days before stepping aside as President of Spain, José Aznar talked with students about the future of the European Union. He will return to Georgetown next semester as a member of our faculty -- Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership in the School of Foreign Service.

Also this year, West Indian writer Derek Walcott read from his Nobel prize winning poetry, Sen. John Kerry and Gov. Howard Dean were among the five Democrats who spoke here as they staked their claims on the Presidency, World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn urged support for developing nations. The First Lady of Poland presented the Jan Karski Award for Valor and Compassion-- a special honor from the Government of Poland, awarded each year here at Georgetown University, in memory of Professor Karski. Jan Egeland, United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, spoke to students about the challenges of humanitarian assistance.

George Tenet (SFS '76), the Director of Central Intelligence, addressed our students and the world on the topic of Iraqi intelligence. In closing, he spoke of what a privilege it was to deliver that address here Georgetown-- a place that he loves and "the greatest university in the world."

Perhaps the most special event we have hosted this year was a visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. He came to campus for a full week and brought with him 30 preeminent Muslim and Christian scholars. Together they led the Building Bridges seminar designed to break down some of the barriers between Muslim and Christian understanding. Kicking off that event, Dr. Williams spoke right here from this podium to a full house and spoke about the challenges to interreligious understanding.

His address was part of a series of Georgetown events begun this year that commemorate the 40th anniversary of Pacem in Terris, an encyclical written by Pope John XXIII in some of the darkest moments of the Cold War. Other speakers have included Cherie Booth, a noted Roman Catholic human rights lawyer and wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. On this very stage, she debated Michael Novak and Jeane Kirkpatrick. Among our Pacem in Terris speakers next semester will be Prince El-Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, who heads the World Conference on Religion and Peace; Jonathon Kozol, Paul Farmer, Miroslav Volf, and Jonathan Fanton.

This year, Georgetown hosted our second conference on recovery and reconstruction in Afghanistan. In the summer of 2002 we hosted our first, bringing together more than 700 people from around the world to develop a road map for recovery and reconstruction. This past November we hosted the follow-up to assess progress to date.

We also brought a dozen faith-based organizations that are on the ground, working with HIV/AIDS programs in Africa, to campus for a two-day conference. These groups shared their best practices and offered valuable insights to the State Department and the Department of Health and Human Services as they begin to spend the $15 billion the President has earmarked to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa and Latin America.

Outstanding students from around the world are attracted by the faculty and the experiences that are possible at a place like this. Nearly 15,000 applied for the class of 2008. Applications to the School of Nursing and Health Studies have nearly doubled in the last 5 years. The Law Center attracts the largest pool of applicants of any school in the country. I recently came to the realization-- as I sit with my colleagues at other leading universities and think through pressing global strategic issues-- that we preside over institutions that none of us would be accepted into today.

Here students find opportunities for reflection and self-discovery. Last semester, 1,600 students contributed thousands of hours of service in tutoring and literacy programs throughout the city. Our law school runs the most vibrant clinical program in the country. The University now sends more graduates into the Peace Corps than any other private university in the country.

Building on the legacy of the women and men in this room and those who have come before us, Georgetown has never been stronger or more important to the nation and the world. This place is not an overnight success, but the result of a focused strategy that began in the late 1960s. Despite a tiny endowment, we decided to take Georgetown to a new level of academic excellence through a series of defining actions: we became fully coeducational when the College admitted women in 1969. We adopted need-blind admissions and a full-need financial aid policy for our undergraduates in 1978, which enabled us to recruit a truly national student body. Between 1975 and 1990 we greatly increased the size of the faculty and raised the expectations for scholarship as a condition for tenure. We became a residential campus, adding more than 3,000 beds since 1976. We can house close to 90% of our students on campus now. To put that in perspective, when my class arrived in the fall of '75, we could house 1,800 students on campus.

In addition to the residence halls, we've built the Intercultural Center, which is at the heart of our academic community, and Leavey, our student center. And we also have the Yates Field House. We became a residential campus in the 1980s.

Through a brilliant series of five-year planning exercises, we built the academic stature of the Law Center. For dual degree holders, the school that you entered is virtually unrecognizable today. We have since added the Edward Bennett Williams Law Library, a residence hall, and this summer we complete two new projects, the Eric Hotung International Law Building and the Sport and Fitness Center. We significantly enhanced our research portfolio at the Medical Center and expanded our overall mission in medical education.

To finance this bold commitment to academic excellence we raised undergraduate enrollment to our threshold and raised tuition to a level consistent with our new peers. We had the capacity to borrow and we did. We launched our first major capital campaign in 1981, a campaign that lasted six years. Then we launched the second, right after, celebrating the bicentennial of the University. Just eight years ago, we launched the Third Century Campaign, a campaign that closed on December 31, 2003 after having raised $1.16 billion for Georgetown.

With this extraordinary level of investment, we became one of the few schools in American history to enter the highly competitive top 25 without the advantage-- without the cushion-- of old money.

Today, we face financial challenges that are the logical and largely anticipated result of a 35-year investment in academic excellence. We also have been buffeted by the managed care revolution and the 1990s change in the health care economics of our country, which impacted the clinical operation of our academic medical center and dramatically reduced our patient care revenues. That had two consequences: We lost key financial resources, and we were forced to seek new revenue sources for biomedical research, which had been subsidized by profits from the hospital.

Six years ago, our community faced the wrenching decision to sell the hospital we had operated for more than a century. We sold Georgetown Hospital to MedStar Health, the largest healthcare provider in the mid-Atlantic region, a nonprofit that already had a Catholic hospital in its system. It's been a good partnership. We're in our fourth year, and things are not without their challenges. As a consequence of the transaction, I joined the board of MedStar Health and have spent a considerable amount of time working with them. Their president also joined our board. Together we're working through the challenges that still confront the healthcare economics of this region.

We remain deeply committed to medical education, to Nursing and Health Studies, and to research in the life sciences. We do $140 million in sponsored research, placing us among the top third of academic medical centers in our country. It is important to know that research always costs money. Even if you're lucky enough to find sponsorship, roughly 15 cents for every dollar of research needs to be subsidized. When we lost our revenues from the Hospital-- which was the source of subsidy-- we needed to find new resources to close that gap. We're in the process of trying to reduce our operating losses in the Medical Center. We're on a path to get there by the 2007 academic year.

While our challenges are exacerbated by the Medical Center financial picture, the simple fact is, we don't have the financial strength of the institutions with whom we compete. The most significant indicator is our $650 million endowment-- which is 78th in the nation. That doesn't correlate with being a Top 25 institution. While we raised more money during the past two years than in any years in the university's history, and while we are one of only 20 universities in the country that has completed a billion dollar campaign, our endowment is less than one-fifth that of our peers. This creates a real challenge for us in terms of our ability to compete.

The size of the endowment is essentially a historical legacy. When all is said and done, we didn't start fundraising until the 1980s. Our peers essentially began much earlier-- in the '40s, '50s, and '60s. I remember when Fr. Tim Healy became president in 1976, Fr. Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C. at Notre Dame offered this sound advice, "You now need to do for Georgetown what I've done for Notre Dame-- begin that fundraising process." Notre Dame began in the '50s, Georgetown began in the late '70s, early '80s.

Our track record over these last 25 years has been extraordinary. The success we have had over these last two years, given the challenges that we've faced in our economy, is a great testament to the depth of commitment of you and all the alumni that comprise the University.

Our investment in excellence worked. The investment that defined our trajectory in the '70s and '80s brought us to a new playing field. Other institutions are richer than Georgetown. But they are not more interesting. They are not better. They do not have some of our unique assets. They do not have our people. They do not have our promise.

I am often asked how the University could be facing financial constraints when we just finished raising more than $1 billion. It is important to acknowledge a few facts of campaign math.

Of the $1 billion that we raised during the Third Century Campaign, we have received to date about 2/3 in cash. From 1996 to today, we've brought in about $650 million. Of that, nearly half has been spent on current use activity-- the stuff that we do every day here. About $125 million financed capital construction-- the Southwest Quad, the Performing Arts Center, the Law Center projects. $200 million was added to the endowment-- supporting faculty positions and financial aid. The Campaign enabled us to endow 62 new faculty chairs and professorships and 219 new scholarships. The Campaign also helped us build a culture of philanthropy-- demonstrating the depth of commitment of the alumni of this institution.

Which brings me to my final point. Where are we going? What does all this mean? What is the animating vision for Georgetown? Why do I love serving this place? What is the significance of this historical moment for this Institution? We have an extraordinary mission, a special history, and a wonderful community of achievers, built on a record of two centuries. But none of us is content to stand still, to rest on the laurels of past achievement.

We have identified some important priorities as we go forward. Provost Jim O'Donnell is leading an effort to explore how we can strengthen the quality of undergraduate learning. This is our greatest strength. It is why 15,000 17-year-olds look to Georgetown. We don't take our success for granted. We want to ensure this is our defining strength a decade from now, two decades from now, when my class returns for its 50th reunion. This will always be our top priority at Georgetown, forever.

Dean of the College Jane McAuliffe is working with faculty on a proposal that would allow us to significantly expand our work in the area of interreligious understanding. We have assembled an extraordinary collection of resources here-- we just celebrated the 10th anniversary of our Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. It is the home of John Esposito, probably the best Islamicist in the United States, John Voll, and Yvonne Haddad, two other great scholars in the field of Islamic studies. Our own Imam Yaya Hendi is the first Muslim Imam to serve on the campus ministry staff of a Catholic university. He joined Rabbi Harold White, who in 1968 was the first rabbi to ever serve in the campus ministry at a Catholic university. Harold is still with us too. Jane herself is an internationally recognized scholar in Qur'anic studies, the editor of the international encyclopedia of the Qur'an and the current president of the American Academy of Religion. She brings great leadership strength to this effort.

As we look to the future, we are also looking abroad. Bob Gallucci, dean of the Walsh School of Foreign Service, and his colleagues are exploring the feasibility of opening an SFS campus in the country of Qatar. It would be funded by the government there. We would join Cornell Medical School, currently operating a school there; Carnegie Mellon, offering a program in business and computer science, and Texas A&M, which has a program in engineering. Georgetown would be the fifth American university, bringing international relations to a site called Education City, which is intended to be a magnet in the Middle East for a new style of education. We are evaluating this opportunity, in consultation with the State Department and embassies from nations of that region.

At a dinner one night in Washington, the Ambassador from Qatar sought me out and emphasized that he "really enjoyed hearing" my remarks at freshman convocation. I said "Mr. Ambassador, what in the world were you doing at freshman convocation?" He responded, "Oh, my daughter's a freshman at Georgetown."

We are also exploring opportunities to establish a strong academic presence in Mexico. One project would involve the development of a residential learning experience-- a residential college that would be built together with our faculty and faculty from a Mexican university-- under the theme of "citizenship in 21st century North America." This is an exciting new opportunity, and we're exploring three or four others in Mexico.

What do these initiatives have in common? We have always had an extraordinary international presence as a university. Fifty-two percent of our undergraduate students study abroad. Students from 136 nations are here on our campuses. The two initiatives I've just described are experiments in what it means to be international, at this moment in the history of American higher education. They involve new kinds of partnerships with leading institutions in strategically critical parts of the world.

These strategic initiatives reflect what it means for us to engage the challenges in this moment in our university's history. I believe we are in a new moment. A number of factors are converging and forcing us to reexamine our mission; the increasingly global economy, a 24-hour news cycle, the explosion in information technology, and our access to images and events taking place throughout the world.

I returned Thursday night from what is now something of an annual experience-- my third visit to Rome to meet with leaders in the Vatican, in the Italian government, and in the Jesuit order. Through these trips, we share news from the past year and explore ways in which the resources of this University can be linked to both strengthen Georgetown and to strengthen the work of the Jesuits and the work of the Roman Catholic Church.

The focus of our conversations consistently returns to four themes-- four issues that are hard not to accept as the responsibility of an American, Catholic, Jesuit university at this moment-- the eradication of poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the need to work for conditions that will sustain peace, and the need to foster interreligious understanding.

Forty-five percent of the world's population is living on less than $2 a day; forty percent lack clean water. Twenty percent live in the midst of war and violent conflict. We are living in a time of one of the greatest pandemics in history. AIDS has taken the lives of 40 million people and orphaned 22 million children. We have never been so acutely aware of the depth of the global challenges and the significance of what we offer as an institution at this moment in history.

This University itself has many challenges. We are struggling with the implications of change in the health care economy. We contend in an intensely competitive environment with an endowment that doesn't really compare with our peers. Yet we are one of the great American research universities, and we have ambitious strategies to take this University to the next level.

We are also the nation's oldest Catholic and Jesuit university with a unique and I believe unprecedented responsibility to ensure that our resources are deployed in ways that enable us to respond to the challenges of our time.

This moment will demand all of the intensity and creativity, imagination and cultural sensitivity that the very best minds, the most gifted scholars and teachers, the most talented young women and men, the most dedicated public servants, the most committed alumni can provide.

This is the challenge for this moment. It is thrilling to be a part of it and it's a privilege to serve in this role. I'd like to thank all of you for coming back "home" this weekend to be a part of all of this and to make all of this possible. We could not have the dreams we have for this place without the kind of commitment you all demonstrate each and every day.

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