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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Faculty Convocation -- Fall 2005

Gaston Hall
Georgetown University
September 25, 2005

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Congress of the United States and by the Board of Directors of Georgetown University, I officially confer upon Jill Ker Conway the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

In honoring Dr. Jill Ker Conway, we continue a tradition of recognizing individuals whose scholarship and leadership broaden and enrich our perspective on the aims of education.

In her life, her writings, and her career, Dr. Conway has given us an example of creativity and perseverance in enhancing educational opportunities for women.

As the first woman president of Smith College, she changed the leadership paradigm for women's institutions and contributed to our understanding of the educational development of women.

At Georgetown, we are defining the aims of education for our university in the context of 21st century challenges and opportunities. I'd like to take a few minutes to share with you a few thoughts on this important topic.

The strictures of sexism have long denied professional opportunities to women. As a young academic, Dr. Conway faced obstacles that very nearly denied us all the moral leadership of this remarkable educator and scholar.

When discrimination places limitations on any one of us, every one of us will suffer. At Georgetown, our mission to promote social justice demands that we find ways to extend opportunity to those who face discrimination or marginalization.

We are a community that is deeply committed to ensuring that everyone, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, or gender, has the opportunity here to realize their potential. We also recognize the tremendous benefits that come from the richness of a diverse community.

Just as important is our responsibility as educators and scholars to prepare our students for the challenges that they will encounter as citizens of a globalized society.

Last month, in my address to the faculty, I emphasized that Georgetown is unquestionably an international university, but within our lifetimes we will become a "global" university. There is a subtle but important distinction between those concepts, one that defines one of our most important challenges. A challenge that we, as a community, must embrace and live with.

To be global requires that our students are equipped to address a wide range of issues and situations in all their political, religious, economic, cultural and developmental complexity. An important response to this challenge has been our decision to accept the invitation to establish a School of Foreign Service campus in Qatar.

One of the ways that universities will respond to the challenge of globalization is to explore the range of our global reach and find innovative ways to provide education and collaboration in new contexts and settings. We have enthusiastically embraced this opportunity to educate future leaders in a critically important part of the world.

Earlier this month, I visited the Qatar campus and found an extraordinary excitement and enthusiasm among our faculty, staff, and students who are making history for Georgetown. This new venture provides a new platform for all of us in this community. I don't think we can fully grasp the potential that this platform provides. This is one way in which we are responding to the challenge of globalization and it will be incredibly thrilling for us, as a community, to live with the questions that emerge from this project in the years in front of us.

Another aim of a Georgetown education -- and central to our Catholic and Jesuit identity -- is this: We wish our graduates to accept responsibility not only for their own development but also for the collective development of society -- To see the challenges faced by any human community as a challenge to themselves.

Earlier this fall, I participated in the Talloires Conference on Civic Engagement Roles and Responsibilities of Higher Education, sponsored by Tufts University. There I joined with other academic leaders from colleges and universities throughout the world to draft a statement: the Talloires Declaration. As signatories, we pledged "to expand civic engagement and social responsibility programs in an ethical manner, through teaching, research and public service."

As a global institution, Georgetown cannot ignore the growing inequality between those who benefit from our international, networked economy and those who are left out. I believe that the response to global inequality is the central moral challenge of our lifetimes. Our response as an institution will have important implications for our mission as a leader in the creation of knowledge and the formation of leaders equal to the demands of our time.

I am grateful for the members of our faculty who are taking leadership of several efforts to build academic coalitions to address issues of global concern. Professor Tony Arend has undertaken conversations, both at the United Nations and on this campus, that have helped us focus our thinking on our approach to the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals -- or MDGs. With these Goals, all 191 member governments of the United Nations have for the first time agreed to pursue specific targets in the area of global development.

Undeniably, the underlying questions related to poverty and development are enormously complex. The Goals provide one of many possible frameworks for these questions. We are fortunate to have experts in our community who can help us frame an authentic university-wide response to this challenge. Last March, Dr. Carol Lancaster, the director of our Mortara Center for International Studies, and Dr. Arend invited a number of faculty leaders to help develop a proposed response to global inequality. This approach engaged nearly 30 individual scholars from all three campuses.

I am grateful for the leadership of Phyllis Magrab, professor of pediatrics at the Medical Center, who directs Georgetown's new initiative to network U.S. higher education institutions that are involved in working toward the goal of universal primary education. The initiative will support the work of UNESCO in this area. The vision is for Georgetown to serve as a clearing house for information and best practices in education policy and practice and to facilitate a coordinated response to the goal of universal primary education.

The global pandemic of HIV/AIDS is another area of urgent concern. Larry Gostin, professor of law and an expert in public health, has convened academic leaders from the higher education community who are focused on HIV/AIDS to explore the possibility of a more coordinated response from the higher education community.

A number of Georgetown faculty members are working to deepen our understanding of religious communities and their role in world affairs. Our new program in Religion, Politics and Peace, directed by Government Professor Tom Banchoff, will convene a conference on The New Religious Pluralism in World Politics in March, with Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy from Princeton, as keynote speaker. The conference will be the second sponsored by the program. At the first, New Religious Pluralism and Democracy, held last spring, Martha Nussbaum offered the keynote address and the proceedings were published by the Oxford University Press.

Also next spring, Georgetown will host the inter-religious "Prayer for Peace," organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio, a lay Catholic movement that advocates for justice and peace and is based in Rome. This marks the first time in 20 years that Sant'Egidio has convened this event outside of Europe. For two days, religious, government, university, and humanitarian leaders from around the world will address issues of peace, globalization, and religion. There will be opportunities for all of us to participate in this historic event.

In such endeavors, Georgetown seeks to focus the wealth of scholarship and vision in this community on the most important issues of our time and our world. We are fortunate to have Dr. Jill Ker Conway as a model for our highest aspirations. In her life and career, we see the kind of moral responsibility that resonates with Georgetown's guiding mission. With respect and appreciation for her remarkable contribution and legacy, I am honored to present Dr. Jill Ker Conway...
 

 

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