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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Defining Georgetown's Future: A Call to Action

Boston, Massachusetts
March 4, 2010

It’s always a great pleasure for me to join with fellow members of the Georgetown community…and to discuss a vision for our University that embraces all that we want Georgetown to be—and how, coming together, we can continue to make that vision a reality.

If you had a chance to watch the slide show that was running during the cocktail hour, you’ll have seen that this is truly an exciting time for Georgetown. We continue on a trajectory that’s making us ever better and stronger as a University and a community. In just the last few years:

• We established the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs…the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law…and we opened an office in Shanghai;

• We completed the Southwest Quadrangle; the Royden B. Davis Center for the Performing Arts; and the new home for the McDonough School of Business, the Rafik Hariri Building;

• We partnered with nine other law schools, from five continents, to establish our Center for Transnational Legal Studies in London;

• And we graduated our very first class at our SFS campus in Doha, Qatar;

Our Vision

These are exciting accomplishments, and while they mark how far we’ve come…they should also inspire us to imagine just how far we, as a University, can and must go. For despite all we’ve achieved, we’re competing in the top ranks of the world’s universities—and to remain competitive…to provide the quality education that is our hallmark…to always deliver on the promise of Georgetown, we must continue to strive, to grow, to become even better. Our very best moment is in front of us.

When Georgetown was founded more than two centuries ago, we had six students…one building…and no financial support of any kind. We were John Carroll’s “little Academy,” really not much more than a high school. Our first graduate, William Gaston, was 13 when he entered.

But, from the very start, we had assets of incalculable value—the extraordinary vision of our founder, John Carroll…and a tradition of Jesuit education that is still among the finest the world has ever known.

John Carroll’s vision, unique then and now, was conceived amidst the promise of the new Republic.

It was his vision that his “little Academy” should be both authentically American and authentically Catholic:

Committed to pluralism, inclusiveness, and support for the highest ambitions of this country…and simultaneously devoted to the greater glory of God and the betterment of humankind.

For more than two centuries—sometimes fitfully, sometimes rapidly—but always persistently, generation after generation, the community that is Georgetown has worked to understand, to interpret anew, and to always fulfill John Carroll’s vision…

From the very beginning, in those early days, we pursued this vision…
In 1851, when we established the nation’s first Catholic medical school, we pursued this vision…

After the Civil War, when we symbolized the reunion of the nation in adopting blue and gray as our colors, we pursued this vision…

When Father Patrick Healy made the monumental decision in the nineteenth century to construct the hall that would bear his name, and so reorient the college to have it face, not the river, but the city of Washington, DC—permanently linking our campus and our community—we pursued this vision…

In the early twentieth century, in direct response to the tragedy of the First World War, when we opened the nation’s very first school dedicated to the study of international affairs…and to the preparation of a new type of public servant, we pursued this
vision …

After the Second World War, in response to our nation’s place in a new, international, Post-War economy, we opened our School of Business, and we pursued this vision…

And in our lifetimes, in our years as members of the Georgetown community, we can all attest to our commitment to pursuing this vision. We’ve watched Georgetown grow from an outstanding regional university—recognized for superior undergraduate teaching and regarded for its schools of medicine and law—to an exceptional national research University…and, now, to an aspiring global university.

You’ll note that I ended not with what Georgetown is today…but with what we aspire to be. That’s because, at its core, I believe that the most distinctive thing about Georgetown is the fact that we are never satisfied…we are constantly moving…we are always seeking ways to be ever stronger, ever better, ever more true to our mission and identity.

What is it—above all—that ensures this drive, that urges us at Georgetown to be all that we can strive to be…and to serve the world in the best way that we can? The answer is what we are about “deep down”: Authenticity and service. Both who we are, and how we serve, revolve around the Ignatian quality called magis—meaning greater, better, the more. It is this hunger and thirst for being more and serving more that impels our action and inspires our vision. It prompts a restlessness to use our communal talents, energies, and opportunities to undertake in our lifetimes the task that God has given us. It is also this restlessness for the “more” that we want to plant in the minds, and hearts, and souls of our students. This is why we rejoice, as we do tonight, when we see the Ignatian magis grow in the work of our alumni. For this is what we are called, as women and men of Georgetown, to be and to do.

In the spirit of the tradition that animates this place, we must do all that we can do to make sure that Georgetown can realize its promise and potential in this new century.

Commitments: Pursuing the Vision

But how do we do this? Well, first, we do it with care and deliberation—choosing our investments and priorities with a strategic sense that is guided by four commitments:

First, we’re committed to strengthening our academic and research competitiveness—ensuring that the finest tradition of teaching and scholarship flourishes on the Hilltop.

Second, we’re committed to increasing the University’s ability to address the most important issues of our age—from interreligious dialogue to social justice. We believe that this is part of what the vision calls us to do—to strive to make a difference and to make a contribution to the welfare and well-being of the global community, through both our scholarship and the preparation of capable and compassionate global leaders.

Third, we’re committed to strengthening our financial resources—ensuring that we have a firm foundation on which to build this future for Georgetown.

And fourth—but emphatically not last in importance—we’re committed to not only sustaining, but more fully embodying, our Catholic and Jesuit identity—ensuring that Georgetown advances the pursuit of truth and knowledge through the joining of “faith with reason.” This is the “both into one” of our University’s motto, “utraque unum.” And we all know that a Georgetown that achieves eminence without continually embodying our Catholic and Jesuit ideals is not really Georgetown at all.

These are the four commitments—the four guideposts—that will support our ongoing definition and pursuit of the vision that was first articulated by Archbishop John Carroll. And to achieve them, I’d like to talk for a moment about the tasks, projects, and initiatives, in essence, the milestones that will mark our progress.

We know that we can only secure Georgetown’s future…that we can only become an ever stronger University…and that we can only fulfill our unceasing ambitions…if we advance our vision in the context of our next effort to secure philanthropic support for our University. We are in the quiet phase of what is our next major capital campaign.

It’s a campaign that will enable us to ensure that the very best faculty will be here at Georgetown, strengthened and supported through new endowed professorships throughout the schools and departments of the University;

A campaign that will enable us to continue to strengthen our infrastructure with the construction of a new science building—already under way—and further development of our facilities for athletics and the library;

A campaign that will enable us to build on the strengths of our community and establish new opportunities for scholars and students engaged in public policy; environmental science; global health; and human development;

And a campaign that will enable us to seek to fund one half of our financial aid commitment through philanthropy.

1789 Scholarship Imperative

This last item is our highest current priority. Because to continue pursuing our vision, we must sustain our commitment to need-blind admissions and to meeting full-need financial aid policy for all of our undergraduates.

Since Georgetown first committed itself to need-blind, meet-full-need thirty-two years ago, this policy has immeasurably advanced our University. It guaranteed that cost would never bar the most talented and gifted young women and men from entering Healy Gates. And by guaranteeing that family finances would never prevent a student who merited admission from enrolling, we made it possible for this to become the kind of community of “true merit” that universities should all aspire to be. Our commitment improved the Georgetown experience for every single student—and for our faculty.

Sustaining our commitment to financial aid isn’t just about making Georgetown more inclusive and diverse. In today’s economy, it’s not just families from traditionally under-represented communities and the working class who are having great difficulty affording higher education. Given the cost of higher education and the current state of the economy, which remains an acute challenge, increasing numbers of middle class families—many of them two-income families—are also struggling.

That’s why we’re undertaking an exciting new initiative—another milestone on our journey—which we’re calling the 1789 Scholarship Imperative. Recalling the year of our founding, the Imperative looks to create and sustain the capacity to annually fund, through endowment and current use fundraising, 1,789 scholarships every year. The goal is to raise $500 million dollars over 5 years, by 2014, in order to fund 50% of our scholarships through philanthropy. Bart Moore will give you more of the details in a few minutes.

Let me be clear, at its core, the 1789 Imperative is about preserving our greatest asset: Our people. The future of our University—the future of our country—depends on the investment we are all willing to make in our young people. Georgetown has always been a place of promise—and this Imperative will help those who come to the Hilltop—succeeding generations of global leaders—to fulfill their promise…and ours. Investing in the young women and men who come to us is not an option—it is a necessity.

Of course, we cannot make the 1789 Imperative—or any of the other projects and initiatives I noted—a success without your active engagement—and you’ll be hearing more in the near future about how you can become involved.

Conclusion: Challenge

As I said at the opening of these remarks, this is truly an exciting time for Georgetown—and for all of us who are privileged to be part of this extraordinary community.

During the time I’ve had the honor to lead Georgetown, I’ve worked with exceptionally talented colleagues…incredibly gifted students…and this devoted community of family and friends, as we continually strive to fulfill John Carroll’s expansive vision for our University.

But I find myself asking . . . asking myself…asking my colleagues…and tonight asking you: Can we do even better? Is there more to be done? Are their possibilities and opportunities that require our action?

The answer is “yes.” We can do even better. There is more to be done. And there are possibilities and opportunities that call us to embrace them.

In over two centuries, our University has become something that John Carroll and our other early leaders could never have imagined. Sometimes, when I see the Gilbert Stuart portrait of John Carroll that hangs on the wall in my office, I wonder what he would think about his little “Academy.” I suspect he would briefly marvel at how far we’ve come…how much we’ve accomplished… how much we’ve contributed. Then, I think, he would urge us to even greater achievement. And further greatness certainly awaits us . . . but only if we, now, rise to the challenge.

This is a place where young women and men come in order to fulfill their promise…to engage the possibilities that lie beyond Healy Gates…and to live the promise of making a difference and a contribution wherever they may go.

That is the spirit of Georgetown. That is the promise of Georgetown. That is our story. And in this story of Georgetown, we’re about to write the next chapter—securing our position as one of our nation’s foremost universities. But we cannot write this chapter without you.

Sustaining and advancing Georgetown is a sacred trust that has been handed down to us through the generations…over more than two centuries…from John Carroll himself. Now it is up to us—and only us—to secure Georgetown’s place in the first rank of America’s universities. Let us prove worthy of that trust—so that all of those who come after us will be able to say that we acted in the true spirit of Georgetown.

Thank you.

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