February 22, 2017
Thank you Mr. Pat Mulloy and members of the Board of Trustees. Thank you Mr. Donald Berg and Mr. Ernest Marshall and members of the Search Committee, and thank you to all of you for coming today. I also want to thank my husband, and soul mate, Bill Donovan who supported me to come on this journey and to persuade our twin daughters, Meghan and Caitlin, college sophomores, that this move was right for our family.
I know that you recently celebrated homecoming here at Bellarmine and I have to say I feel in my heart and soul that this is my homecoming as well. When I read the mission statement and the presidential profile it spoke to the core of who I am as a person, what I value and my passions as well. I am grateful to Leslie McCarthy and Anita Tien for understanding Bellarmine, and for encouraging me to look closely at this inspiring opportunity. I felt a calling from the very beginning of the search. My initial visit to campus prior to my first interview gave me the sense of connection and has grown stronger with each encounter.
I am honored and humbled to serve as the fourth president of Bellarmine University. I met with Dr. Tegart today and I too express my appreciation for her leadership and grace during this year of transition. Like Dr. Tegart, I stand proudly on the shoulders of Dr. Jay McGowan, a legend at Bellarmine and in higher education. I have been awestruck by the vision that he brought to this wonderful institution and I consider it a privilege to build upon that vision in moving the institution forward to even greater prominence and impact in the local, regional and global society.
While I have read and heard much about you and your accomplishments, I look forward to learning and interacting much more in the coming months as I prepare for and assume the presidency. We will have time for questions and conversation after the program, and with open arms and an open mind, I encourage your feedback to my remarks and your active participation in the everyday governance of this University.
Since its founding in 1950, Bellarmine was radical or revolutionary, as one of the first private institutions in Kentucky to be open to all races. This community sees discourse, activism, and global understanding not as threats, but as virtues that shape the character of this independent Catholic institution. The mission statement in 1950 was clear: “students must be taught to evaluate this society and to exercise their trained human powers to change it whenever necessary.” I understand that our students continue to speak out against injustice -- as recently as the last few weeks -- and I applaud their right and responsibility to do so.
Our mission calls upon all of us to use our talents to teach in hopes of greater understanding and compassion; to use our research to create and share knowledge that will lift children out of poverty; to improve the condition of public health; to protect and preserve our environment; to provide economic solutions to urban problems; and to bring empathy and vibrancy into our school systems. We will not back away from our responsibility toward our neighbors and our city. We will provide an anchor in the storm of indifference and a beacon of light for the downtrodden to help them find their way. This university on the hill will continue to serve as a community of teachers and learners who understand that the liberal arts, professional and graduate education are the keys that open doors for every person with a Bellarmine education.
While I have been so impressed with the fluid and active engagement of your representatives on the presidential search committee, I think it is worth speaking specifically and directly to some of your vocations at the institution and my hope for our level of engagement and interaction going forward.
To the faculty, I recognize the significance of your work and the distinction that you bring to Bellarmine. While I co-taught several first year experience courses, I hope when the time is right, I will have the opportunity to teach in the higher education degree program. However, I have great respect for the teaching, scholarship and service that you commit to every day and over the course of your lives. The academic reputation of Bellarmine is a credit to your life’s work.
To the professionals in Student Affairs, Campus Ministry, Community Service, Athletics, Identity and Inclusion and so many other educators in the co-curricular efforts, I have great respect for your contributions to our mission to educate the whole person, body, mind and spirit. I consider your profession to be a noble one and critical to our mission. You are educators in every sense of the word.
To the staff, I know that you, too, have chosen to commit your life’s work to Bellarmine and our students. You welcome students through your hospitality and life’s experience. You make students smile and you know when they are having a bad day. You create a sense of home. You take great pride in having beautiful facilities and grounds, in providing administrative support to the entire community. You are providing the foundation of cura personalis to every person who steps onto this lovely campus.
To the students, you are the reason that Bellarmine University exists. You have embraced our mission and we hope it inspires you throughout your lifetime. I have witnessed this inspiration among the alumni and trustees that I have met. Whether this be your undergraduate, professional or graduate education, you have rights and responsibilities that we hope will endear you to Bellarmine for the rest of your lives. There is a balance of challenge and support that we aim to sustain that will promote your growth and achievement. We are all committed to your success and inspired by your good works.
The education that Bellarmine provides is needed now more than ever. All of us have witnessed great division in this past year during the national election, on college and university campuses, in city streets across the nation and in almost every corner of our every day lives. This University embraces inclusion, educates students in the Merton tradition to find the interconnectedness of all life and “the solidarity of the human spirit, which transcends ethnic, religious and social divisions.” The mission of Bellarmine beckons us to unite to solve problems, to rectify injustices, to advocate for and to learn from the needy in our midst, to provide access to education that transforms lives in the city of Louisville, in the region and in society at large. This only happens if we are willing to be transformed as well.
While our tasks are not small, and our challenges loom large, I pledge to you that we, as a university committed to finding good in all people, will continue to aspire to the highest level of excellence in the search for truth. We are an independent Catholic institution founded on the principles of justice, embracing all faiths and transforming compassionate leaders who will change the world. There is nothing more important or noble than that and I am so honored and grateful be a member of this community and to lead and serve this great institution, Bellarmine University.