June 21, 2017
A year ago, I was returning from Rome and several sites in Spain after participating in a pilgrimage to the sights of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit order. It was a truly inspirational once in a lifetime trip that I will remember as a capstone experience of my 36 years at Jesuit institutions. Due to an unfortunate and avoidable fall on a curb cut walking back from the Vatican, I returned to Baltimore with my shoulder in three pieces and was headed to surgery immediately following my return. Trust me, the flight home from Rome was memorable.
I found the next several weeks to be a very humbling experience as I journeyed to physical therapy a few times a week, an experience that I never had before. For a while, I was convinced that I would never be whole again, that I had lost motion and mobility in my arm that was irreparable.
The truth was that this injury made me stronger. I came to respect the physical therapists, whose gentle persistence and caring demeanor kept me going back for the painful restoration of the mobility that I had taken for granted.
After a month, and some remarkable progress, at least I thought it was remarkable given the fact that previously I could not move my arm, I visited the orthopedic surgeon again and when I acknowledged to him that I understood that I would have to accept the lack of motion, he basically disregarded this concept and told me to get back to therapy and work harder. The plate and ten screws in my shoulder should not limit my ability to restore full movement to my shoulder.
Basically, I was held back only by my lack of hard work, repetitive exercise and confidence. The kick in the rear was exactly what I needed, and he was a young doctor, which was annoying as well, but I swallowed my pride and recommitted my energy.
My dad used to say, “There is no hill too high for a climber, Sue.”
I recall this story as I know that Bellarmine has faced tragedy, adversity and transition for the last couple of years. The impact of trauma, grief and transition could be felt in all corners of this university. Yet, Bellarmine persisted and moved forward. This speaks to the community spirit that is present every day, to the good will of so many individuals, and to the commitment of all of you to believe in something greater than yourselves. You persisted because you believe in the mission of this place to educate students in a community that embraces hospitality like no other.
I want to acknowledge that your persistence through these challenges gives me great inspiration and I hope you share this enthusiasm. There will be more roadblocks, curb cuts and hills to climb but I have great confidence that we will climb those hills together. This will only happen if we establish trust and confidence in one another, if we work to maximize the talent and opportunities in front of us, and if we continue to make bold decisions that have characterized Bellarmine since Fr. Horrigan opened the doors in 1950.
I am certain that Fr. Horrigan, President Petrik and President McGowan are smiling brightly on the progress of this great university.
The future is bright for Bellarmine University, but it will not be without struggle. If we are able to make strategic and bold choices responsive to the Louisville community, and to build upon the strengths, creativity and resources of this university, I have no doubt that we will take Bellarmine University to new heights.
I thank you for bringing your talents, gifts and spirit to Bellarmine each and every day, and I sincerely hope that you are able to enjoy a respite with your family and friends as we complete our summer classes and prepare for the arrival of our new and returning students this fall. In Veritatis Amore.
Susan M. Donovan, Ph.D.