Inaugural Address

The Inauguration of Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.
as the Twenty-Eighth President of the University of San Francisco

10 a.m., Saturday, November 1, 2014, St. Ignatius Church

Presidential Address
by Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.

Thank you, Tom Malloy and members of the board of trustees for having entrusted the leadership of the university into my care.

Thank you, President Napolitano for your warm and insightful remarks.

Grand merci a Soeur Genevieve Medevielle pour cette articulation de l’education catholique exacte et encourageante.

Thank you, Leader Pelosi, Lieutenant Governor Newsom, Mayor Brown, Bishop McElroy, Father Sheeran, and Father Weiler for your much appreciated words of welcome.

Thanks to USF student presidents Eva Long and Alexia Thompson.

Special thanks to Provost Jennifer Turpin for leading us in this ceremony and for guiding the academic program of the university with such skill and joy.

And heartfelt thanks to Rabbi Singer and to Julia Dowd for leading us in prayer this morning.

About a month ago I had the pleasure and the honor to gather with Father Sheeran, head of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, and with Fairfield University President Jeff von Arx, present here this morning, along with ten or so other lay and Jesuit leaders of U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities for talks in Rome.

We held two days of discussions with Fr. Friedrich Bechina, the third person at the Congregation for Catholic Education (i.e., Educational Institutions), a Dicastery of the Roman Curia, to explore our understandings of the proper relationship between U.S. Jesuit Catholic universities and the Holy See, respecting academic freedom and institutional autonomy as well as legitimate oversight, fraternal communion and ecclesial solidarity. It was a very respectful, warm and productive set of meetings that highlighted for me the wonderful gift that USF is to the Church, to the City and to humankind.

A few weeks later, I traveled with Father Steve Privett, President Emeritus and Peter Wilch, our vice president for Development for a ten day swing through Asia. I was delighted to meet some of our most successful alumni and some wonderfully engaged parents of current students, and I was quite pleased to see how well our USF alumni have done in their professional and personal lives in such dynamic cities as Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. In Beijing, at the press conference we held, I learned of the depth of curiosity among Chinese families about U.S. higher education in general and about USF in particular. An integrated core curriculum for all undergraduates is a novel concept to many Chinese families, so we needed to explain the life-long value of a liberal arts education, especially one in a Jesuit idiom. We also had many questions about keys to a successful enculturation of Chinese students at USF – in terms of study habits, making friends amidst a diverse student population, engaging in extracurricular activities to round out their education, and building a global network of peers and friends that they could keep for a lifetime.

These two trips reminded me that USF is a globalized university, with students, staff and faculty hailing from nations around the world.

As well, they reminded me that our academic programs look at the world from a certain perspective, that of San Francisco, and of California, and of the U.S. and of the Pacific Rim.

Our tag line is “Change the World from Here,” and the 'here' is, as one would expect, multi-layered and manifold. Beyond the geographic places I just named, the essential 'here' of USF is the hospitable space that opens within the heart of each member of this diverse community, as we meet each other with respect, curiosity and awe.

As well, the 'here' of USF is that space between persons who experience the “unity in diversity” of our Jesuit educational project – from our many places of origin, we bring aspects of our cultures into constructive encounters and edifying conversations that afford us multiple opportunities to find common ground and an “overlapping consensus,” to use the phrase made famous by the Philosopher John Rawls.

And because of our Catholic Jesuit tradition, we can elevate that common ground to a higher ground, one that lifts up all peoples and communities because of their inalienable dignity and worth and because of our belief in the ubiquity of God's Spirit, who dwells in every human heart and who animates every human culture.

So our global imagination is geographical, cultural, spiritual, intellectual and personal. Allow me to explore this for just a few minutes.

The University of San Francisco as a Jesuit, Catholic institution of higher education is committed to teaching and learning; scholarly research and creative activity; and service to local, regional and international communities; and in so doing, we fulfill our mission to protect and promote the common good.

We certainly have a unique history, from that one room school house on Market Street, opening in 1855 with three students, to the bigger campus on Van Ness, which we lost to earthquake and fire, to this Hilltop and an enrollment of 10,700 students, with seven other campuses – or eight if you count our fully virtual programs as existing on a cyber campus.

Because of the way that our history and that of our city grew up together and are wonderfully intertwined, we are blessed to be positioned at a global crossroads, where the United Nations Charter was signed and a renewed vision of world peace was launched. San Francisco is today a place where new technologies are connecting global business networks, social networks and networks of peace and justice.

The University of San Francisco enriches this city by being a community of teaching scholars and professional staff for whom the many ways of learning are pursued in a grand conversation that seeks to find mutually enlightening connections among the many academic disciplines and among the many world traditions of wisdom that have come to call San Francisco “home.”

Study of the humanities, the arts, the social and the natural sciences are integrated, not only for their mutual enrichment, but also, in the best sense of the Catholic intellectual tradition, to suggest a holistic appreciation of the nature of reality in general and a comprehensive view of human beings in particular.

At USF, we design academic programs, including those in our professional schools, which call upon the creative and the imaginative, the rational and the analytical, the intuitive and the self-reflective, for the full development of every student.

We encase these academics in a campus culture of supportive engagement so that our students learn in every possible way, from athletics to theatrics, from clubs to immersions, that the world is theirs to heal.

As an academic institution, we embrace academic freedom both because we are an American university and because academic freedom is a core expression of the Catholic respect for the autonomy of reason and the sovereignty of well-formed conscience.

We believe that, as regards the life of the mind, the pursuit of the truth and the pursuit of the good are both a civic duty and a spiritual vocation.

We as a university community live out this call to free inquiry in ways that honor our habits and customs of intellectual rigor and respectful engagement with all persons and cultures, both by the particular agendas of our research or creative activity and by our teaching of a wide variety of high quality, high impact, high tech and high touch academic programs.

As a Jesuit institution, we find in Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, a touchstone and a lodestar for all our activities and projects. A stargazer, a pilgrim, a spiritual master and a loyal friend, Ignatius sensed the interconnectedness of everything.

Four foundational spiritual insights of St. Ignatius continue to animate our work. “Seeking and finding God in all things,” which leads us to engage all of reality with reverence, awe and excitement. “Care for the whole person” (cura personalis) and “care for the work” (cura apostolica) encourage us to a focused attentiveness to all that we do, what Ignatius calls contemplation even in action.

The “art of discernment,” by which we habitually listen to our hearts, where the Holy Spirit whispers to us and guides us toward what is good and true, just and beautiful.

And in that quest, we seek to find and follow “the most excellent way of proceeding” (the Magis), where our greatest gifts and talents meet the world’s most pressing needs.

The first two foundational spiritual insights about the nature of the cosmos and about human beings promote ways of thinking and knowing and thus shape our academic programs.

Seen within the context of the Catholic intellectual tradition in which the Jesuits have always operated, "seeking and finding God in all things," properly understood, posits that the universe is meaningful rather than meaningless, that chaos, brokenness and finitude exist within a larger context of intelligibility and emerging order… and that human reason, while unable to exhaust the mysteries of the universe, has, can and will continue to advance the body of human knowledge about the nature and meaning of reality.

Faculty colleagues from diverse religious and philosophical backgrounds may indeed use diverse vocabularies to describe our shared mission, yet all contribute essentially to a project that engages our students, leading them to broaden their horizons, advance their intellectual abilities and strengthen their confidence and capacity as creative, ethical and compassionate leaders of a global tomorrow.

The latter two Ignatian insights, discernment and the Magis, inspire the distinctive Ignatian pedagogy of USF. The first is a habit of integrating ways of learning/knowing with thoughtful decisions/actions.

Ignatian formation leads people to be "contemplatives in action," by which Ignatius did not mean alternate, discrete times of action and reflection but rather a mindfulness and an attentiveness in the midst of our full personal and professional engagement.

The active contemplative is fully present as a thinking and feeling person who is attentive to the needs of all the stakeholders in every decision, is just and ethical, practical and pragmatic, in a word, a person of integrity.

Our academic, athletic and other co-curricular programs build this capacity in our students.

While perfection is not possible within history, yet it is always possible, when faced with real choices, to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason, even if no one else is watching.

Ignatius' exhortation to the Magis is not to a quantitative "more" (as in more money or more prestige or more power) but rather a qualitative "more" (as in more apt, more just, more holy).

The Magis gives rise to a habit of integrating mind and heart in the process of decision-making that is respectful of self, others and the world as a whole.

Allow me, as I close, to brag a bit about USF to our guests from near and far. As I said earlier, we are wonderfully united in our diversity.

To take the freshman class as an example, their high school GPA as they arrived was just shy of 3.6. About 65 percent are women. Twenty-eight percent are from families who are Pell grant eligible, by which I mean that they are of very modest financial means – we will graduate as many of these students as we can in four years with about $29,000 dollars of outstanding student loans.

They really do have skin in the game, but they will be able to pursue graduate studies should they so choose. Twenty-eight percent - not necessarily the same 28 percent, though there is indeed overlap, are white; 27 percent are Asians / Pacific Islanders; 20 percent are Latinos; 17 percent are international, with the most coming from China, others from Southeast Asia, and others still from around the globe. (Undergraduate and graduate combined, our international students come from 87 different countries as of last fall.) Four-point-five percent of our freshmen are African Americans, and one percent are Native Americans.

For these reasons, U.S. News and World Report magazine ranked us number ten in educating international students and number eight in the country for our diversity.

Forbes Magazine recently ranked USF the 21st most entrepreneurial university in the nation, and last year we offered ten thousand possible internships in countries around the world.

What I have found here at USF is that we have achieved a centered diversity, and we have embraced inclusive excellence such that we are able to educate and graduate global citizens with Baccalaureate, Masters and Doctoral preparation to change the world from here by changing healthcare for the better, assuring greater food security for the hungry, mapping out sustainable manufacturing, designing and building affordable housing, providing enlightening education, infusing ethics into the world’s financial systems, and constructing peace within and between the nations by building up faithful communities of justice and mercy.

My part in this will be small. All I can do is remind us all who we are, whose we are and who we are called to be.

Thank you.