Nov. 10, 2011
Dear Members of the Marquette Community:
Earlier this week, I completed my 100th day as president of Marquette University, a role that humbles and inspires me.
I have spent many of these first 100 days as I plan to spend the days ahead: listening to and learning from those who know Marquette best, including alumni and friends. I’ve had a series of wonderful open-ended dinner conversations with members of Marquette’s faculty. And nothing quite compares with the occasions I have had for extended interactions with students. Without fail, in settings such as the student reflection during inauguration week or the recent president’s forum organized by Marquette University Student Government, they have shown themselves to be amazingly thoughtful, engaged with their Marquette educations and aware of the role they’re preparing to play in the larger world.
Again and again during these first 100 days, I have seen Jacques Marquette’s pioneering spirit alive at the university that bears his name. Consider these examples:
- The College of Engineering has opened its new building, where it is reinventing engineering education for today’s challenges.
- Thanks to a recent state allocation, the School of Dentistry is $8 million closer to a physical expansion that will support more faculty research and an innovative, patient-centered curriculum.
- Last week, Marquette announced the largest independent public opinion polling project in Wisconsin history, the Marquette Law School Poll.
Highlights like these are indicators of a larger drive for new excellence at Marquette. How best to support this restless pursuit for improvement, across the full range of activities here, will clearly be one of my priorities. Equally important is ensuring that a Marquette education is as accessible as possible to those who seek it.
During these early months of my time here, Marquette has also encountered significant challenges. None has been more troubling than the discovery of lapses in our response to victims of sexual violence, following two high-profile incidents first reported last spring. Since that time, the university community has come together to create significant changes in resources, process and support—and I believe we are in a far better position today to prevent incidents and to respond to them appropriately. I outlined those changes in a letter to students as part of Sexual Violence Awareness Week and invite you to read about them here. It’s clear that we need to both do more and communicate more about our absolute lack of tolerance for sexual violence. I invite your comments, your questions and your insights on this, as on every other issue.
I have also spent a fair amount of time on issues related to Intercollegiate Athletics. News regarding coming changes to the line-up of schools in the Big East has prompted me to work concertedly with other presidents of universities in the conference on maintaining the conference’s renowned athletic competitiveness, while also undertaking a search for a new athletic director and engaging a comprehensive peer review of our athletic department. This joins a significant focus on the College of Arts and Sciences, where Fr. Phil Rossi, S.J., will continue to serve as interim dean, while the college, which forms the heart of our Catholic, Jesuit education, prepares for a new permanent leader.
Finally, as I close this letter about my first 100 days at Marquette, I will reserve some attention for a facet of Marquette life that has clearly been a constant for many years: the practice of service to others. This fall has been brightened by the opportunity for each of us to rededicate ourselves to the goal of transforming the world around us through service. Please join me and so many others at Marquette in making a pledge of service to address the gritty realities and inequities that persist in our communities and our world.
This tradition is deeply Ignatian, of course. St. Ignatius saw our service to others as arising out of our gratitude for God’s love and God’s grace in our lives. So it is especially fitting for a time of year when our thoughts turn to Thanksgiving and gratitude, in general.
May God’s blessings be with you and with Marquette University during this special time of year and in the coming days, weeks and months.
Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.