SEPTEMBER 23, 2011
Marquette President calls for a "new excellence"
In a ceremony marked both by tradition and unique Marquette touches, Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., was officially inaugurated as the 23rd president of Marquette University this morning.
Father Pilarz urged the crowd of more than 2,000 Marquette faculty, staff, alumni and students, along with his own family and friends, dignitaries and more than 130 delegates from other colleges and universities, to recall the historic journey of Jacques Marquette. “Marquette was obsessed with discovering the Mississippi River,” he said. “He was convinced that making its map and exploring its end would enhance human experience and open opportunities for the spread of God’s good news. So what is our Mississippi? What stirs our imagination and keeps us up at night?”
Father Pilarz focused on two goals for Marquette: access and excellence, which he said “cannot be viewed as an either/or proposition but rather a both/and situation in order to serve God’s greater glory and future generations of students.” In addition to praising the university’s historic commitment to first generation students, who make up nearly 25 percent of the freshman class, Father Pilarz said “Marquette has important work to do on the national and global stage.”
Like other speakers, he referred to the challenge issued by Rev. Adolfo Nicolás, superior general of the Society of Jesus, to re-found the mission of Jesuit higher education. Father Pilarz called for a “new excellence,” promoting “depth of thought and imagination” and the “universal good.” He said the “learned ministry” of Jesuit education was grounded in “the centrality of arts and sciences in our curriculum, as well as the insight of Ignatius that teaching and research in all academic disciplines offer opportunities to encounter the mystery of God and simultaneously to make our world more gentle and just.”
The Inauguration included a video of the poem What I Have Learned So Far by Mary Oliver, read by Marquette students, as well as performances by several Marquette musical groups.
Father Pilarz noted how the recipients of the two honorary degrees conferred during today’s ceremony met the challenges posed by the superior general. He said the works of Carolyn Forché, a poet and director of the Lannan Center for Poetry and Poetics at Georgetown University, “champions how poetry can be an active witness, especially in situations where justice and the common good are compromised.” In her keynote address at the Inauguration, Forché called on the Marquette community to renew its commitment to “love and serve” and its “citizenship in the world.”
While Rev. Dean Brackley, S.J., retired professor of theology and ethics at the University of Central America, could not be present to personally receive his honorary degree, Father Pilarz said his work “inspires us to ask how we can shape Marquette to respond more faithfully to an unjust world.”
As part of the Inauguration, Provost John Pauly issued a Call to Service, asking all members of the Marquette community to pledge their time to “serve the community in a new way in the year ahead.” Students, faculty, staff and alumni can sign a pledge form online. Responding to that Call to Service, Father Pilarz said, “I’m humbled by the Call to Service we all heard.”
In conjunction with the Inauguration, Marquette will host a series of academic gatherings to explore issues raised by Father Nicolas in a landmark April 2010 address in Mexico City. A one-day event, Depth of Thought, Depth of Imagination: Challenging Superficiality, on Nov. 14 will feature several Marquette educators and guest presenter Rev. Michael Zampelli, S.J., Paul Locatelli, S.J., professor of theatre and dance at Santa Clara University.
The full text of Father Pilarz’s Inaugural Address will be available online.
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