2012 Student-Parent Convocation
Aug. 22, 2012
Families, parents, friends, faculty and staff, Darin Strauss, and particularly the Marquette University Class of 2016, welcome to this special place and time, this time-honored ritual through which a distinguished group of new students joins this great Jesuit and Catholic university community.
Since 1881, Marquette has been animated by a sacred spirit and a special educational tradition: the honing of already sharp minds, the enlarging of imaginations and the opening of hearts to welcome what our evolving world has to offer. The university aims to transform the lives of its students in a very particular way, first articulated in the 16th century by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. And, starting tonight, this way is yours to experience and enrich with your unique talent and gifts.
A little history lesson: Milwaukee's first archbishop, John Martin Henni, labored for 40 years to convince the Jesuits to establish a college at what then was an outpost of the American frontier. He had the foresight to recognize great potential. For decades, he scrimped and saved to keep alive a vision of a vibrant institution of higher education emerging in a city of shop floors, stockyards and tanneries. In this city and in the lives of families — many of them previously untouched by a college experience — he ignited a spark that has burned brightly ever since.
And now, 131 years later, Archbishop Henni’s dream is realized and renewed by you, women and men of tremendous talent and promise — the most accomplished entering class in the history of the university.
So the McGuire Center is rightly filled to the rafters with pride and potential this evening. For that we need to thank your first best teachers — your parents and your families. Help me recognize them now.
Parents and families, thank you for entrusting your daughters and sons to Marquette. Know that you become part of Marquette tonight, right along with them. Wear blue and gold with pride wherever you travel — and return here often (but maybe not too often). You are an integral part of our educational enterprise. Encourage and expect much from your sons and daughters. The investment you make in them these next four years is precious — the incomparable gift of Catholic and Jesuit education, a Marquette education.
I want to thank Darin Strauss for sharing from his life in such an unforgettable way. In his memoir, which you read, Darin writes about the unimaginable becoming real. Chance put tragedy in his path when he was almost exactly your age and he wrestled to find meaning in the years that followed.
“So few of our days contain actions that are irrevocable,” he writes. “Our lives are designed not to allow for anything irrevocable.” But in reminding us of what it’s like to face those things in life that can’t change, Darin also puts into stark relief everything else that is subject to our influence. The choices we make, the hopes we nurture, the fears we feel, whom we come to love.
One of the greatest spiritual insights of St. Ignatius Loyola is that God loves those qualities in each of us that make us ourselves — you, me, Darin. God loves those qualities unconditionally. This conviction is grounded in Ignatius’ own experience during his conversion, when he experienced God engaging with him as a unique individual — with his very own hopes, dreams, aspirations, fears and anxieties.
At Marquette, you have joined a community explicitly dedicated to nurturing you as an individual — a community of people with a restless desire to help you reach your very own potential. In our faculty and staff, you have more than 2000 people dedicated selflessly to your success. Take them up on their willingness to engage with you and to accompany you on your Marquette journey. Please do not be shy.
Realize, importantly, that our core curriculum is the product of a rich, 500-year tradition of Catholic and Jesuit education. It will introduce you to great thinkers from literature, philosophy and theology. It will stretch you. It will liberate you. Please, please don’t let me hear you say that you need to get these required courses in English, philosophy and theology “out of the way” so you can move on to your major. At what other time in your life will you have the opportunity to wrestle with life’s great questions and mysteries?
Of course the Marquette that you will experience over the next four years is ready to equip you with all the information, skills and insights you will need for success, wherever life takes you. But a Marquette education is also so much more. At Marquette, we are in the wisdom business as well. Here sharp minds are honed sharper still—imaginations become more nimble and hearts open wide enough to welcome what is to come.
If you commit yourself wholly to Marquette’s mission, as you will have an opportunity to do in a moment, you will step into a set of experiences that can change your life. You will help shape our world, read differently the signs of the times and respond in ways you cannot possibly imagine on this perfect Milwaukee summer night. And all that you will become and all that you will do can promote the greater glory of God and the world’s well-being.
It is our great hope that you find your vocation here — the intersection of your passion and talent — with someone else’s greatest need. May your Marquette journey take you deeper into the life of the mind and lead you into a love affair with the world charged with the grandeur of God. May your Marquette journey help you understand at your heart’s core what we mean in four years when, at your commencement in May, 2016, we speak the words of Ignatius Loyola and send you out “to go and set the world on fire.”
Let me leave you with words of Father Pedro Arrupe, former Superior General of the Society of Jesus:
Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.
God bless you, God bless Catholic and Jesuit education and God Bless Marquette University.