Letter from the President – Fall 2014

Letter from the President – Fall 2014

Dear Friends,

One of Fairfield’s distinguishing features — as I’ve come to appreciate during my 10 years as president — is that our graduates marry other graduates with a remarkable frequency.

Certainly, this seems to be more of a feature of Fairfield than other institutions with which I’m familiar. A quick glance through the Alumni Notes section of this magazine will attest to this. Indeed, when he speaks to incoming freshmen, University Chaplain Fr. Charles Allen, S.J., will sometimes say: “Have a look around you. Chances are the person you’re going to marry is in this room.” It gets the nervous laugh you would expect from a group of 17-year-olds, but it touches on a truth about our community we should take a moment to appreciate.

Many other lifelong relationships are forged here as well. When I meet with alumni I’m struck by how often I hear: “The friends I made at Fairfield are still the best friends I’ll ever have.” Many decades after graduation, you are still in touch, still travelling together; your families are close; you support and encourage one another along the path of life. These bonds seem effortless, but this fellowship we share is a rare and precious thing. Indeed, these friendships and marriages are the greatest gifts we can be given in our lives. There is clearly something about the Fairfield spirit — if I may put it that way — that opens up the heart as well as the mind, allowing these deep and abiding relationships to take root.

I believe this is a source of our strength, and we see the fruit of this Fairfield spirit in the lives and work of our graduates, in the integrity and dedication of our faculty, and in the enthusiasm and open-heartedness of our students. There is a sense of community that we share with the people around us that in its mature form expresses itself as a sense of commitment — not only to our friends and spouses, but to our neighbors and to the world at large that I believe distinguishes Fairfield as an institution.

We see this expressed in so many forms. For Trustee John C. Meditz ’70, as you will read inside, this commitment is expressed in his generosity and vision as it pertains to the future of Fairfield, and to the myriad institutions that he supports in his hometown. Simply put, John understands that Fairfield helped him to become the man that he has become, and he wants the formative and liberating pedagogical experience that he enjoyed at Fairfield to be available for the generations to come.

We see it in Fr. Jim O’Shea ’83, who has followed his passion to serve his community into a troubled neighborhood in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where he has opened a coffee shop to give young men the opportunity to work and to grow, to experience hope in the future and confidence in themselves. This commitment to people in need, and the willingness to serve without reservation is a wonderful expression of the Fairfield spirit.

And we see the commitment in Chelsey Silva ’15 who, having found a long-buried Fairfield class ring in the sand at Fairfield beach, returned the ring to its owner out of a simple, unquestioning certainty that she is now a member of a community — the Fairfield community — that shares a collective spirit that spans the decades.

Each of us in our own walk of life, in our work, with our friends, are continually expressing our commitment to the well-being of the human family in a manner particular to our gifts and circumstances. Certainly, Fairfield University is not alone in fostering this commitment — we share this with so many other institutions — but I believe we foster this spirit exceptionally well.

Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J.