Letter from the President – Summer 2015

Letter from the President – Summer 2015

Dear Friends,

We had a warm and cloudless day for our 65th annual commencement exercises on May 17. From my rather unique position on the terrace at Bellarmine Hall, I could see our graduates and their proud families, seated in neat rows spreading far back toward the crest of the hill, with the blue of Long Island Sound behind them — a beautiful prospect, of which any University would be proud.

We awarded 884 bachelor’s degrees, 367 master’s degrees, 18 certificates of advanced studies, and 21 doctorates, from our College of Arts and Sciences, Dolan School of Business, School of Engineering, School of Nursing, and Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions.

I wonder what degrees we will be awarding in the future. This last year we have been engaged in the collaborative process of Fairfield 2020, a comprehensive refresh of our strategic plan in which we have examined all of our programs and operations, and asked ourselves — what kind of University is best suited to the needs of today’s students, and today’s diverse and globally interconnected society? At the time of this writing, a final report is under review. While the full implications of Fairfield 2020 are still to be articulated, I do know that we will be adapting our programs and offering new educational pathways for students, and I anticipate we will be awarding new degrees and certificates in the near future.

It is the responsibility of a University to evolve with the times, to march in step with new discoveries in science and emerging technologies, and engage with the challenges of the age. At the same time, the fundamental obligation of a University like Fairfield is to expand and strengthen the intellect of its students, and in short, to refine each student’s drive towards the truth — whether that be the truths of chemistry and biology, or the philosophical and spiritual truths that are the fruits of reason and contemplation. Keeping abreast of the times while standing firmly on the immutable truths of our world — that is Fairfield’s mission.

This struck me as we welcomed the class of 1965 back to campus for their 50th reunion on that same weekend. Think of how much has changed! We didn’t even have women students in those days. Just a few weeks before their commencement 50 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. would lead 25,000 civil rights activists from Selma, Alabama, to the capital of Montgomery — a turning point in our nation’s evolution as a just and fair society. The counter-culture was right around the corner, and with it, an explosion of self-expression and personal soul-searching, which would characterize the latter half of the 20th century. The world we live in and take for granted today would have been unimaginable to those young men in the spring of 1965.

Yet here they were, back at Fairfield for their reunion 50 years later — proud, nostalgic, happy to see one another having prospered and persevered. They have had successful lives, served their communities, built businesses and practices and families. What I know is that while Fairfield has grown over those 50 years, the core values of Jesuit education have remained unshakeable. What unites this year’s graduates with the graduates of the past is that drive toward the truth that is encouraged and refined throughout a Fairfield education.

Every year, at commencement, as I address the graduates at the end of the ceremony, I conclude this way: “Come back: Come back for homecomings and reunions with your classmates, or to visit friends on the faculty or administration. You are now and will always be members of the Fairfield community, and ambassadors for this University in whatever you pursue.” I am sure the class of 1965 was given a very similar instruction as I do in my concluding remarks, “We ask you now to go out into the world and do what St. Ignatius set out to do over 450 years ago — and that is to find your own way to “set the world on fire!”


Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J.