Letter from the President

Letter from the President

Dear Friends,
As is true every year, I am struck by the joy of our Commencement celebrations on Bellarmine’s Great Lawn and the pride that our families feel for their sons, and daughters, brothers and sisters, who have completed their studies and now are ready to begin making their way in the world.

To begin what? That is the question. We are fortunate that such a high percentage of our graduates — roughly 97 percent — move quickly into employment, post-graduate study, or volunteer positions of their choice within a few months of graduation. We work hard to ensure that this is so, preparing our students by emphasizing the importance of internships and career preparedness programs, and providing the framework to prepare them for further study or service.

But I also think our graduates are encouraged to embrace the spirit of adventure — a quality essential to creative persons and one valued in a Jesuit University to a degree somewhat unique in higher education.

The early Jesuits were nothing if not adventurous. Ignatius himself traveled all over Europe, furthering his education in Barcelona and Paris. The society that formed around him shared his desire for action, establishing schools all over Europe, and venturing to the ends of the earth, with St. Francis of Xavier traveling to Goa in Portuguese India in 1541; Matteo Ricci arrived in Macau in 1582 and then went on to mainland China; António de Andrade was the first of several Jesuits to found a mission in Tibet in 1624; the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro were founded by Jesuits in the 16th century; while Jean de Brébeuf was among those Jesuits who founded missions in New France, now Quebec, in the 17th century.

While the historical and cultural contexts in which these missions were undertaken are now distant, what is constant is a disposition that is Ignatian in character — an optimism about the world and the goodness of God’s creation; a belief that perseverance and adaptability are the keys to success; and a curiosity about other cultures and desire to understand the world in all its complexity.

While our students are with us, we ensure that they study a wide variety of subjects — languages, philosophy, religious studies to name a few — over and above their selected area of specialty. We encourage them to study abroad. We ask that they engage in community service. We also work to ensure that our students understand community while they are with us, engaging in dialogue — sometimes difficult dialogue — forming relationships with others. All of these strategies are intentional — we are asking our students to step outside their comfort zones and expand their sphere of curiosity.

I think we can see the fruit of this process in our graduates and alumni, and in some of the members of our community featured in our magazine this month. John Lentini ’97 has taken his lifelong passion for the oceans, interest in cinematography, and empathy for our fellow creatures and is now exploring the oceans as a diver and chronicler of climate change; a group of our students and alumni with an interest in the struggles of women in the developing world traveled to India through an initiative of our Center for Faith and Public Life; the courage to be entrepreneurs has fueled the ambitions of foodies Thomas Sobocinski ’14, Maria Luis Felix ’91, Jay Harman ’96 and Daniel Maloney ’13, as well as our students who pitched their business plans in our 5th Annual Fairfield Startup Showcase; while Matt Turner ’16 is living his dream, taking a shot at professional soccer with the New England Revolution.

These are all people with courage and a certain fearlessness. In this respect they are representative of so many of our graduates and set a fine example for those young men and women who began their journey at Commencement— each driven in their own unique way by the spirit of adventure.

Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J.