Letter from the President

Letter from the President

Dear Friends,

A full year has passed since my formal inauguration as President of Fairfield University, and what an exciting year it has been for me, for my family, and for our institution — particularly in terms of the pace in which we have made progress toward our goal of becoming the modern, Jesuit Catholic University that society needs today.

Throughout the course of the year, I have been fortunate to have this forum to keep you apprised of our ongoing rise. Our milestones have been numerous — too numerous to recount in the space of this one letter. I would, however, be remiss if I did not highlight a few. As you will recall, we were fortunate to start this past year by hosting The Art of the Gesù: Bernini and His Age, a once in a lifetime exhibition that included works of art from the Jesuit’s mother church in Rome — many of which had never traveled outside of Italy before, featuring the bust of our University patron St. Robert Bellarmine, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the most significant sculptor of the Baroque period. The exhibition drew thousands of guests to our Fairfield University Art Gallery, earned national and international media coverage, and for a moment I think it is fair to say that Fairfield was in a uniquely intimate and reflective place of dialogue with the founders of our mission.

Our mission calls us to share the gift of a Fairfield education as broadly as possible. Thus, on the enrollment front I am most pleased to report we received our highest number of undergraduate applications, and were able to draw our incoming class — the largest ever — from a very talented and diverse pool of young men and women. Fortunately, the increase in interest in Fairfield has coincided with significant expansion and enhancement to our facilities, including Langguth Hall — our latest residence in the Quad area, which accommodates 200 sophomore students. As you will read inside, it is also the new home of our Ignatian Leadership Residential College — a formation community for our sophomores that helps to deepen their personal and collective experience during this transitional period of their lives. This community has served as the inspiration for other residential colleges, both at Fairfield and at sister institutions.

Langguth Hall joins other enhancements in recent years — like renovations to the RecPlex and the Barone Campus Center, the new Rafferty Stadium, and the construction of a new home for the Dolan School of Business, which is well underway. None of these would have been possible without our Fairfield Rising Campaign, which we closed in September having raised close to $218 million – far exceeding our original goal of $160 million. The funding is essential to our evolution, but I think it is the enthusiastic support from our alumni that is most striking, with nearly 11,000 donors in total, and with 50 percent of the Class of 2017 making a senior class gift!

We can see the rewards of all of your support around us: This fall, we learned (among other impressive rankings) that U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges 2019 has ranked Fairfield as the #1 master’s degree g ranting university in the Northern Region – the first time that Fairfield has been ranked at the top of this group. Naturally, these rankings have to be taken in context, but they do reflect a number of qualitative and quantitative factors that are moving in the right direction for us. Clearly, we are attracting talented students; we are seeing an increase in alumni participation which is a factor in the rankings; and our quality has been noticed by our peer institutions — for the first time ever Fairfield was ranked amongst the most innovative institutions in the region — whose assessment is critical to our standing. All of this hard work — and our unflagging faith in the mission — is bearing fruit.

Throughout the year I have been touring the country and the local community to meet with alumni and friends, and have become more deeply acquainted with you all. On Oct. 18, I had a really enjoyable morning as I joined over 650 other volunteers during the Bridgeport Public Schools’ 33rd annual read aloud day, to read to a class of 6th graders. Also in October, I was pleased to be among those who gathered at our newly named Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality as we honored Trustee Bob Murphy ‘71, who made a generous gift in honor of his parents to help sustain the spirituality center’s rapid growth. As you will read inside, our Murphy Center – which provides spiritual direction to hundreds in our diocese – is in great demand. As a Jesuit, Catholic University, training directors in the tradition of the Spiritual Exercises, and making this unique form of encounter available to our neighbors, is integral to our mission and identity and our commitment to partnership.

Throughout the fall I have been in Boston and New York, and will have visited with alumni in Chicago by the time you receive this magazine. In the coming months I will visit Los Angeles, Malibu, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and make several stops in Florida.

One message that I have articulated consistently, and will continue to stress, is that our future as a learning institution demands we reach new students, and that we do so in new ways. I believe we are called to meet the demand among adult learners — those perhaps already in the workplace or in the midst of a transition — for certificate and degree programs that can further their career potential, or open up new possibilities for personal growth. A master’s degree in Educational Technology is our first 100% online program, and we have many other online and hybrid degree and certificate programs in the pipeline. The challenge is to provide this kind of professional training, while remaining true to our commitment to the care of the whole person – to educate each student who comes to us for the greater purpose of transforming the society as a whole for the better.

Fortunately, we have our feet firmly planted on the foundation of Ignatian education, and have the talented and innovative faculty and staff to make this happen. I look forward to keeping you all abreast of developments on this front throughout the year.

Finally, as is fitting at this time of year, I am happy to reassure you that the University — as always — is being a good steward, and that we continue to enjoy significant growth in our endowment and revenue, while remaining fiscally prudent, as we should.

With my best wishes for you all,
Mark R. Nemec, PhD