Kerns: A tall order for a changing ‘Nova

 

 

Bryan Kerns

University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., and the University’s Board of Trustees celebrated the successful completion of a $300 million capital campaign titled “Transforming Minds and Hearts” by hosting 800 people at a black-tie gala at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City last Friday night.

The theme for the gala was “The Faces of Villanova,” and it sought to recognize and celebrate the many constituencies that comprise the University community.

The Villanova ideal of community is one that is rooted in unity, seeks truth and is driven by love.

All of this will lead to, as the appellation applied to the University’s capital campaign suggests, the transformation of minds and hearts.

The sole element that can ensure the successful achievement of these values, which strike at the very heart of what Villanova is and seeks to be, is, of course, its faces – from the Facilities Management worker who empties the trash in your residence hall’s bathroom to John Drosdick, chair of the Board of Trustees, to the Lindback Award recipient to the department secretary to Jay Wright to you and I.

Each of us has a stake in the success of the University.

How, then, can we judge success?

It’s not to be found in a BusinessWeek ranking or in the men’s basketball polls or in the size of our endowment or the number of buildings we’re going to build in the next five years or, really, in any quantitative measure. Quantitative measures attempt to apply numbers to something that cannot be a number.

Success is qualitative. Success is a judgment on the quality of experience Villanova provides to its students – those whose minds and hearts it seeks to transform.

Quantitative success is one part of this, but it must cease to be the sole measure by which we measure ourselves.

Villanova’s success is found in a self-assessment: is the University living up to its established mission, and are the University’s core values of truth, unity and love animating the mission in each and every decision made by each and every stakeholder on each and every day?

A tall order for us as Villanovans? Absolutely.

Would there be any other way to have it? Not if we are to call ourselves an Augustinian community.

That question of self-assessment reflects an ideal to which the University must aspire.

The ideal is espoused in the first lines of Augustine’s “Confessions”: “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in you.”

For Augustine, the search for God was the root of restlessness. Finding God was that ideal to which he aspired.

For the University, aspiring to achieve its mission and animating the mission by exercising truth, unity and love should be the root of the restlessness. Perfect execution of that mission and those values is the ideal to which we must aspire.

In the few short months I’ve been at Villanova, I have come to know a University defined by its faces. Those faces seem mostly unified in a love-driven search for truth.

That’s not to say we can’t do it better. That’s the beauty of restlessness aspiring toward an ideal: it can always be done better.

The Villanova I know is socially and culturally engaged but sometimes seems intellectually disengaged. Those intellectual endeavors better inform the social and cultural engagement.

The Villanova I know is leaving behind the “Vanillanova” cliché in favor of a more welcoming and diverse identity. Despite this, the stigma attached to difference still simmers. It has no place in an institution of ideas. We must work to eliminate it.

The Villanova I know is building and will be building more. While expanding, we must not diminish the community aspects of the University that serve very much as the base of what occurs here.

In their book titled “Leading with the Heart” philosophy professor Dr. John Immerwahr and Associate Vice President for Student Life Kathy Byrnes write, “Augustine asks us always to think about what it is that we value, what it is that our heart burns for.”

The heart of our University burns for unshakable unity, more vigilant pursuit of the truth and greater depth of love.

Villanovans experience all of these quite often.

That doesn’t mean we can’t do better.

Enjoy the restlessness. It is there that the values will find their most perfect manifestation.

Then, and only then, are the minds and hearts of Villanova’s faces transformed.

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Bryan Kerns is a freshman from Drexel Hill, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]