University’s 175th anniversity recap

Jack Judge

As the 2017 Fall semester comes to a close, so does the yearlong celebration of the University’s 175th anniversary. The demisemiseptcentennial mark has provided an impetus for Villanovans to commemorate this milestone by venturing into uncharted territory. The University has committed itself to tremendous efforts in order to “Ignite change” on the largest of scales. Two particular examples characterize what the period of January 2016-January 2017 has signified in terms of honoring tradition as well as translating the momentum stemming from the celebration into action. 

The first example has roots tracing to 2013 when the For The Greater Great Campaign first began to come to fruition. Quite simply, this effort has redefined the capacity for the Nova Nation to translate the individual experiences with the University and translate that significance into an all-out push to make a place that is already great even better. 

To this date, the official website for the campaign calculates over 71,000 people have participated in this effort and have raised an estimated $705 million. It should be mentioned that the campaign’s initial goal was to raise $600 million and that has been well-surpassed with some time still remaining in the fundraising period. In terms of the vision that University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D. had for this campaign when it was first started, he stated, “What I want—what we all should want—is simply, and powerfully, to be even better at who we are. If we do that—any comparisons will take care of themselves.” He continued to say, “that’s what this campaign is all about. And that’s what I’m all about. Every ounce of my energy will be devoted to helping Villanova to become everything it can be. That’s why this campaign is called the Greater Great. It’s about a place that already is great—becoming greater still.”

The second example from the 175th Anniversary that is particularly noteworthy is the inaugural 1842 Day. As an integral event in the 2017 St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration week, 1842 Day was the first-ever day of giving that relied on the strength of the greater Villanova community to unite and surpass the challenge of 1,842 donors in 1,842 minutes. The results of the day of giving were astounding as the philanthropy displayed by the greater Villanova community took this opportunity to physically express their passion for the University. According to the official 1842 Day website, almost 5,000 donors raised more than $6.5 million dispersed throughout more than 70 areas of the University. Certainly, the results from the day of giving made an important impact on the University, however, the highlight of the event came from a specific focal-point that the event sponsored. 

1842 Day took place from Sept.19 to Sept. 20 of this year, which was also when the country of Puerto Rico was recovering from the devastating storm that affected millions. The University had devoted one specific area for 1842 day for a Disaster Relief Fund which “supports [University] students who have been impacted by natural disasters, including the recent hurricanes.” Despite not being an area which contributions would directly bolster the University’s resources, thousands of dollars were raised to assist in the recovery effort. 

This one specific outcome demonstrates how Augustinian values remained a central focus not only in 1842 Day but also throughout the entire For The Greater Great campaign. While much of the philanthropy is targeted to benefit the University, the resources that stem from the extensive fundraising are translated into the mission of the University to optimally influence the greater community.

Much of the Greater Great campaign resonates with the fundamental teaching of St. Augustine regarding growth and development. “The higher your structure is to be,” he says, “the deeper must be its foundation.” Despite the dramatic and monumental aesthetic changes, the University has strived to stay rooted in its tradition and history. That is what makes the culmination of this campaign so distinguished from previous fundraising endeavors. The Lancaster Avenue development project, the Performing Art Center construction and the new Finneran Pavilion will enhance the Villanova experience but not necessarily change it. When the campaign concludes with the completion of all of the construction, the University will have invested a significant amount of resources into strengthening its foundation. The impetus to ignite change, however, relies on future Villanovans to utilize the means by which both the University and those who have contributed towards the cause have made possible. 

175 years is a monumental achievement for the University and the efforts to deepen the foundation of the University have characterized how the Nova Nation wants to celebrate the milestone. As the University continues to look toward the future and the anticipated bicentennial anniversary, many will recognize how the demisemiseptcentennial year was vital to the sustained success and future growth of the University.