In his annual State of the University address, President Michael Engh, S.J., detailed three themes that connect the University to its broader communities—and help determine where it’s headed.
On Feb. 19, Santa Clara University President Michael Engh, S.J., began his annual State of the University address by reflecting on the goals and ideals of the University—and how reality can often differ from our expectations. It is therefore more useful, he suggested, to look at what has been accomplished, how it was accomplished, and how those accomplishments set a trajectory for where the University is headed. Those three themes—the What, the How, and the Where To—lie at the heart of what connects the University “to ourselves, our friends, and our wider world,” Fr. Engh said.
|Read a transcript of the complete State of the University address—or watch a video of the entire event.
Looking at what the University has achieved in the past few years, President Engh noted that Santa Clara has seen its endowment dramatically recover from the losses sustained during the recession, providing greater stability as well as opportunities for the University. Some tremendous gifts have also been made, including $12 million by Ed Dowd ’72 toward the Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building, $500,000 by Peggy Bradshaw ’72 and her husband, Richard, toward the creation of a pedestrian mall on Franklin Street, more than $500,000 by the Jesuit Community of Santa Clara to endow a center for the arts and humanities, and increased scholarship support. President Engh announced a gift by Professor Emeritus Victor Vari and his wife Julia Botto Vari, whose connections with SCU span six decades. The $8 million gift will go towards the newly named Victor and Julia Botto Vari Hall (formerly the Arts & Sciences Building) and will create an endowment to support the arts and humanities (read about Professor Vari in the Summer 2012 SCM).
President Engh went on to describe the strides made in academics, such as the strong applicant pool of incoming freshmen (despite a decline in the number of college-age students nationally) as well as the dramatic increase in student applications for Fulbright awards. “Our combined efforts of faculty, staff, students, friends, and benefactors have kept Santa Clara thriving, building, hiring, and aspiring to be more,” he said.
At the center of President Engh’s discussion of “how we have faced issues” was the concept of shared governance at the University. The topic may seem a bit inside baseball, but it’s been of particular concern to faculty and staff in recent months.
On Oct. 3, 2013, Fr. Engh announced in a letter that the University’s health care plans would no longer cover abortions that were not deemed medically necessary. The decision sparked some heated debate, bringing up questions connected to the terminology used in medical insurance plans, and it brought into focus some of the thorniest questions about what it means to be a Jesuit and Catholic university at the beginning of the 21st century. (That is a topic that Santa Clara Magazine, recognizing the importance of modeling thoughtful discourse, will be grappling with in greater depth in the months to come.) The decision also generated concern among University employees who felt that the decision-making process wasn’t consultative in the way it could have been.
Since October, Fr. Engh said, “I have learned a great deal about shared governance and how it has been lived at Santa Clara. I have come to understand far better the nuances and dynamics of the process involved.” He promised a renewal of commitment to the process. “We shall move forward, not alone or isolated, but in partnership,” he said, “and, as we have worked through past differences, together we can—and shall—do so again.”
For words of consolation and wisdom, Fr. Engh turned to poet Seamus Heaney, who articulated in his translation of the Greek drama Philoctetes, an aspiration that:
...once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
The Where To
The highlight of the President’s speech came with the unveiling of a new Integrated Strategic Plan that provides concrete objectives to realize six strategic goals for the University. This plan coordinates the results of the existing Enrollment, Facilities, and Strategic plans in order to bring greater clarity to how the University will emphasize the distinctive, transformative educational experience of SCU. The plan not only identifies key areas where Santa Clara can truly stand as a leader in higher education but challenges the University to build a more diverse and inclusive community, as well as to make its education more affordable. “We shall leverage our values and expand our impact in the lives of our students for the benefit of our world,” Fr. Engh said.
In closing, President Engh paid tribute to alumnus Phil Scholz ’01, who was struck and killed by a train on Jan. 20 while saving another man’s life. Fr. Engh also spoke of the inspiring words performed by theatre major Tennyson W. Jones ’14 at a student performence in January, and he asked the community to remember who the University serves and why it does so. “We work to change lives so that students in turn will connect—with themselves, with their friends, and with others in need. We want to hear the needs and stories of others so that we can live more respectfully and create a home where all are welcome. We labor to change the world for the better,” he concluded, “so that hope and history rhyme.”
THE FULL SPEECH
Story updated on May 8, 2014 to note that Peggy Bradshaw ’72 and her husband, Richard, donated $500,000 for a new pedestrian mall on Franklin Street. —Ed.