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The Idea of a University

The Idea of a University

By Steven Boyd Saum

Former President Patrick A . Donohoe, S.J., reenacts history to stake claim on the future.  

Martin Luther may never have nailed his 95 Theses to the church door. But 450 years later, Santa Clara University President Patrick A. Donohoe, S.J., sure did—or at least he posed for this picture on the steps of the Mission Church in autumn 1967.

Why? Historians George Giacomini ’56 and Gerald McKevitt, S.J., note that in the late 1960s, “Urged on by reforms within the Jesuit order and the Catholic Church resulting from the aggiornarmento of Pope John XXIII, Donohoe was able to introduce changes undreamed of by his predecessors. Indeed, the changes that occurred in the wake of the Second Vatican Council were the most dramatic that the University had experienced in one hundred years.”

The world was changing, too. And, Donohoe noted, “The University is not a planet spun off from the world. It is part of the world and its formal work is preparation for the world. It would be false to itself and to its clients if it failed to ready its graduates for a non sanitized existence …. The formal work of the institution is not to prepare monks and nuns, but citizens of the world—and the world is made up of a vast spectrum of ideas.”

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