Fall 2008. “We’re Doing It For U.” The phrase was printed on hundreds of t-shirts to celebrate Alvernia’s successful achievement of university status. I don’t recall who thought of the slogan. But I remember loving it immediately. Why had Alvernia sought to become a university? Simple answer. For our students.
Fall 2013. “We Did It For You.” Five years later, we have a new t-shirt. And students continue to be why we do what do.
Last month, we celebrated the successful conclusion of our first comprehensive fundraising effort—the Values & Vision campaign announced back in ‘08. Helped by generous gifts from trustees and others-- with significant support from our faculty, staff and SGA—Alvernia is a quite different place today.
There are more scholarships for deserving students, such as those offered via the Boscov Scholars program. There is far more support for faculty, including initiatives like the Neag Professorships and Faculty Excellence Grants. An Assisi Fund now sends students, faculty, and staff each year to Italy to experience Franciscan spirituality first-hand. Interfaith programs and awards have been launched. We have both a nationally recognized Holleran Center for Community Engagement and a new O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership, and Public Service.
The campus also looks dramatically different. The campus-side entrance to Francis Hall has been transformed, and fine and performing arts spaces have been improved. Bernardine Hall has been completely renovated. Athletic and intramural teams now compete on a turf field and new track, with spectacular views from Founders Village rooms and suites. The Campus Commons is now an Alvernia landmark. And in place of an unsightly parking lot, there is a beautiful quad in the middle of campus.
Together we have come further, faster than we ever thought possible five short years ago. Alvernia is now recognized for strong academic programs, undergraduate and graduate--especially in healthcare and the human services—as well as for its emphases on leadership, ethics, and community engagement.
A historically commuter school has become home to a large residential community. A predominantly local school now attracts students from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. A seemingly land-locked school has expanded its campus dramatically. A once-tiny college has become a thriving university. And amidst it all, Alvernia continues to be a place of opportunity--rooted in Franciscan values--for students of diverse backgrounds.
With the poet Frost, we know there are “miles to go before we sleep.” Much important work lies ahead. There will be challenges and setbacks, to be sure. But together we are well on our way to being a “Distinctive Franciscan University” committed to graduating “broadly educated, life-long learners; reflective professionals and engaged citizens; and ethical leaders with moral courage.”
Each year, at the First-Year Convocation, and twice a year at graduation, I challenge our students “to do well and to do good.” Now in my ninth year at this special place, I am no longer surprised by the countless ways our students rise to this challenge.
Elsewhere in this issue, there is a sampling of the many collective accomplishments of our students.
Congratulations, students. And keep it up!
Peace and All Good, Tom