Dear Alvernia Students . . . and Former Students too, now Proud Alumni,
This May, my year-end “Flynn Files” will as usual celebrate some of our many special graduating seniors. So let me use this column, written appropriately on St. Patrick’s Day, to share brief parting reflections with you, as I come to the end of my fourteen years as your president.
As I anticipate these final weeks and one last grand Graduation Day, I feel blessed by the opportunity to serve the Alvernia community. Chief among my happy memories, of course, has been my good fortune to get to know many of you personally during (or after) your years at the Vern. I look forward to seeing many familiar faces at the Senior Athletic Banquet, Senior Leaders Dinner, MargaritaVern, and other events. And it has been fun to see recent, already successful graduates as well as longtime, loyal alums at “farewell” events in Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, D.C, and other spots as well as here in Reading.
Transitions in our lives are times for reflection and gratitude. Know how grateful I am to all of you for being a continual source of inspiration and fun (and good ideas!) during my presidency. Student leaders stepped up to partner with administrators in shaping the design of the Campus Commons and the “pods” in Founder’s Village and provided generous funding from SGA for key campus initiatives. I admire our students (young and not-so-young) for your many accomplishments. From freshmen honors to doctoral students, Neumann to Fulbright scholars, student athletes to student government members, actors and artists to mentors and researchers, RAs to Tour Guides and Ambassadors, you develop your talents while contributing so much to Alvernia, the local community, and often the wider world. A special word of appreciation to those of you, undergraduate and Senior College students alike, whom I have been fortunate to teach in class!
Current students have seen the opening of our Golden Wolves Stadium and are eagerly watching the rise of the PLEX on our new East Campus. So we should not be surprised that alums from Alvernia’s early decades marvel at the progress of this once tiny local college. They regularly share their pride in the evolution of their beloved alma mater into a thriving comprehensive, regional university with centers in Philadelphia and Schuylkill Counties and hundreds of on-line degree-seeking students. Former athletes can’t imagine first-rate athletic facilities available for 28 varsity teams. Even students anticipating their 10thth Alumni reunion find it hard to recognize the campus they left in 2009, now that we have students from over 20 states, pursuing doctoral as well as undergraduate degrees, with almost 1,000 on a campus with a spectacular main entrance and, even more importantly, a national reputation as a model university for community service and civic engagement.
Today’s students benefit from what I like to call the Alvernia Advantage, ways we combine all the best features of the student-centered college with many of the advantages of a larger university. 100% of our undergraduates choose internships, clinical placements, service-learning, and leadership “real world learning” opportunities on and beyond the campus with 86% completing more than one! This helps explain why, over the last 5 years, 97% of Alvernia’s seniors on average have been employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation, with many of you modelling servant-leadership and the passion for service rooted in our Franciscan values.
But current students and alumni of all ages and eras have far more in common than you might realize.
For throughout our history, Alvernia has offered valuable professional preparation while emphasizing the skills and perspectives rooted in liberal arts education. From our earliest years, inspired by our Bernardine Sisters, this has been a place of opportunity for students of all backgrounds (and ages), featuring talented, dedicated faculty and a caring campus community centered on the academic excellence characteristic of Catholic higher education and the inclusive values of our Franciscan heritage.
At a time when examples abound in our country and our world of unethical behavior and intolerant, even hateful, attitudes, we have adopted a “Commitment to Civil Dialogue and Freedom of Expression” and have been recognized nationally as a leader in interfaith initiatives. Our mission statement calls on Alvernia’s faculty and staff to help prepare today’s students to be “engaged citizens and ethical leaders with moral courage.” This is indeed a lofty ideal, appropriately so given the legacy of our Sisters. I am quite confident that students and alums alike are meeting the challenge I have given for the past 14 years to entering freshman and those sporting caps and gowns: “To Do Well and To Do Good.”
On June 30, I will step away from daily involvement in the work of the university, but I will not be leaving Alvernia behind. Reading has become a new home and the Alvernia University community and the Bernardine Franciscan congregation have become an extended family. And I will always root on the Golden Wolves and rejoice in the successes of our students and alums.
Peace and All Good, Tom Flynn