Skip to main content

President's Blog: From the Heart

This is Your Community

By Eric F. Spina

Good morning and welcome to the University of Dayton! Your University of Dayton.

Class of 2021, this is such an extraordinary day for you, a day that marks the first step on your college journey and essentially the first day of your life as a young, independent professional. I also understand that it is a day in which you will experience a wide range of emotions.

And speaking of emotions, I offer a special hello to all the parents. Thank you for doing more than your share of “heavy lifting” yesterday as you moved your students into their new home away from home. 

As a father of a college student, I know so well the mixture of emotions you’re feeling today — pride, happiness and, yes, a little nervousness about letting go. Trust me, it does get easier.

Now, to our newest students…all of our UD students are special to me, but your class has already captured a moment in history, and you haven’t even stepped in the classroom. Here’s your special claim: You are the largest, most diverse and most talented class in our history. Think about that for a minute. In a university with a 167-year history, your class stands alone.

Today marks a grand beginning on a journey that will challenge and stretch you in ways you can’t even imagine. 

You will quickly learn that “community” is not a word used lightly here. It’s a way of life. It’s a shared vision.

You’ll discover a community that supports and challenges one another in our Catholic, Marianist tradition. We value collaboration, prize diversity, treasure the gifts of all, and expect positive contributions from each person to the community. Our students see the development of community as essential in our world, and are willing to work hard to achieve it. We are on a path to becoming known as The University for the Common Good.

The University of Dayton is, above all else, a community striving to make a difference in the world.  

This is your community now…

…and being part of the University of Dayton community holds a special responsibility. It’s a responsibility to make good, safe, healthy choices, and to develop habits of the body, mind and spirit that will serve you well the rest of your lives.

Which is not to say you shouldn’t have fun. College should be a joyful time, a time to cultivate friendships, to explore your passions, to learn as much outside the classroom as inside. With the love of your families and the support of this campus community, you will grow in both knowledge and character to achieve your potential.

You are on your own for the first time in your lives on a journey of self-discovery and self-awareness. That’s exhilarating — and, sometimes, a little frightening.

As you take the first step on your academic journey, I challenge you to stretch yourself farther than you think you can be stretched, ask big questions, leave your comfort zone — and have the courage to risk failure.

Yes, failure.

Sorry, parents, I know that’s not a word you like hearing. But we all know that one of the greatest lessons in life is learning to overcome hardship and rebound from failure. It’s a learning moment, a time to reach out for help and bounce back stronger, wiser and more resilient. 

So when failure occurs — whether a test or a relationship or something else — don't be defeated. Dig down, learn the appropriate lesson, and move forward to win the next day.

We heard each of you when you told us in the admissions process how you wanted to make an impact in the world. Your responses were ambitious and inspiring to us as a faculty and staff. The quest you are starting this week toward those aspirational goals and careers will have ups and downs, triumphs and challenges, but ask yourself every day whether you are becoming the person you want to be. And ask yourself what you will do that day to take another step — even a small step — toward that goal you have set for yourself.

As a University of Dayton student, you are called to treat others — and yourself — with respect. You are called to accept the consequences of your behavior, knowing that the everyday decisions you make will influence the rest of your lives. The everyday decisions you make will influence the rest of your lives.

When faced with peer pressure around alcohol use or risky behavior, think beyond the legal ramifications to your personal values — to the impact your decisions will have on yourself and others.

When faced with conflicts, learn to forgive and accept forgiveness. Handle conflicts with respect, dialogue, and understanding.

Perhaps most importantly, I ask you to respect differences, to respect the dignity of each person on this campus.  Some of you come from small farming communities in Ohio. Others were brought up in big cities like Chicago and New York. Still others have left their home countries to study here.

You will meet people of various races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, religions and political thought. Reach out and develop relationships with people who are different from you. You will make new kinds of friends and learn more from those relationships than you thought possible about the world beyond your home street: nothing will prepare you better for the world you’ll enter after graduation.

To the Class of 2021, think about the people in your lives who have helped you get here. Through their love and support, they have helped develop you for this moment — the moment when you take that first step on a life-changing journey. Let’s hold them close in our hearts and give them a round of applause.

Thank you — and Go Flyers!

Previous Post

Community Builders

In a message to the University of Dayton community on the first day of the fall semester, I offer a welcome and a challenge: We are called to be community builders.
Read More
Next Post

Imaginative Minds

The Shroyer Park Center, tucked away unobtrusively in a residential neighborhood, is a world-class research center. That could surprise some of its neighbors, who may not realize its reach extends to the frontiers of space.
Read More