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President's Blog: From the Heart

Happy 200th Birthday!

By Eric F. Spina

Walking through campus, I pass by statues of the mother of Jesus that stand as beacons of grace, strength, and faith. At twilight, I gaze upward at the illuminated Madonna and child image that adorns the side of Miriam Hall and feel peace and a sense of purpose.

As we celebrate precisely two centuries of Marianist education in the world, I urge our students, faculty, staff, and alumni to renew our commitment to model Mary — and say “yes.”

Yes to a philosophy of education that calls us to be community builders.

Yes to a calling to advance justice and promote the common good.

Yes to a respect for the dignity of all people as we pause to listen to a diversity of viewpoints and model what it means to work across differences.

We are part of a great faith-based tradition that started simply in 1819 with the enrollment of 15 students in a boarding school at 46 Rue des Menuts in Bordeaux, France. Today, Marianist education has spread to 97 schools (including three universities) in two dozen countries on five continents. In all, at this instant, more than 7,800 Marianist educators are guiding the hearts and minds of more than 112,000 students.

When you do the math — as Executive Director of Campus Ministry Crystal Sullivan did for our Board of Trustees in October — an amazing 10 percent of those students are being taught at the University of Dayton.

Our students live out the Marianist mission in the way they use their education to touch the lives of others, particularly the less fortunate. When I hear their stories, I’m filled with pride about their accomplishments and hope for a more just, humane world. I could fill pages of my blog with examples that illustrate the depth of their impact — from those who spend their summers living among the people of Appalachia to the students who work in labs under the mentorship of professors to advance clean and renewable energy technologies.

On a personal note, Karen and I have been deeply touched by the Marianists, who have welcomed us with support and love. At Masses, dinners, and casual encounters around campus, we feel the family spirit, the warmth of hospitality, the joy of shared successes — and the belief in the possibilities the future holds if we work together. “Community” is not a buzzword here. It’s a way of life.

As we mark the bicentennial of Marianist education, let us take to heart this excerpt from a prayer written for this anniversary:  “Give us a heart that hears the calls of those in need in our world so that the gifts we have received may be used to make the world better.”

Happy 200th birthday! Marianist education is our gift to the world.

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