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President's Blog: From the Heart

A Desire to Serve

By Eric F. Spina

(Ryan Allen, Mary Buchwalder and Robin Oldfield — the 2021 Lackner Award recipients — have helped shepherd the University through complex, unpredictable times with grace, an unflappable spirit, and seemingly boundless energy. The Lackner Award is given annually to lay faculty and staff who have made significant contributions to the Catholic and Marianist character of the University. Here are UD President Eric Spina's remarks at the May 10 awards ceremony. )

This has been such a beautiful night of celebration, made more joyful by the simple act of gathering together in one place.

Father Jim is fond of saying that we shouldn’t canonize the Lackner Award recipients, so I’ll fall just a bit short of doing that tonight. I’d like to take a moment to offer a few of my own reflections about the 2021 honorees, each of whom I admire immensely.

In times that call for change, we always hear the echo of Marianist founder Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, S.M., who famously said, “New times call for new measures.”

It’s one thing to hear that call; it’s another to act boldly, bravely — and with faith and humility. And to work together, in the Marianist way, to accomplish more than any single one of us can ever do.

Ryan, Mary and Robin have helped shepherd the University through complex, unpredictable times with grace, an unflappable spirit, and seemingly boundless energy, though I’m sure they will admit more than a little fatigue. During these extraordinary times, they brought people together to accomplish a common mission. They are true servant-leaders who view their work — and their lives — as a vocation. They are superb models for all of us.

As Father Jim mentioned, Ryan Allen and his team in the E-Learning Lab helped the campus respond in very quick order to the enormous demands placed on faculty to switch their courses online in March 2020, and he and his colleagues have been playing a key role in providing support and encouragement for all faculty during this trying time. I’ve observed Ryan’s humility and heart. He is so quick to attribute credit to those around him, and very generous with his time and talent. One of his colleagues calls him “a gifted strategic thinker who imagines what could be and what might be and what we should strive to be.”

I know Dr. Mary Buchwalder as you do — a compassionate and principled leader who works tirelessly for the health and well-being of our campus community, particularly our students. When the world stopped in its tracks after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, I appreciated how she got to work developing processes for quickly testing, quarantining, contact tracing and scheduling vaccines. Her effort has been nothing short of heroic. She describes her long UD tenure, which is soon wrapping up, in this way: “The 30 years,” she said, “feel like a day, but certain days have felt like 30 years.” Still, she persevered. Mary has been more than the University’s medical voice; she’s been a model of calm professionalism during a crisis. She reminds us why faith and reason are always at the forefront of our mission.

Robin Oldfield will readily tell you that she prefers to remain behind the scenes, but she has become a household name on our campus. A respected household name. A beloved household name. The compliance officer in any organization is not always the most popular figure, but Robin quickly earned respect for embracing the Marianist style of collaborative leadership and working with others to create a playbook for the pandemic. I deeply appreciate how she brought a broad cross-section of the UD community together in teams to develop plans for a return to campus. She helped develop preventative measures to promote safety — and she quietly showed us how we could adapt for the times.

One of the threads that tie our three recipients together is their penchant for attributing the motivation for their work to their desire to serve, and specifically their desire to serve in the Marianist model and aligned with the Marianist charism. True, none of the three of them is in the classroom regularly. Nor will they be found in a research lab engaged in discovery. But make no mistake about it: Robin, Mary, and Ryan are here at this Catholic, Marianist university because they care about educating the next generation of leaders, because they care about the discoveries that come from our faculty and staff. They are truly and deeply committed to UD’s mission, and their work makes us successful.

Robin, Mary, Ryan: Thank you for living the values of our Marianist university every single day. You inspire me. You inspire all of us. You are so worthy of this recognition and, both personally and on behalf of a thankful University of Dayton community, I congratulate you.

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