Inaugural Greeting on behalf of the National Academic Community
Dr. Jack Calareso
President, Anna Maria College
Sister Paula and members of the Rivier College community, I am honored to be here today on this auspicious occasion as you inaugurate your 12th president and Sister Paula Marie Buley takes her rightful place in the community of college and university presidents.
I can tell you without any doubt and with total surety that you have chosen well. Sister Paula is a woman of extraordinary intelligence, incredible experience, amazing energy and limitless compassion. Even more, she is a woman of deep faith, unquestionable integrity and a powerful vision. I am pleased to have her as my colleague and humbled to call her my friend. Simply said, if “transforming hearts and minds to serve the world,” is your mission, you have the right leader.
But I am not here to simply praise Sister Paula, I am here to bring her and all of you greetings from the national academic community. Unfortunately, I cannotsimply honor that request because that is not enough.
It is true that Sister Paula and Rivier College are part of the fabric of American higher education; a fabric woven with private colleges and public institutions, large universities, and small colleges; a higher education community that numbers over 7000 institutions and over 20 million students. So on behalf of these colleges and universities, their faculty, staff, and students I wish you well as you lead this great institution. But that is not enough.
It is also true that Sister Paula and Rivier College are part of the unique and special community of Catholic colleges and universities in America, a community that includes well over 200 institutions and over 1 million students, sponsored by congregations of religious women and men, Catholic dioceses, and all responding to a wide spectrum of educational needs and interests in service to the Common Good. So on behalf of all of the Catholic colleges and universities, a community that I have lovingly served for almost 40 years, I wish you well as you sustain, promote, and actualize the unique Catholic mission of your foundresses, the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, and the transformative role of Rivier College. But that is not enough.
It is also true that Sister Paula and Rivier College are part of a local community of colleges and universities that serve the state of New Hampshire. This community numbers over 40 institutions and campuses and provides educational opportunity to almost 75,000 students. And while Rivier reaches far beyond the boundaries of this great state, you provide an important and a valuable resource to the Nashua community and the people of this state. So I applaud your commitment to be both a leader and a servant to the state of New Hampshire. But that is not enough.
Because Sister Paula is more than just a New Hampshire president, a Catholic college president, an American higher education president. Today she joins the long and distinguished lineage of all of higher education. The fact is that the very first colleges and universities founded in the world were Catholic colleges. The evolution of the university in Western civilization as well as the establishment of colleges and universities in this country has a history coterminous with Catholic universities. The first universities were created in the thirteenth century, and they were all originally Catholic.
The medieval European universities were first developed in Italy in Bologna and Padua, in Spain in Salamanca and Alcala, in France in Paris, and in England in Oxford. They were Catholic because their founders realized that the freedom and autonomy essential for the search for truth could only occur if universities were separated from the state.
While the first universities in this country were Protestant, beginning with Harvard in 1636, Georgetown College (now Georgetown University) was established in 1789 by the first American bishop, John Carroll, despite the fact that at that time Catholics represented only one percent of the population. Numerous Catholic institutions were established throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, including your own institution in 1933.
My point is not to provide a history lesson about the development of the university. But rather to remind you of who we are, that we are part of a long and rich tradition, a tradition of higher education that has existed for well over 700 years and that owes its birth to the Catholic intellectual tradition, a tradition which we share with all of the great Catholic institutions of the world, a tradition which we celebrate today. Catholic universities by definition and throughout their history have always welcomed all people, people of all faiths, traditions and backgrounds. The university, as described by John Henry Newman, is “a place of concourse, whither students come from every quarter for every kind of knowledge. It is a place where inquiry is pushed forward and discoveries verified and perfected, and rashness rendered innocuous, and error exposed, by the collision of mind with mind and knowledge with knowledge."
So, in reality, it is only right and finally sufficient that I bring Sister Paula Marie Buley and all of you greetings from the Universities of Bologna and Padua in Italy, the Universities of Salamanca and Alcala in Spain, the University of Paris, and the first American Catholic university, Georgetown.
Always remember that you are part of a 700-year tradition of excellence in higher education throughout the world, and as the president of Rivier College, you have joined the first family of higher education. Today we welcome you!
Congratulations and God bless you!