Commencement May 6, 2011My congratulations to our honorary degree recipients. Dr. Lee Schulman, you have dedicated yourself—as we have at Duquesne University—to excellence in teaching. Your distinguished scholarly career and your leadership of the Carnegie Foundation have advanced our understanding of teaching and improved its practice. Mr. Ken Hackett, as President of Catholic Relief Services you have had a direct hand in using our religious values to ease the worst of human suffering around the world. No matter where a natural or human disaster strikes, CRS is there, with your able administrative leadership. You both honor us by your presence here today and by letting us associate ourselves with your noble work.
My heartiest congratulations to our graduates and a warm welcome to their families and friends to Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit. This is a special day in our institutional life as it brings to a close another academic year. Since our founding in 1878, we now have had 132 years of sponsorship by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. During this time, we have educated students in the arts, sciences, and professions, contributed to the advancement of our scholarly disciplines, and served the needs of our community and our nation. For these six generations, Duquesne has changed the world by lifting students and their families out of material and spiritual poverty.
So today is a time of celebration. Every graduate with us today has triumphed by going beyond what he or she or others thought possible. Each has a story of personal perseverance and excellence. And each graduate has now become—and will always remain--an alum of Duquesne University.
But today is also properly a time of gratitude, a time to give thanks. Our first indebtedness is to the founders and sustainers of this great institution. For six generations, Holy Ghost priests--our Spiritan sponsors—faculty, staff and administrators have given their lives and careers so that Duquesne could prosper. We also thank the many donors who have helped our University and our students make ends meet and make dreams come true. And we thank in advance those donors who will step forward—many of them in this very graduating class—to assist Duquesne students of the future and to build ever greater excellence on our Bluff.
We have a special thank you to express today to our graduates’ families. You knew when you sent us your sons and daughters that Duquesne is a place that cares for the whole person and that they would never be a number here. Perhaps you knew that the Princeton Review called our uniquely urban campus climate at once “cosmopolitan yet caring.” You surely knew that we are a safe place; not only on campus, but in our immediate proximity to the area’s leading hospital emergency room and to a city fire station. And you knew our reputation for academic excellence in a Catholic and ecumenical environment. But you had to believe that this combination—that this time and place on this Bluff—was the right one for someone you love. I would ask the parents of our graduates to stand now and accept our gratitude and applause.
The academic mind of our University is our faculty. In just a few short years, their achievements have taken us from the third tier of US News and World Report to the very first tier of American universities. Similarly, their research productivity has moved us from the Carnegie Foundation’s classification of Masters II to their doctoral category of Research High. We are now among only eight Catholic universities in the research high and very high categories, confirming our status as one of the leading Catholic universities in the nation. Moreover, everyday our faculty members are in classrooms, laboratories, performance spaces and in their own offices giving our students the individual attention they need to excel. I ask our faculty to stand now and accept our gratitude and applause.
But our biggest thank you today goes to our graduates. You have given critical years of your lives to make Duquesne a greater university today than it was when you arrived. In your years here, you have been responsible citizens of a small city. You have been part of a community of ten thousand four hundred total students--thirty five hundred of them in residence--and two thousand employees on 52 acres of land. Duquesne runs this city with an annual operating budget of more than two hundred and fifty million dollars. We generate our own power; heat, cool and repair our buildings; pave and plow our streets. We feed, house, and provide recreation; we landscape and beautify, and we police ourselves. We operate a sophisticated IT system and the County’s largest parking structure. We are financially secure, with 22 consecutive years of balanced budgets and positive professional assessments by both Moody’s and S&P. And we are an expanding city—adding new spaces on Forbes and Fifth Aves., constructing a contemporary twelve story residence hall, and acquiring and renovating an eight story academic building. Your active citizenship has helped us to operate and grow this dynamic city.
You have also been important members of our scholarly community. You have helped us shape our educational atmosphere by your active learning. You have assisted with faculty research projects and then conducted your own. As students you have become teachers to others as well. You have instructed students behind you and mentored younger students in the larger community. You have provided educational, artistic, health care, and legal services on campus and in settings throughout our community. You have learned in and then led student organizations, teaching others critical management and leadership skills and passing on the core missions of our organizations. You have been learners then teachers in student government, Greek life, and athletics. And you have taught all us a deep lesson about service to others in need. When the Washington Monthly ranked Duquesne University fourteenth of all universities in the nation in our commitment to community service, it was because you were our teachers and we were your students.
Perhaps most importantly, you have been spiritual partners with us in an institution with a Catholic mission and a distinctive Spiritan identity. You have helped us to serve God by serving you as students, so that you can serve others throughout your lifetimes. You have worked with Campus Ministry, adding music and song to our liturgies and celebrations, raising money for others in need, and participating in substantive service trips helping others near and far. Your overall success here has helped us remain true to one of the founding intentions of Duquesne, using education to lift up families. The Washington Monthly noted that we are ninth in the entire nation in universities that accept students from middle and lower income families and support them through to graduation. You have also helped us be faithful to our Catholic tradition, in a distinctively Duquesne ecumenical fashion. You supported our religious goal that those who come here as Catholics, should leave us as stronger Catholics—and that those who come as other Christians, Jews or Muslims, should leave us stronger in their own faiths. And throughout your years with us, you have helped us understand more deeply what it means to be a University community led by the Holy Spirit in a time of great challenge for all people of faith and good will.
So today we celebrate and we express our gratitude. We thank the Spirit Who Gives Life. We thank those who founded this great University and all who have built it and rebuilt it for 132 years. We thank the parents of today’s graduates for your confidence in us. We thank the faculty for your ever increasing excellence. We thank today’s graduates for all you have done for us and meant to us during your time with us on our remarkable Bluff. And we look forward with anticipation and joy to how you will change the world for the better because you are now graduates of Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit.