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Pittsburgh Catholic Column: Oct. 2009

Duquesne University: A Commitment to Service Pursuing Excellence in the Spiritan Tradition


by Dr. Charles J. Dougherty

"Duquesne serves God by serving students." This is the shorthand we use to express our mission and identity—words known and lived by faculty, staff, students and alumni.

The basis for this commitment lies in our full name: Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit. We are dedicated to the Holy Spirit because we were founded and have been continually sponsored by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, the Spiritans. Our University’s seal proclaims that "It is the Spirit Who gives Life."

Since 1703, the Spiritans have served others around the world, primarily as missionaries. They came to Pittsburgh in the 19th century to work with poor immigrant families. They did not intend to start a college, but when asked by the bishop and called by the Holy Spirit, they took on the daunting task. Duquesne began in 1878 with six faculty and 40 students in rented space over a bakery. More than 130 years later, we are one of America’s great Catholic universities.

As an educational institution, we pursue academic excellence. But we do not view the acquisition of knowledge an end in itself. In Spiritan fashion, we recognize that education is the most basic tool for human liberation. We want our graduates to succeed, but we also want them to help build a better world. By providing a quality liberal arts education and outstanding professional training, Duquesne equips students to become leaders who work for a more just and compassionate society.

This means going beyond facts and figures. Our pursuit of truth and sharing of knowledge takes place in the context of moral and spiritual values. Our Core Curriculum requires the study of ethics, global diversity, social justice and the relationship of faith and reason.

We value ecumenism and diversity. The Spiritans have always been uniquely respectful and open to other cultures and traditions. Thus, Duquesne was among the first American universities to admit women and men of all races and religions. We are both Catholic and catholic.

Our Spiritan heritage compels a focus on world concerns. As an institution and as individuals, we are partners in our sponsors' missions on five continents. Our scholarship and teaching is equally expansive. Our faculty conduct and publish research with global implications. Our students study abroad each year; many of them at our campus in Rome. Each year we welcome large numbers of students from around the world.

There is a pervasive spirit of service on our campus. Students apply their knowledge by helping their neighbors through required service learning experiences. More than 7,900 of our students, faculty and staff volunteer more than 200,000 hours in support of community agencies every year.

Duquesne serves God by serving students. They, in turn, learn to serve others in myriad ways in our nation and around the world. Together, we work hard to achieve the excellence committed to in our full name. We are Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit.