The Rev. Kevin Wildes, S.J.
The following text has been abridged.
Watching the news the past few months, with the continuing coverage of our national election, we are reminded once again of how important colleges and universities are to our national life. In these instances, colleges and universities like Loyola are examples for the “real world” to emulate. Michael Waltzer titled one of his famous books “The Company of Critics,” and I have often thought that title is fitting for academic institutions. We listen. We question. We suggest. We argue. It is in our DNA.
Who are we? What kind of university is Loyola? Our vision for Loyola University New Orleans must always strive to be a dynamic and vibrant academic environment that provides a best-in-class, immersive education based on Jesuit values and that fosters enriching, hands-on experiences that develop intellectual curiosity, creativity and entrepreneurship.
At Loyola, we work to create a vibrant, thriving community that strives to be a home where everyone feels respected. We strive to be people for others and to create an environment where everyone is inspired and feels included and where everyone thrives. But, we have more to do. This is the spirit of the “magis.” We can always improve.
Just as important to me and to our campus are the day-to-day wins that happen in the classroom, as a struggling student finally “gets it” or figures out how to solve a problem, asks a question, raises a new perspective or learns to master a new instrument. Or when a student organization develops a solution to a serious issue facing the community.
Those wins are sometimes the most inspiring. They bring us together. They demand humility and patience and thought. They help our students to grow. They remind us why we work here.
Last year we experienced four tragic losses on our campus, losses that brought pain and sorrow we will never forget. In those tragedies, we were reminded that we are a community. We care about one another. Together we are working to “Lift Up Loyola” by encouraging us all to look out for one another and to seek out the resources to help with mental health and substance abuse issues.
Beyond our achievements and our successes in the classroom, we are all here to help one another grow and, when needed, to heal at the broken places. We are here to enjoy and explore all the world has to offer us – the sad times; the good times; moments of peace, love and joy.
Time spent at a university – especially a university like Loyola – is meant to be a time of discovery that leads to action. It’s a time to consider your strengths and talents and develop them to the best of their abilities. It’s a time to create the life and world you envision, for your own benefit and for others. It’s a time of wonder, imagination, challenge and adventure.
Some time ago, in one of my convocation talks, I spoke about the Jesuit use of the term “magis.” I pointed out that for St. Ignatius the term “magis” captured what today we would call “continual self-improvement.” The assumption in Ignatius’ use of the “magis” is that one can always do better, get better and improve. As a Jesuit university, we should always ask ourselves how can we improve, do better and serve better.
We’ve got an exciting year ahead of us — and days filled with promise. Let’s work together this year to make the new and unimaginable happen.