OPINION: Loyola, you will be missed

Tania Tetlow

I spoke to my first incoming class of undergraduates four years ago at Wolf Pack Welcome, and now, I feel as though I am graduating with the class of ‘22. Like them, I am excited and not a little bit scared about the future. There is not much that any of us can be certain of, except this: how much we will miss Loyola.

I am so in love with this university and this city; it may seem very strange that I would go. I surprised myself most of all, but I think it has something to do with turning 50 and having spent a lifetime carving out a career within a few square miles. I feel drawn to the challenge of doing something unexpected, a new adventure.

I also know that the hard part about growing up in New Orleans and being part of a community as special as Loyola, is that you suspect you’ll never be fully happy anywhere else.

I want to use these parting words to make sure you know how remarkable Loyola is and how much it will fill your mind and heart for years to come.

First of all, the students. Not to swell your heads or anything, but the faculty and staff of this university are absolutely driven by our love of you. You are magic. I watch you on campus in your unscripted moments of joy. You smile at strangers. You dance at random moments. With your creativity and warmth, you learn as much from each other as from us.

What I don’t see on Loyola’s campus? Students driven by status, who think their value has anything to do with what they wear or drive. You are less Mean Girls than Stranger Things – fiercely loyal to each other, uninterested in whether the world thinks you’re cool because you know that you can do anything you set your mind to. You are brave. You are kind. You are brilliant.

Your families also blow me away. At many schools, parents call and argue that their children are more important than other people’s children, that their kid should skip to the head of the line. I have (almost) never experienced that from a Loyola parent. Instead, your families email to tell me about the staff person who was particularly kind to you, who spent countless hours helping you navigate a problem. They call to tell me about the professor who inspired you to choose a career and a passion.

Together, all of you create this culture. You choose Loyola because you are drawn to it, and you recreate the warmth of our culture in thousands of individual choices you make while you are here. Loyola isn’t perfect – none of us is, and some members of our community fail to live up to our values. But Loyola is special in rising above those flaws.

The glue that holds us together? It is the faculty who teach you and the staff who support you – and you can each imagine a different face when I say that. Their generosity takes my breath away. Their unbridled loyalty to you makes me proud. Every time I’ve hired someone new, they spend their first few months marveling at the warmth and loyalty of this place.

Students, I need you to know that it isn’t always easy to work here. We are not in the business of educating only the most privileged, and our highest priority is, and should be, your financial aid. We find ourselves struggling to give you the excellence you deserve at a price you can afford. It isn’t easy, and what makes it at all possible is the sacrifice of our people. Many of them could make more working somewhere else, or doing something else.

They are here at Loyola because you are their passion. They are in awe of your talent, your commitment, your possibilities. You are their fuel.

I hope that you spend the rest of your life making them proud. I also hope that you spend the rest of your life trying to recreate the magic of the Loyola community. And I hope that you know (as I do) that we will be part of the Loyola family forever.