As I begin my 25th year at the University of St. Thomas, I find myself looking backward at all that has changed in that time, as well as looking forward to all that will be.
To no one’s surprise, much has changed in the past 25 years. As a dean, the most obvious changes have been in the people with whom I work every day. Many valued colleagues have retired and many excited and motivated young professionals have been hired. In my home department of economics, where I spent my first 15 years at the university, 10 of the current 15 faculty members were not here when my colleagues Agapitos Papagapitos, Rob Riley and I arrived in 1990. Seven of those 10 have been hired since I became associate dean in 2005. Certainly, a similar pattern would hold true in the other academic departments in the college.
In terms of new colleagues, much has changed in just the last several months. For example, in the summer of 2013 we welcomed Dr. Julie Sullivan, our first lay president and our first female president. In summer 2014 we welcomed Dr. Richard Plumb as our new executive vice president and provost. Early in 2015, we look forward to welcoming Father Larry Snyder, current president of Catholic Charities for the United States, as our new vice president for mission.
In addition to personnel changes, many other changes have occurred, too. We have grown the undergraduate program, adding both students and new major and minor fields of study. We have added entirely new graduate programs. We have built or remodeled many facilities, including classroom buildings and residence halls. While this may seem like a great deal of change in a short period of time, the pace of change has been a constant for quite some time now. One needs only talk to some of our faithful, long-time alumni to learn that is true.
As I look forward, I know that 25 years from now much more will have changed. We will have new programs that we cannot even imagine today. Some of our more recent hires will be in leadership positions by then. And I am convinced that St. Thomas will be more widely recognized both nationally and internationally than it is today for all that we do.
But what won’t have changed in the next 25 years are the same things that, in my experience, have not changed during the past 25 years. These are the values that make St. Thomas what it is today. Chief among these is the close interaction between students and dedicated faculty and staff that you do not find at many other institutions. Further, the liberal arts mission of the university will mean that we continue to educate students to think critically, act wisely and work skillfully. And our Catholic character will continue to aid us in developing morally responsible leaders who advance the common good.
The last 25 years have been a period of great success at the University of St. Thomas. The next 25 years will be even better. I invite you to join us in making that happen.