Skip to Main Content

April 6, 2020

Date Published: Monday, April 6, 2020


By President Thomas S. Hibbs

In recent days, I, like all of you, have been trying to wrap my head around the almost unfathomable situation in which we find ourselves. For perspective, I keep coming back to a line from my childhood and to the striking teaching of Thomas Aquinas on courage.

My father, who died two years ago, was born in Washington, D.C., in 1930. Born at the very start of the Great Depression, his early childhood was lived in the D.C. slums not far from Union Station. Like many who endured that period in American life, he had a strong sense of frugality. The memory that keeps coming back to me in recent days is that when the Hibbs kids would claim that we needed something — new shoes for basketball season, for example — he would say, “You don’t need new shoes. You want new shoes.” It certainly seems like we are in a time when we are being asked to distinguish between need and want. The sad part is that there are so many now whose basic needs will not be met.

I have also been thinking about how relevant Thomas Aquinas’ treatment of the virtue of courage is to our current situation. He argues that endurance — the “capacity to stand immovable in the face of dangers” — rather than attack is the chief mark of courage. Among the reasons he cites are that endurance comes into play when we face a superior foe and that it implies length of time rather than the instantaneous action of attacking. We are now facing a foe that, at least in the short term, with all of our advanced technology and medical knowledge we are not going to defeat.

In one respect, it’s hard for most of us to feel courageous when all we are doing is not going out. It certainly pales by comparison to the courage exhibited by those, particularly health care workers, who put their lives at risk every day fighting the virus. Yet, in another respect, particularly as the social distancing demands are extended, we will experience all sorts of temptations: to inordinate worry about the future, to impatience and anger, and to irritation at those with whom we are isolated. Courage is the virtue that aids us in facing these fears and uncertainties with goodwill and humor. We need to pray for an increase of this virtue in our lives.

We also need to take every occasion we can to be grateful. With that in mind, I’d like to report some good news. That’s right: Good news!

The Gupta College of Business received high rankings for its online MBA program. See here for Gupta’s No. 18 ranking among private universities and colleges and here for a No. 5 ranking among faith-based schools. I encourage you to watch this short video in which we describe the distinctive features of the Gupta College of Business.

UD is very well known for our excellence in the humanities, and we are working to get the good word out about our excellence in the sciences. Dr. Will Flanagan recently received a Department of the Air Force grant for his work developing the world’s smallest neutron detector. The undergraduate research opportunities afforded our science majors are a distinct feature of our curriculum.

Luisa Velasco, BA ’22, just received a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, which will provide her with financial assistance in her last two years at UD. The Goldwater is the most prestigious scholarship available to undergraduates pursuing studies in science, engineering and mathematics. Luisa’s field of study is physics and astronomy, with the goal of receiving a Ph.D. and conducting research in nuclear or particle physics.

Three UD undergraduates have received Goldwater Scholarships in the past two years, putting us in a very elite group of colleges and universities. Such awards give further evidence of the excellent work being done in the sciences at UD.

We also received a generous $85,000 grant from the Catholic Foundation to upgrade our biology lab facilities. Improvements to our laboratories will help us to further attract top science students.

Our faculty continues to conduct important research, made even more so in this time of crisis. Dr. Carla Pezzia and Dr. Tammy Leonard received a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study food insecurity among the elderly in the DFW area. We are pleased to partner with Catholic Charities in this endeavor.

We launched the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund and have thus far collected over $98,000 from 230 donors. Our Director of Financial Aid, Taryn Anderson, BA ’07, has been on the front lines assessing students’ needs. She has been able to distribute funds raised to help over 40 students so far. Her ability to help more students will be dependent on raising additional funds. Please read this testimony from Edisson Ramos, BA ’20, about how these funds have helped him and other UD students in need.

Thank you to all of you who have already contributed to assist our students. To those who have not yet done so, please join me in helping the most vulnerable in our UD family, those for whom being cut off from campus life, losing employment, or other pandemic-related events have caused basic needs such as food and shelter to go unmet.

Thomas Hibbs Signature

Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D., BA ’82 MA ’83