Date Published: Monday, April 20, 2020
“To hand on to others things contemplated” (contemplata aliis tradere). That beautiful phrase comes from Thomas Aquinas, in his consideration of whether the best way of life is purely contemplative or one that combines contemplation and action. As a member of the Order of Preachers, it is not surprising that he opts for the latter. But he grounds his argument in the very life of Christ, who after he spends time alone with the Father returns to his people to preach, to teach, and to heal. Aquinas further adds that the experience of divine beauty and love so inflames our hearts that we naturally desire to communicate that love and beauty to others.
The University of Dallas has produced a large number of bishops, priests and vowed religious. It has also formed generations of teachers at every level of education. I know of no university that embodies more fully Aquinas’ goal of handing on to others things contemplated.
Even in the midst of the current crisis and with significant changes to our customary ways of teaching and learning, this work continues. We are already planning for the fall semester. I am happy to report that our deposits for fall 2020 are on a par with where they have been in the previous two years. In fact, as of this morning, we are exactly one deposit ahead of where we were last year at this time. Our Admissions team, led by Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Lizzie Griffin, BA ’09 MBA ’13, is actively reaching out to incoming students to answer questions and keep them connected to UD. We put together this quick video tour of campus not so much to look backward as to look forward in anticipation of happier times on campus when we come together again.
Faculty continue their teaching even beyond their own classes. Assistant Professor of Biology Deanna Soper, Ph.D., streamed a “faculty chat” on the topic "life lessons biology teaches us." Faculty continue to find ways to engage our alumni and students from afar with events such as a virtual performance of Paradise Lost by our English faculty. Provost Jonathan Sanford, Ph.D., kicked off his weekly “Provost on the Mall” series with a brief reflection on The Odyssey and how we can apply these lessons in our current time. We will also be hosting a virtual EnCore lecture, Evil and God’s Existence: Aquinas’ Hopeful Response, with Associate Professor of Philosophy Matt Walz, Ph.D., on Wednesday, April 29.
The calling to hand on to others is of course about more than teaching. It is also about meeting the needs of the body and serving and assisting “the least of these.” Led by Dean of Students Julia Carrano, BA ’02, the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) is introducing efforts to keep students active and mentally and physically healthy, offering online chats about mental health; tips for at-home workouts through UD Athletics and Rec Sports; a Virtual Quiz Bowl; Quarantine Quality Cooking; a Quarantine Cinema Club; ESports; and stay-at-home bingo.
OSA has also been working to identify students who need assistance with basic necessities such as food. Recently we teamed up with Aramark, Catholic Charities of Dallas, and our own COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to deliver food to almost 60 students who reached out, feeding approximately 200 people in their households.
Our community has come together to raise $151,223 from 349 gifts for the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to directly benefit our students in need. These funds are being distributed by Director of Financial Aid Taryn Anderson, BA ’07. You can read how we have used that money and monitor fundraising progress for that effort here.
UD’s commitment to contemplation as both desirable for its own sake and as bearing fruit in the life of action has been indelibly shaped by our collaborations with Holy Trinity Seminary and the Dominican Priory, and by the presence in recent years of the Nashville Dominican Sisters. Of course, the longest-lasting connection has been with the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, the founding members of which were also involved in the founding of UD.
We have all been shaken by the reports of the spread of the COVID-19 virus in that community, whose members are so dear to us. Although there is still cause for concern and a need for prayer, the latest news is hopeful. In fact, one of the most inspiring messages during this crisis came in this Facebook post by Assistant Professor of Theology Father Thomas Esposito, O. Cist., BA ’05. His combination of wit, warmth, intelligence, fidelity and patience is striking. Please take a moment to watch, listen and learn.
Finally, after reviewing the survey response, we have decided to hold Commencement Ceremonies for Spring 2020 graduates in conjunction with Alumni and Family Weekend on October 16 to 18. We look forward to celebrating our graduates, alumni and families together as a community dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom, of truth, and of virtue as the proper and primary ends of education. More details will follow soon.
Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D., BA ’82 MA ’83