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2021 Inaugural Lecture

Spring 2021 Commencement Address


Fall 2021 Faculty Day Address

What is the nature of the University of Dallas? As with any person, and by analogy as with any institution, one needs to say something about the soul of the thing as well as the way that soul gives shape and direction to the body, in order to answer such a question.

Soul and body are correlative terms. You cannot have a soul without a body, or a body without a soul. A soul is what makes a living thing alive, gives it structure and form, and makes possible its various activities. A dead thing, though it may look like the body of the formerly living thing, is no longer a body, but a corpse. A corpse will have biological activities going on within it, but they are no longer orchestrated and unified as one thing. The matter that was the body decomposes, and new living things subdivide it into new organisms. In the case of institutions, it is possible that you can have structures, such as buildings, offices and even individuals performing tasks, and yet, in relation to the institution it was, it can be a corpse. Something new, or most likely, a number of new things, utilize the parts that were formerly coordinating in a vibrant and unified set of endeavors.

The University of Dallas is a living institution — vibrantly so. Its soul is named with three distinguishing terms: Catholic, liberal arts, university. Of course, we have not just liberal arts programs, but professional ones as well, most notably in our college of business. Those professional programs, however, are not outside of these three terms our institution has always used to define itself: Catholic, liberal arts, university. By seeing how our professional programs are an expression of the University of Dallas’ unique combination of its three differentiating terms — Catholic, liberal arts, university — we should realize that these professional programs are intimately wrapped up with who we are and not some sort of add-ons.

To name an institution a university is to indicate the ways in which the many inquiries, artistic creations and pedagogical efforts undertaken across all of its disciplines are, as the etymology suggests, turned toward one thing. What is that one thing? To put the matter into a single formulation, it is the convergence of the many truths grasped by each of our varied disciplines. You might call this the unity of truth. It is not a uniquely Catholic notion that all truth is unified, or at least unifiable. Two notable pagans, Plato and Aristotle, were convinced of this. So too were notable Jewish and Muslim thinkers, such as Moses Maimonides and Al-Farabi. A conviction that there is a unity to all truth, a convergence of truth, is what justifies the organization of multiple disciplines within a single institution. It is what makes a university one thing, as opposed to many, a multi-versity. One of the goals of our integrated, synthetic, undergraduate Core Curriculum is to foster in our students those virtues that enable them to cultivate an appreciation for the unity of truth. That habituated ability goes by the name of wisdom.

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