A new president, a new day

Author: Kerry Temple ’74

I came to work at Notre Dame 28 years ago because I believed in the place. I’d had a great undergraduate experience, but it was a document written a few years later by Father Ted Hesburgh, CSC, that got me to commit to a career in South Bend, Indiana.

The statement set the University into its historical context and acknowledged the continuity of institutional life as it had evolved from the vision of its founder, Rev. Edward F. Sorin, CSC. But it also said this: The world faced tremendous challenges—in both kind and magnitude —that had never before been confronted by the human race. And those challenges demanded not only extraordinary intellect, talent, creativity and expertise but also a dedication to the common good, to justice, to the less fortunate, to the moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions of human life.

Notre Dame aspired to be such a place, Hesburgh explained, and I, happy to join forces with such a cohort of good people, wanted to be part of that endeavor.

Almost three decades have passed since then, and I think it’s fair to say the challenges now presented to humanity are more daunting than ever. But it still feels good to be part of a community whose ultimate purpose is to produce scholarship and people devoted to making the world a better place.

These thoughts have been playing in my head lately for several reasons—one of which is the transition in leadership that has recently occurred at the University. Father John I. Jenkins, CSC, ’76, ’78M.A,. has assumed the presidency, and his inauguration presented an opportunity for institutional reflection, renewal, rededication and celebration. Additionally, John Affleck-Graves, formerly an associate provost at the University, has become executive vice president, and Thomas G. Burish ’72 has become provost after serving as president of Washington & Lee University since 2002. So there is new leadership at the top and, with it, a new tide of optimism, vitality and vision.

Notre Dame has never been so ready to meet its aspirations. The students have never been better. The faculty has never had such impressive academic credentials. The financial resources have never been healthier; the physical facilities never so robust. The University is poised to do great things, even greater than what’s been accomplished in the past.

However, as Father Jenkins explains in this issue, those achievements have more to do with service than advancing personal aims. It’s more about being called and sent to do God’s work in the world than with gaining glory within that world.

This issue of the magazine looks at all that—the here and now of Notre Dame, the new president’s take on the University’s mission, the inaugural celebration, the story of today’s generation of students and stories of some who have gone forth to serve . . . and, as always, a whole lot more.