[Fresh] St. Thomas Day

John Immerwahr (john.immerwahr@villanova.edu)
Fri, 08 Sep 2000 17:00:25 -0400

This is the third posting of Fresh@News, Villanova's E-mail news service
for parents and friends of the class of 2003. New subscribers can see
the previous postings at: http://news.villanova.edu/fresh/
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Note to parents of students with Villanova laptops: for more information
about the problems with the laptops, read this story in today’s

Interview with Rev. Edmund J. Dobbin, O.S.A., President of Villanova

Fresh@News. On September 7, Villanova University celebrated Saint
Thomas of Villanova Day. What was the day about, and what were we
hoping to accomplish?

Fr. Dobbin. St. Thomas of Villanova Day is a time when the University
comes together as a community. Except for graduation, it is the most
important ceremony we have during the year. Our first year students
get to know one another very well during New Student Orientation, but
St. Thomas Day is the time when we introduce the new class to the rest
of the university.

Fresh@News. Can you tell us more about what the day looked like?

Fr. Dobbin. We were really fortunate with the weather this year. It
was as beautiful a day as you could ask for, and the campus was
especially lovely. We compressed our class schedule so that there were
no classes at all in the afternoon. The celebration started with an
outdoor liturgy at 1:30. At the liturgy, we honored the many students,
faculty, and staff who have participated in service projects over the
past year. At 3:00 we moved to the pavilion for an academic
convocation. At this time we gave awards to a faculty member, a staff
member, and a team in recognition of outstanding service. For the new
students, the procession of over 300 of our faculty members, all dressed
in their colorful academic regalia, was especially impressive. The
highlight of the convocation was an inspiring speech by one of our
faculty members. After the convocation, we had a parade, featuring many
of our campus organizations. The whole affair ended with a splendid
outdoor feast, complete with entertainment by our student groups. It was
a lovely day and a great way to start our academic year. One of the
things that I always find so moving about this day is the degree to
which it is shared by our whole community: faculty, students, and

Fresh@News. What was the theme of St. Thomas of Villanova Day?

Fr. Dobbin. On St. Thomas Day we ask the community to focus on the
themes that are most important to us here at Villanova, especially our
Augustinian values and heritage. Indeed, the whole idea of faculty,
students, and staff celebrating together is based on an Augustinian
concept of community. We also talk about Augustine's conception of the
"unity of heart and mind," which, for us means that education isn't just
about knowledge, but must also be rooted in values. St. Thomas Day
also focuses our attention on St. Thomas of Villanova, the 16th century
Augustinian Bishop for whom Villanova is named. St. Thomas was known
as "the Bishop of the poor," and was famous for his concern for the poor
of his own time. We use this day to help focus our community on the
needs of the poor, sick, and homeless of our own time.

Fresh@News. I know you touched on many of these themes in your homily
at the outdoor liturgy. Tell us more about the convocation too. Who
was the convocation speaker?

Fr. Dobbin. This year our convocation address was given by Professor
Lawrence S. Little, of the Villanova University History Department. He
is a popular professor, and many members of the class of 2004 will take
his courses during their four years. I wish all of the parents and
friends of the class could have heard the talk. His theme was "choices
that matter," and he talked about the need for all of us to make "sound,
moral choices" in many areas of life. He also talked about his own
personal history, and described his experience of going to college as a
"34 year old freshman" after working for many years as the purchasing
agent for an insurance company. He spoke about the ways some of his
educational experiences had changed his life, and challenged our
students to push themselves for higher levels of excellence. Much of Dr.
Little's research deals with issues of race and civil rights, so he also
made some connections between the ideas of St. Thomas of Villanova and
the struggle for racial justice in America. Many of the Core Humanities
instructors asked their students to write papers about Professor
Little's talk, so I would expect that many of our students will be
talking about the speech in their classes this week.

Fresh@news. Subscribers can get more information on the day at
Moving to more general issues, from your perspective as President, how
is the year going so far?

Fr. Dobbin. Frankly, the first few months are a bit of a challenge this
year for a few reasons. Anyone who has been to the campus knows that we
are just finishing some major construction projects, including a
dramatic expansion and upgrading of Bartley Hall, our Commerce and
Finance building, and the completion of four new apartment residence
halls on west campus. These will be wonderful facilities and they will
make a big difference to our program here. But, as anyone who has lived
through a construction project knows, there are the inevitable delays
and dislocations, and many of the disruptions hit us right in the first
weeks of the fall semester. It has required all of us to be flexible
and creative. We are managing it, but I know we are all looking forward
to the completion of these projects.

Fresh@News. How about the class of 2004. How do they look so far?

Fr. Dobbin. On paper, the class of 2004 is the best class we have ever
had here at Villanova. As the reports come in, what we are hearing is
that the students are every bit as good as we expected. We look forward
to working with the members of the class of 2004. We hope they have a
wonderful experience as members of the Villanova Community, and we also
look forward to meeting with parents and friends at events such as
parents' day.

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