[Fresh] Inauguration Interview

Kelly Donio (kelly.donio@villanova.edu)
Tue, 05 Sep 2006 12:22:14 -0400

Fresh@News: We’d like to talk to you about two things today. Can you
tell us a bit about how the freshmen are doing and also update on us on
this week’s Inauguration of Villanova’s new president, Rev. Peter M.
Donohue, O.S.A.

Kathy Byrnes. Great topics. Let’s start with the Inauguration. A
presidential inauguration is a major event on any campus, but the
enthusiasm here is heightened because Fr. Donohue is so highly regarded
by students, faculty and staff.

F@N. Tell us a little about him.

KB. Anyone who has encountered Fr. Donohue will tell you that he is an
extremely dynamic and charismatic person. Students have perhaps known
him best through his celebration of Mass and his terrific homilies at
the Sunday evening liturgies. In fact, the student Masses tend to be
such community events that many of our non-Catholic students attend with
their friends. Also, when Fr. Donohue was Chair of the Theatre
Department, he directed a Musical each spring at Villanova’s theatre;
the performances were regularly sold out and often won awards in the
Philadelphia theater scene. Students enjoyed the musicals even more
because Fr. Donohue always cast several undergraduates in the
productions, which really made the theater come more alive to our
students. Fr. Donohue has also lived in an Augustinian community on
campus and he and the other Augustinians in the community were known for
hosting students for dinner. I’ve been there for dinner a few times
myself and they are great cooks! As Fr. Donohue has transitioned into
his new role as President (he started the job last June) contact with
students has remained an important priority with him.

F@N. So what are some of the main events that will be happening on
campus during the inauguration week, and which ones are the students
most interested in?

KB. The full schedule is available on the website below, so I'll just
mention some of the highlights. In planning the Inauguration, Fr.
Donohue wanted students to be very much included, so one of the first
events, on Wed Sept 6, is the Student Inauguration Ball, which will be
held in the Pavilion. Over 1300 students have registered to attend
(including many freshmen). Students are looking forward to the
opportunity to get dressed up, to dance the night away, and to see the
Pavilion transformed for the event. If we are lucky, Fr. Donohue will
join in the dancing. With his training in musical theatre he is a
remarkable dancer, and makes whomever he is dancing with seem like
Ginger Rogers (am I dating myself with that comment?). At the many
alumni weddings where Fr. Donohue officiates, more than one bride has
wished her new husband could dance as well as Fr. Donohue!

F@N. What happens next?

KB. On Thursday September 7, at 2:30, we’ll have an Academic Symposium,
to explore the topic “The Responsibilities of the Catholic University in
the 21st Century.” Fr. Bryan Hehir, from Harvard’s Kennedy School of
Government will be the main speaker. Friday morning Fr. Donohue will
celebrate an 11:30 a.m. Inauguration liturgy in the Church that will be
simulcast in other locations around campus. At 3:00 p.m. Friday
afternoon, the entire community will gather in the Pavilion for the
Installation Ceremony itself. More than 140 colleges and universities
have sent delegates to participate in the celebration, and we’ll also
have a procession of past alumni with one representative from every
class since 1938. Of course, the Villanova faculty will process as well,
dressed in their colorful academic regalia. After the Inauguration,
everyone is invited to go to Mendel field for a festival dinner, with
entertainment by our student musical groups, produced by Villanova’s
Music Activities program. The Academic Symposium, the Liturgy, and the
Installation will all be web cast, so parents, alumni, and friends who
cannot attend may watch it all – live or after-the-fact (see below for
web link).

F@N. I know a lot of the students are also participating in the day of
service, on the next day (Saturday, September 9). Tell us more about the
day of service.

KB. Fr. Donohue takes very seriously the University’s commitment to the
poor and marginalized, and he wanted service to be a major part of the
celebration. So far, we have over a 1000 students, faculty, and staff
participating, at dozens of locations around the Delaware Valley. Our
alumni chapters will be doing service in their own regions, so really
the day of service will be nationwide. Many of the freshmen are
participating, and there may still be some opportunities left for
students who sign up before Tuesday, September 5, at midnight. In
addition to the University sponsored service activities, others are
participating in their own service activities and registering that they
are participating too.

F@N. What should parents be thinking about?

KB. There are a couple of ideas for parents. First, parents should
encourage their sons and daughters to attend the Inauguration ceremony
on Friday, September 8, at 3:00 p.m. in the Pavilion. Some of the
freshmen might not realize what a special event this is; it really is
something they shouldn’t miss. If parents are in the area on Friday
afternoon they would be more than welcome to attend the Installation
ceremony and the Festival Dinner, or they may also watch the events at
home on the webcast. Finally, if parents want to do their own service
work on Saturday, they may go to the website to register to dedicate
their service to the Inauguration celebration.

F@N. It all sounds really exciting. Any other thoughts about how the
year is going?

KB. So far, so good. Everything we have heard from the faculty suggests
that this class is turning out to be just as good in person as they
looked on paper. The students seem to be adjusting well. We’ll have an
even better idea when we do our “House Calls” program next week. Teams
of staff and faculty members actually visit every freshman room, just to
check in with the students to see how they are doing. We have a similar
program for commuter students as well.

F@N. Any other advice for parents?

KB. In the first few weeks we often hear a lot about homesickness. The
students miss their families, their friends at home, and, of course,
their pets. They’ve been told that college is going to be the “best
years of their lives,” and it often is, but the magic doesn’t happen all
at once. So parents shouldn’t be surprised if their favorite freshman is
going through some ups and downs. A natural response for parents is to
either visit the student or to suggest that the student come home for a
weekend. My advice would be to wait for a bit if possible. Students who
go home for the weekend often miss the connections that form on campus.
Sometimes it is better for parents to wait for Parents’ Weekend which,
is only two weeks away. A lot of issues and concerns will sort
themselves out in the first few weeks.

Inauguration Schedule:
Inauguration Webcast:
Parent’s weekend:

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