Fairfield University announces five new trustees Fairfield University students to begin using University ID cards to make purchases off-campus Jazz great Arturo Sandoval to play at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts Talking Heads musicians come to Fairfield University Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center offers all-Brahms program at Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts Gavin Blawie named Adjunct Professor at the Charles F. Dolan School of Business at Fairfield University Fairfield University Visual and Performing Arts chair honored for Outstanding Academic Title CNN Johannesburg bureau chief to speak at Fairfield University Fairfield President pledges campus-wide effort to increase diversity Remarks by Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J.
Fairfield University has announced the election of five new members to the Board of Trustees, including James Biggs, president and chief operating officer of People's Bank with corporate offices in Bridgeport; Daniel Finn, president of the Louis Dreyfus Energy Corp. in Wilton, Conn.; Mario Gabelli, chairman of Gabelli Funds, Inc. in Rye, N.Y.; Vincent Gierer, Jr., chairman, CEO and president of UST Inc. in Greenwich, Conn.; and Thomas Quick, president and CEO of Quick & Reilly/Fleet Securities, Inc. of New York.
James Biggs, who will retire from People's Bank at the end of the year, has moved rapidly through the ranks since joining People's in 1964, taking on several initiatives, including establishing the Human Resources Department, leading the development of the bank's highly competitive People's Plus checking and Pay-by-Phone services, and managing the new commercial banking business and the start-up of People's Securities, Inc., the bank's discount brokerage. Most recently he headed the bank's major Connecticut initiative, the addition of 45 branches in Super Stop & Shop stores.
In addition, he has served as director and chairman of United Way of Eastern Fairfield County and the Bridgeport Regional Business Council; chairman of the Bridgeport Economic Development Corporation, and director of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the Wakeman Boys and Girls Club and Grassroots Tennis in Bridgeport.
Daniel Finn has been with the Louis Dreyfus Group for 25 years, where he is president of the Louis Dreyfus Energy Corp. and director of Louis Dreyfus Natural Gas.
He previously served on the Fairfield University Board of Trustees from 1991 to 1997. He also serves as a community advisor to the Pacific House Shelter in Stamford. A graduate of Fairfield University, he earned an M.B.A. at Nortwestern University.
Mario Gabelli is chairman of Gabelli Funds, Inc., the advisor to the Gabelli family of mutual funds and the money management firm Gabelli Asset Management Company.
He began his investment career in 1967 as an analyst with the investment banking firm of Loeb, Rhoades & Company. In 1975 he joined the Wall Street Research boutique William D. Witter. In 1977, shortly after Drexel Burnham merged with Witter, he formed broker/dealer Gabelli & Company, Inc. which has grown into a diversified financial services corporation serving individual and institutional investors. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst and a governor of the American Stock Exchange.
He was a commissioner of the New York State Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Commission and the recipient of an Ellis Island Medal of Honor for Business Leader in 1996. He is a trustee of the Winston Churchill Founcation of the United States and the E. L. Weigand Foundation in Reno, Nev., which supports programs in education, health, community affairs and the arts.
Vincent Gierer, Jr., of Greenwich, rose quickly throught he ranks at UST Inc., where he was named controller in 1983, senior vice president three years later and chief financial officer the following year. In 1990 he was named president and in 1993 chairman and CEO.
He returns to Fairfield's Board of Trustees where he served from 1991 to 97. He is also active with the National Legal Center for the Public Interest and the Southwestern Area Commerce & Industry Association of Connecticut (SACIA). His professional affiliations include the New York Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Financial Executives Institute.
Thomas Quick was named president and CEO of Quick & Reilly/Fleet Securities, Inc. earlier this year when Quick & Reilly became part of Fleet Financial Group, Inc. From 1996 until the firm was acquired by Fleet, he was president and COO of The Quick & Reilly Group, Inc., the New York Stock Exchange-listed holding company for the firm's securities businesses. From 1985 to 1996, he was president of Quick & Reilly, Inc., the leading national brokerage firm.
A graduate of Fairfield University where he studied business, he is a member of the Board of Directors of Fleet Financial Group, Inc. and serves as a trustee for the Securities Industry Foundation for Economic Education. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees, the Investment Advisory Board, and the Endowment Committee for the St. Jude Children's Research Hosptial in Memphis, Tenn., and serves as Committee Chairman for Wall Street Friends of St. Jude. He is trustee and treasurer of the National Corporate Theater Fund and a trustee of the Alcoholism Council of New York.
Posted on November 1, 1998
Fairfield University and local merchants are collaborating on a win-win program to make it easier for University students to buy from area businesses. Beginning this semester, students may now use their StagCards (University ID cards) to purchase items at participating local businesses.
Fairfield University students, faculty and staff may currently use their StagCards to make purchases on campus at the bookstore, vending machines, on-campus dining venues, and more. The University has contracted with a vendor, BbOne, a subsidiary of Washington D.C.-based Blackboard, Inc., to allow them to use their StagCards at participating businesses outside of the University.
"This has been a long time coming and we're very excited to be able to offer the Fairfield University community the opportunity to make purchases at their favorite local businesses by using StagBucks," said Mark Reed, dean of Students.
Students and their parents, as well as faculty and staff, deposit money onto the cards, which work like debit cards. Every undergraduate student is issued a StagCard. Funds are deducted from the accounts electronically when a purchase is made. Local businesses that would like to accept the StagCard must buy or rent a special terminal to accept the cards and pay a per transaction fee. The fees are negotiated between the businesses and BbOne.
By participating in this program, local merchants gain access to a previously unavailable pool of student funds and inclusion in University marketing initiatives for the StagBucks program. This year alone, Fairfield University students put approximately $310,000 on their StagCards, which does not include funds used for their meal plans. Reed said the University expects that number to grow as a result of the new capability to use the StagCard off campus.
"The use of the StagCard is really embedded in the culture of our student body, " said Paul Duffy, president of the Fairfield University Student Association. "Students have become accustomed to using the StagCards for all of our on-campus purchases, and we often do not carry any cash. Now we will be able to use the cards at many of our favorite businesses."
Six businesses have signed on to the program thus far: Chef's Table, 1561 Post Road; CVS/Pharmacy, 961 Black Rock Turnpike; CVS/Pharmacy, 700 Post Road; La Salsa, 580 Post Road; Nutmeg Bowl, 814 Black Rock Turnpike; and Rye Ridge Deli, 2267 Black Rock Turnpike.
Boston University had a similar system when Scott Martin, owner of Rye Ridge, was a student there. Martin said students regularly went to businesses that accepted the Boston University cards, and that he expects a similar result with Fairfield University.
"We're looking forward to see what kind of opportunity this presents us," Martin said, noting that Rye Ridge often does deliveries to students and that they can use the StagCards for those purchases as well.
Local businesses that would like to join the StagCard network can call the BbOne Merchant Hotline for more information: (800) 576-9279.
"The University continues to seek additional businesses to join the program," said Mike Tortora, Fairfield University's coordinator of Information Systems for Student Services. Tortora conducted student surveys to determine which businesses they would like to see participate. "This initiative will be beneficial for both the students and the merchants and we hope that as the program gains popularity more of them will sign up."
Tortora went on to say that liquor stores and businesses that primarily operate as bars are not eligible to participate in the program. In addition, the cards may not be used to purchase tobacco or lottery tickets at any establishment. The University and BbOne will monitor all network members and reserve the right to discontinue the contract with any business found in violation of the terms.
BbOne is offering a special discount for businesses that are members of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and were identified in surveys of Fairfield University students as one of the businesses they would like to see participate in the program. Those Chamber members who sign on to the program will not be charged the terminal rental fee for the first three months. Businesses that join the Chamber this year can still receive the discount.
"The Chamber supports the University's program and the efforts to increase student patronage of our local businesses," said Patricia Ritchie, president and CEO of the Fairfield Chamber. "We have arranged to offer this discount to our members so they have the opportunity to try the system and see if it works for them."
Contact: Melissa Chotiner at Blackboard Inc., (202) 463-4860 ext. 2404
Posted on January 20, 2005
Vol. 37, No. 141
Jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, founding member of the Grammy Award-winning group Irakere, brings his explosive mixture of jazz, classical, rock and Cuban styles to Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Friday, Feb. 18, at 8 p.m. A pre-concert Art to Heart discussion with Brian Torff, director of Fairfield University's Music and Jazz Program, will take place from 7 to 7:40 p.m.
The concert is part of the Quick Center's season-long Jazz Tribute Project, which will include future performances by vocalist Diane Schuur and evenings celebrating the music of jazz legends Dexter Gordon and Stephane Grappelli.
A protégé of master Dizzy Gillespie, Sandoval was born in Artemisa, a small town on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba, in 1949, just two years after Gillespie began injecting Latin influences into American jazz. The younger trumpeter began studying classical music at the age of 12, but quickly fell in love with the myriad possibilities found in jazz.
In his early performing days, Sandoval, who was fast becoming a prime guardian of jazz trumpet and flugel horn, helped found Irakere, which continued the tradition of blending jazz, rock, classical and Latin. He left the group in 1981 to form his own band and toured Europe and Latin America before he sought political asylum in the United States in 1990. He has been a citizen since 1999 and he and his family now live in Miami, Fla.
Sandoval's mastery garnered praise in his native Cuba, where he was named best instrumentalist from 1982 through 1990, and throughout the world. He has been nominated for 12 Grammy Awards and has won four.
"Arturo Sandoval is the sort of virtuoso artist who comes along only once or twice in a generation," said a London Evening Star reviewer.
While still in Cuba, Sandoval performed with the Cuban Orchestra of Modern Music and was presented as a guest artist with the BBC Symphony in London and the Leningrad Symphony in Russia. Since his defection, he has increased his classical performances worldwide, including appearances with the National Symphony, the Los Angeles Symphony and the London Symphony.
In addition to guest artist performances. Sandoval has played with many other jazz legends, including Woody Herman, Woody Shaw, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz and Tony Bennett. He can also be heard on his own 10 solo albums and on recordings with Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra and Paul Anka, among others.
In his recordings, Sandoval has gone where few jazz artists fear to tread, most notably on "My Passion for the Piano," for which he put aside his trumpet and showed remarkable prowess with a collection of originals and standards he played on the piano.
On "Trumpet Evolution," he again tested his limits, paying tribute to 19 jazz trumpet greats - from Louis Armstrong and Gillespie to Chet Baker and Miles Davis - by recreating their specific tones with precision and grace. Critics and audiences were amazed by the effort.
He "performs a miracle and then repeats it 19 times," said the Miami Herald.
Sandoval understands his role as a jazz mentor, having lectured and taught internationally at the Conservatoire de Paris and the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in the former Soviet Union. He is a full-time, tenured professor at Florida International University, maintaining one of the most extensive educational programs in the industry.
Tickets are $35 and $30. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit www.quickcenter.com.
Posted on January 21, 2005
Vol. 37, No. 143
The Jamie A. Hulley Unplugged Series, a new series featuring musicians discussing their work, kicks off Wednesday, Feb. 23, with drummer Chris Franz and bassist Tina Weymouth, the husband-wife rhythm section for seminal rock/funk bands Talking Heads and The Tom Tom Club. The informal event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 7 p.m. in The Levee on the campus of Fairfield University.
Franz and Weymouth will discuss the inspiration for and creation of several Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club songs, as well as the changes they've seen in the music industry throughout their career. Brian Torff, director of the Fairfield University Music Program, who is organizing the campus series, said he chose Franz and Weymouth because of their pioneering spirit and artistry.
"They exemplify the creative vision in contemporary music and we appreciate them sharing their views on the music scene both past and present," he said.
The couple's musical career began around the time they graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 1974. Moving to New York City, they linked up with fellow RISD grad David Byrne and formed Talking Heads about a year later. With Franz on drums, Weymouth on bass, Byrne providing vocals and guitars, and former Modern Lover Jerry Harrison on keyboards, the group quickly established what would be a career-long penchant for quirky art school lyrics over funky, world beats that helped move '70s punk into the New Wave movement.
The band's stunning debut album, "77" showed its range with the chirpy "Don't Worry About the Government" coming just two tracks before the malevolent "Psycho Killer."
Talking Heads' trippy brand of what one reviewer called "preppie pop with brains" continued through their next few albums, "More Songs About Buildings and Food," "Fear of Music" and "Remain in Light" before they reached the height of their fame with "Speaking in Tongues" and the companion concert film "Stop Making Sense."
While Talking Heads was making waves as a group, its members were delving into other projects. Byrne and Harrison, who had made solo albums, encouraged Weymouth and Franz to do likewise and the pair signed with Island Records and flew down to the Bahamas to make its first album as The Tom Tom Club.
The self-produced, self-titled album that evolved through the Bahamas sessions included such darlings of the dance clubs as "Wordy Rappinghood" and "Genius of Love." Recorded in 1981, "Wordy Rappinghood," an original mix of schoolyard rap over a funky groove, shot to the top of the charts in 17 countries and is credited, along with Blondie's "Rapture," with bringing the burgeoning spirit of hip-hop to a wider audience. Both Tom Tom Club songs have certainly enjoyed a long life, being used, in part, in future recordings by Tupac Shakur, Busta Rhymes, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, among many others.
The Tom Tom Club toured both alone and with Talking Heads, including brief appearances in Stop Making Sense tour shows. Their second album, 1983's "Close to the Bone," featured underground hits "The Man with the 4-Way Hips" and "Pleasure of Love," as well as an eclectic host of musicians, such as mainstays Steve Scales on percussion and Alex Weir on guitar.
Weymouth and Franz continued their duel musical ventures, releasing both Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club albums through 1994, when Byrne decided to devote his full attention to his well-received solo career. The couple has spent the last several years dividing time between creating and performing their own music and producing others, sometimes at their Fairfield studio, the Clubhouse.
The new Unplugged Series is one of 14 different programs sponsored by the Jamie A. Hulley Fund for the Arts, which was created to celebrate the life of Jamie Alaine Hulley, daughter of Fairfield University psychology professor Judy Primavera and Fred Hulley Jr. Jamie Hulley was an Orange resident and arts enthusiast whose dream of a career in the arts was cut short when she died of cancer in 2002 at the age of 20.
The fund's new initiatives for 2005 also include a summer internship stipend for a Fairfield University student in the visual and performing arts. For the third year in a row, the Fund is sponsoring a Fairfield University senior theater major's independent study production.
Space is limited for the Unplugged event. For more information on the Fund, visit www.jamiehulleyartsfund.org. To make a donation, contact Judy Primavera, Jamie A. Hulley Fund for the Arts, P.O. Box 1208, Orange, CT 06477-7208.
Posted on January 23, 2005
Vol. 37, No. 147
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center will play an all-Brahms program in its second concert of the season at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Saturday, Feb. 19, at 8 p.m. Journalist Robert Sherman, a classical music writer for The New York Times, will lead a pre-concert Art-to-Heart discussion from 7 to 7:40 p.m.
The Chamber Music Society, the resident company of Lincoln Center and one of the world's premier chamber ensembles, is known for its extraordinary repertoire of classics and its commitment to the commission of new works. Its reputation precedes it wherever it goes. One critic dubbed the ensemble "the jewel in this nation's musical crown."
The Feb. 19 program features Brahms' "Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115" and "Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34a."
Society musicians performing in the Feb. 19 concert are: David Shifrin, clarinet; Ani and Ida Kavafian, violins; Paul Neubauer, viola; Fred Sherry, cello; and Anne-Marie McDermott, piano.
Shifrin said the members have a strong sense of their importance in the future of chamber music.
"The Chamber Music Society didn't invent chamber music, but it did give it a home," he told Musical America, which named the Society its 1999 Ensemble of the Year. "We have to remind ourselves constantly what our mission is - the finest performers, playing the greatest repertory, with the most thorough preparation - and to invite the great canon of chamber music, reexamining it to see what might be overlooked, and expanding it by commissioning new works. The important thing is that we remain on the front line."
Two of the performers in the Feb. 19 concert have been on that front line for years. Though they both have active solo careers, Ani Kavafian, who has been a member since 1979, and her sister, Ida Kavafian, who has played with CMSLC for about 12 years, both cherish their time with this ever-evolving ensemble. Sharing the stage is a special treat for both the sisters and their audiences.
"Playing with Ida is about as pleasurable as anything I do," said Ani Kavafian, a past recipient of the coveted Avery Fisher Prize. "There's no rivalry between us; we're proud of each other. We can whip each other up or tone each other down because there's an inexplicable connection."
A self-described workaholic, pianist Anne-Marie McDermott will likely attack the Brahms piano quintet with her usual zeal. Though she often performs as a soloist and guest in up to 150 concerts a year, she has said she loves the connection of working with a chamber ensemble.
"Playing a New York recital program, it's easy to get into your own little world, and that can be dangerous," she said. "Chamber music balances things out. I adore solo playing but with chamber music you simply can't be so selfish; you have to listen to the people around you and there's a constant communication."
A different line-up - this time a trio - will offer the final Chamber Music Society concert of the Quick Center season on Saturday, April 2. That program features two Schubert piano trios with Andre-Michel Schub at the keyboard.
Tickets to the all-Brahms program are $30. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit www.quickcenter.com.
Posted on January 23, 2005
Vol. 37, No. 144
Gavin Blawie has joined the faculty at Fairfield University as an adjunct professor of marketing in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business.
Blawie, a 1990 Fairfield graduate and former New Haven County deputy sheriff, received his MBA from the University of Connecticut in 1994. He then moved to New York and quickly ascended the ranks of advertising's elite agencies, holding senior positions at BBDO, Ammirati Puris, and Tracy Locke. Throughout his career, Blawie has developed integrated marketing campaigns for blue chip clients including Pepsi, Gatorade, FedEx, and Lego, including award-winning Super Bowl TV ads featuring everyone from Britney Spears to Darth Vader.
After consulting under his own name in 2004, Blawie was recently named Vice President, Account Director at Colangelo Synergy Marketing in Darien, overseeing the Diageo Whiskey and Tequila portfolio, including Crown Royal, Seagram's 7, and Jose Cuervo. He resides with his wife and son in West Haven.
Posted on January 24, 2005
Vol. 37, No. 142
Marti LoMonaco, Ph.D., chair of Fairfield's Department of Visual and Performing Arts, has been recognized for her book, "Summer Stock! An American Theatrical Phenomenon," which was cited by Choice magazine as one of the Outstanding Academic Titles of 2004.
This prestigious award is published every year in the January edition of the magazine with a list of titles reviewed during the previous year. The selective list contains only 10 percent of some 6,600 works reviewed by the magazine.
Criteria for the award includes: "overall excellence in presentation and scholarship, importance relative to other literature in the field, distinction as a first treatment of a given subject in book or electronic form, originality or uniqueness of treatment, value of undergraduate students and importance in building undergraduate library collections," according to Choice.
Choice noted in the review of the book that, "the quality of research is impressive, and LoMonaco's love of the subject matter comes through in her writing," and that the book was, "a terrific read."
In addition, Dr. LoMonaco, a resident of Bridgeport, was elected President of the Theatre Library Association, an international organization founded in 1937 that promotes the collection and preservation of performing arts materials for scholarship purposes.
Dr. LoMonaco is the Associate Professor of Theatre and Resident Director for Theatre Fairfield. Recent productions include: "Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part One," Aphra Behn's "The Rover" (heralded in "The Fairfield Weekly"), and the rock musical "Hair." Most recently she directed Tokyo Notes, the world English-language premiere of Hirata Oriza's award-winning Japanese play as well as a contemporary translation of Aristophanes' ancient Greek play, The Birds, which was presented in conjunction with the Athenian Acropolis exhibition in Fairfield University's Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery last fall.
Posted on January 26, 2005
Vol. 37, No. 146
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, CNN's Johannesburg bureau chief and a respected commentator on African affairs, will speak on Wednesday, Feb. 23, at 8 p.m. at Fairfield University. Hunter-Gault's talk, entitled "From Jim Crow America to Apartheid South Africa and Beyond: A Journalist's Journey," is being presented by Open VISIONS Forum, a program of University College, and the Office of Multicultural Relations.
Hunter-Gault's appearance is sponsored, in part, by Somerset Capitol Group, Ltd. and the Connecticut Minority Supplier Development Council and the Patrick J. Waide Jr. Fund for Ethics and Public Policy at Fairfield University.
Before joining CNN in 1999, Hunter-Gault was National Public Radio's chief correspondent in Africa and won two Emmys and a Peabody Award during her 20-year career as a national correspondent for PBS' MacNeil/Lehrer Report. She was also a reporter for The New York Times, serving two of her 10 years as Harlem bureau chief.
Hunter-Gault has devoted much of her career to covering Africa, attempting to bring stories of this vast continent - both tragic and triumphant - to the rest of the world. In recent interviews, she has said she believes Africa is at a crucial juncture.
"There's a direct correlation between poverty and security; the condition of Africa makes it ripe for activity by terrorists," she told World Press Review in 2003 on the eve of the war in Iraq. "In Africa, many young men who were in guerrilla groups come home with military skills but no jobs. They're in the frontline of susceptibility to exploitation by extremists. So poverty is a real threat to security, and the lack of understanding of that, especially by Westerners, is frightening."
While she's spent most of her life covering the news, she spent some early years making it: Hunter-Gault made civil rights history in 1962 as the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Georgia.
By 1967, she was a reporter on the investigative news team of WRC-TV in Washington, D.C., where she anchored the evening news. Prior to that, she was the "Talk of the Town" reporter for The New Yorker.
After winning the Russell Sage Fellowship to Washington University, Hunter-Gault was on the staff of Trans-Action magazine.
She joined The New York Times in 1968, serving as a metropolitan reporter specializing in coverage of the urban African-American community. Her work received several honors during her tenure, including the National Urban Coalition Award for Distinguished Urban Reporting.
Hunter-Gault joined The MacNeil/Lehrer Report in 1978 as a correspondent and became The NewsHour's national correspondent in 1983. In 1989, she was the correspondent for MacNeil/Lehrer Productions' five-part series, "Learning in America." She also anchored the award-wnning "Rights and Wrongs," a newsmagazine focused on human rights.
During her association with The NewsHour, Hunter-Gault received several awards, including two Emmys and a Peobody for Excellence in broadcast journalism for her work on "Apartheid's People," a NewsHour series on South Africa. She also received the 1986 Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists, the 1990 Sidney Hillman Award, and top honors from Good Housekeeping, American Women in Radio and Television and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Hunter-Gault's work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Book Review, Saturday Review, Essence and Vogue. In 1992, she wrote In My Place, a memoir of her experiences at the University of Georgia.
Tickets are $25, $22.50 for senior citizens. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit www.quickcenter.com.
Posted on January 27, 2005
Vol. 37, No. 148
Fairfield President Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., on Thursday, called on the University community to join him in efforts to increase diversity at the institution.
During the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Human Relations Celebration and the LaFarge Convocation, Father von Arx said, "We must come to an institutional resolve to increase diversity on this campus. Making the commitment to do so will require greater creativity on our parts, because the willingness to weigh the impact on diversity across all of our decision-making will make 'business as usual' obsolete."
The remarks were presented in the Kelley Theater at the University's Quick Center for the Arts before a large crowd of students, faculty and staff. The convocation was the highlight of a three-day celebration that began on Wednesday with an Interfaith Service and Multicultural Festival for the university community. Other events included a "Taste of the World" food and cultural festival, a Multi-cultural Marketplace, and the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Vision Awards Dinner.
Father von Arx cited the work of a new campus committee on diversity and said, "We must look at hard economic questions, and be able to ask ourselves what institutional sacrifices - yes sacrifices - we need to make to bring greater economic and racial diversity to our campus."
"It is my hope that as a community, we at Fairfield University will renew efforts to empower others through the benefits of Jesuit education - with a vigor that matches Dr. King's valor, and a sense of purpose worthy of the principles for which he gave his life."
Posted on January 27, 2005
Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and LaFarge Convocation
Thank you, Dr. Snyder. This afternoon, we gather to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose challenge to the culture of his day brought into clear focus the injustice of systemic racism. Through the power of nonviolent resistance, he marshaled the energies of ordinary people and helped them discover at the core of their suffering the Source of their dignity. Eyes on the ultimate goal - freedom from the tyranny of oppression - they set aside the temptation to violence.
Succumbing to violence, you see, would allow the oppressors to continue seeing a stereotype and thinking in the same old ways. Only the strength of nonviolence would keep the focus on the behavior and underlying assumptions of those doing the real violence. And so, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked his people to take a profound risk, to endure public suffering at the hands of their oppressors so as to convert them.
Conversion of mind, body, and spirit lies at the heart of what I plan to speak about this afternoon. In what ways do our assumptions about the world blind us to realities that exist beyond our own habits of thinking, relating, and making decisions? What in our peripheral vision needs to move front and center if we are to see, know, and understand those around us? What do we need to do to ensure that those around us are not just people like ourselves?
I plan to explore these questions with you today, first by looking through the lens of Jesuit history; second, by examining the positive impact that racial and economic diversity has on learning; and third, by reflecting on how these benefits resonate with the deepest values of the Jesuit educational tradition.
As you know, the Society of Jesus was founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius of Loyola, who never imagined that, down the centuries, the order would become renown for its superb methods of education. Rather, the Society Ignatius envisioned was a missionary one dedicated to bringing the gospel of Christ to new lands, any time and anywhere it was asked to do so.
Thus, in the Society's founding years, Jesuits like St. Francis Xavier traveled in small groups to far-off lands, enduring the hardships of the journey and the challenges inherent in engaging with new cultures in India, the East Indies, and Japan. In the religious imagery of the time, their mission was to save souls. At first, they did so by baptizing people in large numbers, whether or not the individuals receiving the sacrament would then have anyone to serve their spiritual needs or educate them in the Christian way of life.
This concern gradually abated, however, because in living amidst people vastly different from themselves, adapting to their everyday practices, and learning their language, the Jesuits began to learn a new truth. They came to understand that the God they sought to bring to these people was already there and at work among them. This dawning awareness, conveyed in letter after letter to Ignatius from missions around the known world, led the Jesuits to reexamine their own assumptions and modify their approach to mission.
Thus by 1583, when Matteo Ricci and his small band of Jesuit brothers finally reached China, they set about learning the language, adapting to the dress of the educated classes, and cultivating relationships that would make spiritual ministry a possibility. A great mathematician, Matteo Ricci had brought with him instruments never before seen by the Chinese, including maps of the known world, calendars, and clocks. What gave him access to the hearts and souls of the people, however, was the reverence and respect conveyed by his having entered their world on their terms, in language, dress, and style of living. He and his fellow Jesuits were thus able to speak heart-to-heart about their belief in Christ while seeing, heart-to-heart, the presence of God in "the other." Ricci died on Chinese soil 27 years later, a man revered throughout the country.
In the centuries since, Jesuits have traveled the globe seeking to find and serve the God in others, and today serve in 112 countries on six continents. Needless to say, our structure and history provide a model for operating in a pluralistic, interconnected world, and lend credibility to incorporating this ability into the very structures of our colleges and universities.
Deep within the Jesuit tradition lies a determination to make education not just a next-step commodity for the privileged, but a powerful tool for transforming society as well. When Ignatius agreed to educate the sons of the nobility of his day, he did so in the mornings - provided these noblemen also paid for the poor to receive the same schooling in the afternoon. Granted, there was no mixing of economic classes - and, at the time, no women either - but clearly, access to education would be an innovative hallmark of Jesuit education.
This was not about charity; it had to do with justice. It had to do with recognizing the God-given dignity of each person; acknowledging that each had God-given gifts and talents that could bless our world; and deciding to assume moral agency in helping those gifts to bear fruit, through education. It involved becoming able to step out of one's own perspective to appreciate - and incorporate into one's reality - that of another. Centuries later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would call us to the same ideal through the collective witness of people who had been excluded from the social and economic benefits enjoyed by the majority.
Like St. Ignatius, Dr. King believed firmly in the potential of education to transform lives. In fact, he stressed over and over again the need for each person to achieve excellence in his or her field, so that as doors opened, qualified people would be ready to walk through them. What Dr. King wanted to ensure was that those qualified people would include African-Americans and other racial minorities whose preparation for and access to higher education was limited by unjust social structures not of their own making.
I would now like to move to my second point - the positive impact of racial and economic diversity on the learning experience of all students.
In the early 1970s, a group of Ivy League and other selective schools made a commitment to increase campus diversity. According to testimony given before the Supreme Court by former Princeton President William G. Bowen, these schools were united in the belief ... (and I quote) ... "that a student body containing many different backgrounds, talents, and experiences would be a richer environment in which all students could better develop into productive, contributing members of our society."
He and former Harvard president, Derek Bok, then set out to examine the effects of diversity on the experience of learning, as well as on students' subsequent careers. Their findings, summarized in the book, The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions, are based on a study they did of more than 60,000 students - 3,500 of whom were African-American - enrolled in more than two dozen highly selective colleges and universities.
Of those 60,000 students, one cohort entered college in the fall of 1976, the other in the fall of 1989. This 13-year gap not only gave the study longitudinal validity, but allowed for the creation of a substantive database by the schools, in partnership with the Andrew Mellon Foundation. Among the study's findings was the fact that learning through diversity really does take place, not only via more lively classroom exchanges, but also in more casual settings such as residence halls, club and service activities, and student government. In addition:
- Former students of all races asserted the importance of living and working effectively with members of other races.
- African-American men, in particular, were more likely than their white peers to hold leadership positions in their communities. The same was true for black women, giving lie to the fear that achieving financial success creates a sense of social amnesia for those who succeed.
- Eighty percent of the white students who had experienced it favored the emphasis on enrolling more diverse classes. From the perspective of their own careers, most thought campus diversity should be emphasized even more.
With that in mind, I would ask you to consider the unexpected response of a group of Fairfield University alumni, who were surveyed by a department in the Fairfield University's Advancement Division. The goal had been to ascertain what about Jesuit education our graduates appreciated most. Overwhelmingly, alumni cited as positives the ways in which the core curriculum - which many endured rather than engaged with - had shaped their ability for critical and analytical thinking, almost in spite of themselves. Thankfully, they also had positive things to say about individual Jesuits who had touched their lives, and the overall Jesuit tradition of training for competence, character, and compassion. What they consistently faulted, however, was the lack of racial diversity on campus.
Many of these alumni represented classes that graduated in the 1970s and 1980s, when AHANA students comprised just three percent of the total undergraduate population. After graduation, the survey respondents had entered a world that was beginning to undergo significant social change, and they felt less prepared than they wished in multicultural competency.
During a capital campaign held between 1988 and 1993, Fairfield University engaged in a concerted fundraising effort to rectify this troubling situation, and was able to add a dozen more scholarships as well as personnel and services dedicated to AHANA student success. As a result, racial diversity grew to 12 percent by late 1990 and stands at about 10 percent today.
Moving to my final point, I believe that we can - and must - do better. There is no doubt that the world of the 21st century will continue on a trajectory of increased diversity. It is thought that in 25 years, the AHANA population in the United States will exceed 40 percent. Addressing racial diversity in higher education - and more specifically at Fairfield University - will also build bridges across the economic divide that keeps the racially and economically marginalized from participating in the benefits this society has long offered to those born into opportunity.
In his book, Where Do We Go from Here?, Dr. King noted that ... (and I quote) "A considerable part of the Negro's effort of the past decade has been devoted ... to attaining a sense of dignity. To sit at a lunch counter or occupy the front seat of a bus had no effect on our material standard of living, but in reworking a caste stigma, it revolutionized our psychology and elevated the spiritual content of our being. Instinctively we struck out for dignity first, because personal degradation as an inferior human being was even more keenly felt that material privation. But dignity is also corroded by poverty, no matter how poetically we invest the humble with simple graces and charm." Thus, he concluded, "Education is more than ever the passport to decent economic positions."
How do we go about creating more passports? While it's not just about numbers, numbers do help move an institution toward a critical mass - within the faculty, administration, and student body. Only then can the point of diversity happen - interaction, understanding, enlightenment, and conversion. Only then can Fairfield University respond to a new societal need - the need for people who can work effectively and collaboratively in the increasingly multicultural environment of our nation and its workforce. But again, it's not just about numbers.
I learned recently of a program offered at Fairfield University in the late 1960s, made possible by a federal government grant. It provided full tuition and room and board to 15 African-American students a year, for four years. Of the 60 students involved, however, 70 percent did not graduate. Why? Because no one had anticipated the need for support services to help them adjust to a vastly different environment - academic, physical, social, and spiritual.
Imagine for a moment what our large, beautiful, well-manicured campus actually felt like to students born and raised in an impoverished urban setting. Can we dismiss with a shrug the discomfort they surely felt? Can we imagine now the exercise in courage that was taking place beneath the radar screen of our awareness?
Were there ways we could have been more welcoming, more caring, more like the Samaritan who chose to reach out, to become an intentional neighbor to a fellow traveler at the side of road? Are there ways, today, that we could be more welcoming, more caring, more intentional about who we see, how we interact, and how we respond?
Listen to the words of Dr. King, delivered in Memphis on the night before he died. Referring to the trick question asked of Jesus about who one's neighbor really is, Dr. King said ... (and I quote) ...
Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho ... He talked about a certain man who had fallen among thieves, ... and that a Levite and a priest had passed by on the other side (of the road). Finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. ... Jesus ended up saying this was the good man, because he had the capacity to project the 'I' into the 'thou' and be concerned about his brother. ... He did not ask the question, 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me? He reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'
I want to make clear that, 40 years later, I am not talking about Fairfield University as an institution helping others pull themselves up by their bootstraps into new economic means. I am speaking of dignity, about the Thou in another that leads me out of myself and, in so doing, makes me whole in mind and spirit, a person of integrity.
With renewed awareness of the blessings and benefits of diversity - racial and socioeconomic - I believe we must come to an institutional resolve to increase diversity on this campus. Making the commitment to do so will require greater creativity on our parts, because the willingness to weigh the impact on diversity across all of our decision-making will make "business as usual" obsolete. We must look at hard economic questions, and be able to ask ourselves what institutional sacrifices - yes, sacrifices - we need to make to bring greater economic and racial diversity to our campus.
- What are we spending to clean up after students? And who's doing the cleaning?
- Do we really need the latest version of the computer sitting on our desk?
- When we travel on work-related business, could we be more modest in what we spend to get there, stay there, and eat there?
In no way do I ask these questions as a criticism, nor do I mean to single out any one area. Taken individually, these may seem like small things. Through collective reflection on these and other questions, however, we begin opening ourselves as a community to one level of the conversion needed to turn the ideals of which we speak into realities of which we can be proud. This may also mean examining structural practices to ensure reallocation of what we save ... into what we proclaim. Our fiscal track record has already set us on this path, and the University's financial soundness is certainly a strength to count on.
Through the initiative of our academic vice president, Dr. Orin Grossman, a campus committee on diversity is currently exploring issues related to student and faculty diversity, and the unusual lack thereof on this campus. They are looking at a set of complex causes that include, among others: 1) increased competition for AHANA students and faculty as other institutions seek to meet the same challenges we are; 2) the high cost of living in Fairfield County and its impact on faculty and administrative hiring; 3) reduced availability of federal tuition grants to economically disadvantaged students, thus increasing the proportion of loans in financial aid packages and creating significant debt that individuals then carry into their first job, marriage, and beyond.
To help address the latter, Fairfield has, for years, been increasing the percentage of operating funds it allocates to financial aid and, as I mentioned earlier, has engaged in fundraising that has added scholarships and more than doubled the endowment. Thus, we cannot rightly refer to the commitment to diversity I am calling for, as something new. But as we move forward in formulating our strategic plan, I have asked that we refocus and redouble our attention in this area.
In the book I referred to earlier, Dr. King noted that the line of progress is never straight, and that new obstacles appear throughout the journey, much like having to drive around a mountain when approaching a city. "The final victory," he said, "is an accumulation of many short-term encounters. To lightly dismiss a success because it does not usher in a complete order of justice is to fail to comprehend the process of achieving full victory. ... It underestimates the value of confrontation and dissolves the confidence born of a partial victory, by which new efforts are powered."
It is my hope is that as a community, we at Fairfield University will renew our efforts to empower others through the benefits of Jesuit education - with a vigor that matches Dr. King's valor, and a sense of purpose worthy of the principles for which he gave his life.
Posted on January 27, 2005