Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 11, 2022 / 17:46 pm (CNA).
Peter K. Kilpatrick was formally installed as the 16th president of The Catholic University of America on Friday during a solemn but joyful ceremony where he emphasized the importance of dialogue and love while announcing an ambitious plan for the school’s growth.
“Within 10 years, we need to be a university of 10,000 students, undergraduate and graduate,” he said, his words echoing throughout the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. “Our nation and our world needs the students that we deliver to them: bright, enthusiastic, committed, and knowing themselves and how to love each other.”
The D.C. university is the only higher education institution founded by the U.S. bishops. Established in 1887 as a papally-chartered graduate and research center, it houses 12 schools and 31 research facilities with 2,929 undergraduate and 2,130 graduate students.
Students and faculty wearing their colorful regalia flooded the pews of the basilica’s Great Upper Church during the installation Mass, celebrated by Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington and Catholic University’s chancellor.
Several bishops, including Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., and more than 50 priests attended the Mass — a votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom. Both Gregory and Kilpatrick asked for Our Lady’s intercession.
“We pray for the gift of wisdom for [Kilpatrick] as he guides this venerable institution into a bright future,” Gregory said during his homily, as clouds of incense hung in the air. “Mary, Seat of Wisdom, accompany him each day as he goes about his responsibilities.”
Wearing his gold and white presidential academic robes — the papal colors and the university’s official colors — Kilpatrick took an oath of fidelity before Gregory and received the symbols of his office. He accepted the university’s mace, or scepter, and a presidential medallion made of pewter that presidents have worn since 1969.
While delivering his address, Kilpatrick stressed the importance of asking the “big questions.”
“Today I want to ask two very big [questions]: Number one, why do we exist? Number two, what is the purpose of our university?” he began. “These are big questions but they are crucial to define who we are as human persons and what unites us together as a university community.”
The first, he said, is answered by faith: that each person is created by God to know, love, and serve him and one another. Kilpatrick answered the second by highlighting the importance of the university’s mission — advancing dialogue between faith and reason — and encountering all with compassion and love.
“Loving God and loving neighbor should be a guidepost for us here, at The Catholic University of America,” he said, after revealing that he has met with some students who feel like outsiders.
He called on the university to take three steps: helping students to understand their purpose while exemplifying how to love, to integrate faith and reason to comprehend truth, and to integrate the disciplines in order to contextualize their learning to become the best of American citizens.
Kilpatrick, a Catholic convert, succeeds John Garvey, who led the school for 12 years. The 65-year-old chemical engineer served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Illinois Institute of Technology from 2018 to 2022. Before that, he was a professor and dean at the University of Notre Dame and was a longtime faculty member at North Carolina State University.
‘Incredibly loving and kind’
John Paul Abela, a freshman studying philosophy, found the installation Mass and ceremony beautiful and moving. The 18-year-old from Great Falls, Virginia, told CNA of the new president: “Whenever he’s talking, he just seems incredibly loving and kind. It just comes across so clearly.”
Another freshman studying philosophy, Jamie Cochran, also called the installation beautiful, while noting the sweeping music and grand procession of faculty and priests.
“I agree that he’s always just very loving and he obviously always wants to be where he is,” the native of Catonsville, Maryland, said of Kilpatrick. “And his love for his wife is very sweet.”
A politics major, 20-year-old Noah Slayter from Dumfries, Virginia, also used the word “beautiful” to describe the ceremony and said that he was very optimistic about Kilpatrick.
“I think he is a very intelligent and effective man at helping a university grow,” the sophomore said, also calling Kilpatrick down-to-earth and kind. “And I think, like he said, the greatest years of Catholic University are only ahead of us.”
Father Aquinas Guilbeau, a Dominican friar and the chaplain at Catholic University, called Kilpatrick “a man of deep faith, a scholar, a man of family and friendship, fraternity” who infuses all of this in his work.
“What has impressed me most is just his attention to students,” he said, while also noting Kilpatrick’s attention to detail as an administrator.
He remembered when Kilpatrick first addressed student leaders on campus back in August. In the first 30 minutes, the new president quoted everyone from St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas to St. Therese and Father Jacques Philippe.
“And that’s when I knew,” Father Aquinas said, “we’re in good hands.”
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May he be blessed and be a blessing in his new role. Thanking God for his gifts and service.
Perhaps the best education is godly wisdom. To be well prepared for the challenges of the workplace is important, however the guidance that God provides makes us useful profitable servants in the workforce and to our fellow man.
Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
Proverbs 2:1-22 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. …
Ecclesiastes 7:12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
The Catholic University of America ranks highly by the Cardinal Newman Society: https://cardinalnewmansociety.org/college/catholic-university-of-america/
Concerning future enrollments, a possible consideration for CUA and for Catholic universities facing declining enrollments (simple demographics), is the reciprocal relationship between tuition/boarding costs versus numbers of present and future applicants.
The American Council for Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) offers a few pointers related to the costs of administrative layering versus actual classroom teaching and spending on capital projects (https://www.goacta.org/resource/cost-of-excess/).
The findings may or may not be relevant in specific cases, but for CUA (for example) to double its enrollment from 5,000 now to 10,000 in ten years, a decisive zero-based budgeting plan might be essential and even wise. Why wouldn’t a doubling of total enrollment be coupled with very substantial cuts in individual tuition (hypothetically as much as halving), currently $75k/year and a net cost of $33k? A price-conscious precondition for long-term enrollment increases?
At the flagship CUA, might an example be set for other Newman-ranked Catholic universities, such that the combined total enrollment at all such institutions increases, rather than likely being mostly redistributed with winners and losers?