Santa Clara University

Presidential Inauguration, Fr. Michael E. Engh, S.J.

Vignettes of SCU Inauguration Speeches—Past and Present

During Fr. Terry's inauguration in 1968, amid the social and academic unrest of the Vietnam era, two major panels were held after the ceremony: “The Private University Looks at the Urban Crisis” and “The Private Institution: Survival of the Fittest?”

Fr. Rewak
Fr. William Rewak, S.J., gives his inaugural speech on Jan. 12, 1977.

Fr. Terry acknowledged the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and the riots in cities and campuses across the nation. He pointed out how college students then were drastically different from years past, saying that “they have seen close-up more suffering, more injustice, more terror, more destruction, more tragedy, than most of us had read about when we came to college.” His speech focused on the challenges on the horizon for the world, the country, and the University.

In 1977, Father William Rewak, S.J., spoke of “educators as today's missionaries” and his hopes that students would be “creative searchers nourished by the dialectic method.” He also hoped that professors would “ground their behavior in a Biblical faith.” He urged them to “be rash enough to attempt to teach taste-occasionally by subtlety, never by subterfuge. Be brave enough to impose discipline so that your students-and your colleagues-might see that spontaneity and structure are not incompatible. Be wise enough to proclaim, in whatever your field, the power of the possible, the wonder of possibility.”

Fr. Rewak spoke in 1977 of the fact that “men and women must be free to exercise their rights if they are to discover the Lord and spread his word.”

Listening to speeches
Crowd gathered at the Mission Church for Fr. William Rewak's inauguration on Jan. 12, 1977.
He also described universities as “basically a servant of mankind with a “diamond purpose” of fostering intelligence, emphasizing the importance of value judgments, and inspiring creative action, while maintaining “a readiness to look at the world as it is.”

Fr. Rewak also looked to what was going on around the world at the time to set the tone of his tenure, just as Fr. Thomas Terry did when he gave his speech in 1968, a very tumultuous time.

In his inaugural address, Fr. Paul Locatelli enumerated the new complexities facing students in 1988—the year in which George Herbert Walker Bush was elected the United State’s 41st president. He also challenged the university to diversify its student body in recognition of those new complexities.

“Today, the academic community of Santa Clara lives in a more complex environment than ever before in its history. We must prepare men and women to live for others, in a changing world — a world that is becoming an international community, interrelated economically, technologically, politically, culturally and socially.”

He cited Robert Bellah’s book Habits of the Heart, and its contention that the world needs a “moral ecology, the web of moral understandings and commitments that tie people together in community.”

“Santa Clara has a unique opportunity to extend an enlightened concern for the community in the way it fulfills its Jesuit ideal to educate the whole person, the heart, mind, body, and spirit. Jesuit education aims first at intellectual development but it also nourishes spiritual, moral, psychological and social growth. By showing personal concern and challenging each person to realize his or her human potential, Santa Clara will form leaders for tomorrow.”

“The Santa Clara community wants to demonstrate its commitment to this goal by helping to create an environment where people of different cultures will learn how to live and work as brother and sisters. To this end, I hope Santa Clara will increase diversity within its own University community, thus enriching our tradition for the future.”

He concluded with words that could ring as true today as 20 years ago: “I am very conscious of the fact that decades from now historians will view this time as one of great change and challenge. The potential for chaos remains a constant threat and now more than ever the world needs people with strong values who will think critically, judge prudently, act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with their God.”

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