For me, the fall academic term at Seattle University has been filled with many blessings and graces. I was humbled to be honored for my 20 years as president at our Gala last month. Having my family there and being surrounded by my Jesuit brothers and so many great alumni and friends of Seattle U was a moment I will always treasure. I consider it a sacred privilege to lead this university and with students at the center of everything I strive to do and to be about as president, it was gratifying that this year’s Gala brought in a record-setting level of support for student scholarships. I am grateful to you, our alumni and friends, not only for your support but also for who you are and how you represent the best of our institution.
I am also grateful for the dedicated work of our faculty and staff who make this institution all that it is. In addition to their continuing excellence as educators, our faculty recently have succeeded in attracting support for research from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and other competitive funding sources.
Our collective success as an academic community has been validated many times over. We have been ranked #7 among master’s universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report, #1 among private universities in the Northwest by the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Ed and #8 among master’s universities nationally for our efforts in sustainability, as reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education just this month. What these and other indicators say to me is that you, our faculty and staff, are delivering an exceptional Jesuit education. People are noticing and, most important of all, our students are benefiting from the work you do in and out of the classroom. Thank you.
I am additionally grateful to be part of a campus community that’s buzzing with energy. I have felt it this fall as I led the procession of students, faculty and staff from the Mass of the Holy Spirit back to the Library Plaza—being accompanied by the stirring music of a bagpiper helps! I felt it as I wandered through our annual Involvement Fair and talked with students as they considered what clubs they wanted to join and how they wanted to make their impact felt. I felt the energy of Seattle U when we welcomed to campus special guests who share our values and inspire us to even more fully live out our mission. Guests that included Mohammad Yunus, who received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on microcredit and Eula Biss, who authored the book our incoming first-year students read on racial justice. Also, Scott and Ally Svenson, who shared their success as entrepreneurs in business and in changing lives of the at-risk employees they hire and Bishop Edward K. Braxton, who spoke on race and the Catholic Church.
I am grateful for the ways in which our campus is being transformed. A gleaming new space for our Campus Store is being created at Broadway & Madison with an expected opening this winter. Taking shape right next door to the future location of the Campus Store is Vi Hilbert Hall, which is set to open in fall 2018. Named for a revered Pacific Northwest Native American with ties to the university, Vi Hilbert Hall will provide much-needed housing for our students as well as a home for the Enrollment Services staff.
My gratitude is also with our Board of Trustees and Regents who are helping to lead our university forward while responding to the challenges impacting all of higher education. I am grateful to the six trustees who joined me at this fall’s President’s Forum, which provided a great opportunity for faculty and staff to hear from some of the bright, visionary and committed men and women who are helping guide our university. I am also grateful for the leadership of Natasha Martin and Alvin Sturdivant, who recently were named our first Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Vice President for Student Development, respectively. Natasha is leading us toward becoming a more welcoming and inclusive community and Alvin is hard at work enhancing the student experience. And I am grateful to all involved in the search for our next Provost and look forward to announcing this critical appointment soon.
I am most deeply grateful to and for our students. Each day, every day, I learn as much, if not more, from them as they do from us. I find myself most alive when I am interacting with our students. I would not be 20 years and counting into this job—and more passionate than ever about doing it—were it not for you. And I thank you all for this.
The wellbeing and success of our students is something I constantly think about and pray for. College can be an exhilarating time of discovery, growth and new possibilities. It also has its challenges and for many of our students, those challenges have only been exacerbated by uncertainties arising from the current national climate and discourse. As a Catholic Jesuit university we are called in a special way to care for those among us who are most vulnerable, whether it’s students impacted by decisions on DACA, those touched by various forms of injustice or violence or those feeling alienated, marginalized, forgotten. We must ensure that our campus is a place where all students feel like they belong and where they have what they need to succeed in everything they do while they’re here with us so that, ultimately, they can thrive in the professions they choose and the lives they lead.
As we approach Thanksgiving, know that I am grateful for all you do to support Seattle University, bring our mission to life and care for our students. I ask God to bless you and to bless our continuing work together.
Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.