Dear Seattle University Community,
I hope this finds you well. We are right in the thick of it here at Seattle University. The end-of-year celebrations have begun and final exams are not far behind. Our law students have already reached the finish line, having celebrated their graduation earlier in the month. It won’t be long before we present diplomas to our undergraduate and graduate students and confer honorary doctorates on Sally Jewell, who served as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and Samuel Green, Washington State’s first Poet Laureate, at our commencement ceremonies on June 17.
Much as we encourage our students to take a moment amidst the hectic pace of the everyday to breathe and reflect on their own Seattle University experience, I wanted to pause and share with you some of the happenings and developments on our campus since I sent my last update in February.
In March our recent run of high national rankings continued when we learned that four of our business and law programs were ranked among the top 20 nationally in U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 edition of “Best Graduate Schools.” Also that month our women’s basketball team gave us lots to cheer about as they won the WAC Tournament and earned the program’s first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament. And more recently we have seen our women’s softball and men’s baseball each topping the 30-win mark.
In April we received word that Kate Hannick was named a 2018 Truman Scholar for her leadership and commitment to public service, one of only 59 selected this year nationally by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. I had the privilege of surprising Kate in one of her classes to personally deliver the news (and some flowers). This great achievement was followed by the recent news that five of our students and recent alumni have been selected to receive Fulbright awards.
Also in April we welcomed former FBI Director James Comey to our campus. Before a sold-out crowd in Campion Ballroom, Mr. Comey spoke about his new book and shared perspectives that only someone who’s been at the frontlines of some of our nation’s most consequential decisions in recent years can.
We kicked off the month of May with a jam-packed weekend that included our Alumni Awards celebration and reunion as well as special farewell performances by SU Choirs under the direction of Joy Sherman, who is retiring this year after giving 27 years of incredible service—and beautiful music-making—to our university.
This month our undergraduate students presented their research during a daylong celebration that also included the launch of the second volume of the Seattle University Undergraduate Research Journal. Similarly, students in the College of Science and Engineering will showcase the real-world impact of their yearlong projects when we celebrate Projects Day on June 8. In these and other scholarly pursuits, our students are proving they don’t need to have a bachelor’s degree in hand to conduct meaningful research. And we have our dedicated faculty to thank for that. As teachers, mentors and models of academic exploration and rigor, our professors make a lifelong and life-changing impact on their students.
This has been a special year for me personally. In the fall, I was deeply honored to be recognized for my 20 years as president at the university’s Gala celebration. This month I was humbled to receive from the University of Portland the 2018 Christus Magister Medal, which is the highest award the university confers. I also had the opportunity to give the commencement address and preside at the baccalaureate mass at Monroe High School in Alaska, which I attended as a sophomore, as the school celebrated the 60th anniversary of its first graduating class.
As successful and fulfilling a year this has been for Seattle University, there have been significant challenges, too. Much of this has to do with our present context, and how we, as Jesuit educational institution, are called to engage with a world and nation that seems ever more divided, rancorous and fractured. Many members of our community continue to grapple with uncertainty over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections for undocumented students. Gun violence, too, has become an ever more present threat for today’s students. One of the most powerful moments for me these past few months was when our students organized a gathering to honor and pray for the victims of the Parkland, Fla., shooting and to advocate for action by policymakers. Standing there with them in our Library Plaza, I was profoundly moved as names of the 17 students killed in that unspeakable tragedy were read and a minute of silence was observed for each.
This past year has also underscored for me just how critical it is for each and every one of our students to feel a sense of belonging—that Seattle University is not just a place, but it’s truly their place, their home. Our students come from all walks of life and a multitude of lived experiences. We must ensure they each feel safe, affirmed and accepted for who they are. My commitment to doing so has never been stronger.
And yet, even as we confront the uneasiness of our times and contend with a restless desire to more quickly address our priorities as a campus community, our students give me great hope. This broken world of ours is no match for their passion, spirit, determination and ingenuity. Our students remind me each and every day why I do what I do and love doing it. One of the first things I do when I wake up every morning is to thank God for them and pray that they find deep meaning and satisfaction in all they pursue, that they feel loved and that they are inspired to find their true purpose and become agents of healing and justice.
Thank you for continuing to support our university and mission. As we head into the summer months, my prayers and blessings are with you and yours.
Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.