Loyola University Maryland

Office of the President

Fr. Linnane's State of the University Address 2009

Loyola University Maryland
State of the University Address

September 10, 2009
The Reverend Brian F. Linnane, S.J.

Good afternoon.

Less than a month ago, I sent all of you an e-mail message in which I stated that despite the rough economic storm of the last year, Loyola remains healthy. Yes, we were battered about by economic turbulence. We got tossed around in a fiscal blizzard. But let me repeat what I said in my communication of August 13: We are standing on firm ground. We have sustained no permanent damage. The state of the university is strong.

Now, I have been aware, since writing that message, that at least a few of you seem a bit dubious. Some of you have asked, at least indirectly, whether the statement I made on our fiscal stability should be regarded as a statement of reason . . . or as an expression of faith.

My answer to this question is . . . YES.

As members of a Jesuit community, I assume this answer will not surprise you. You know that Jesuits believe in the complementarity of faith and reason. You know that Jesuit thinking is uncomfortable with the dualisms that have dominated the Western intellectual tradition since the Enlightenment. In fact, we view this “either-or-ism” with real suspicion. Instead of either/or, we almost always want to say both/and. And so it is here. When the question is whether my statement on Loyola’s fiscal stability is a matter of faith or a matter of reason, my answer, once again, is yes.

I can say that our fiscal house is in order because of the hard data that John Palmucci and his staff have shown me. And I can say that our fiscal house is in order because of my faith in you, my faith in your willingness to place the common good above personal self-interest.

I do not want to sugarcoat this. I know it is difficult — I know it has been a sacrifice — to have your salary frozen. I know it is difficult to endure a hiring freeze, and I know how hard it is to be asked to cut your budget by five percent.

We have asked a lot of you. And we have asked difficult things. You have responded admirably. You have responded in a way that does my heart good, and I am deeply grateful to you. Thank you for not shaking up my conviction that faith and reason, given time, end up in synch. I’ll say it again: Faith and reason both tell us that Loyola’s overall financial condition is sound.

Let me add that Standard and Poor’s Rating Service agrees. They have maintained an A rating on our revenue bonds. They have commended us for balancing our 2010 budget, and they have given us a vote of confidence that many other higher education institutions simply did not receive. In the process, they have affirmed my belief that the fiscal discipline we are exercising today will return us to a more prosperous tomorrow. Even more critically, our fiscal discipline will enable us to continue to do right by the students who want the intellectual and spiritual experience we offer. This is where there is not — and will not be — any compromise.

We are not compromising on our commitment to academic excellence. We are not jeopardizing our commitment to the spiritual nourishment of our students. Despite the cost to Loyola, we are not asking any student to forego study abroad. Most importantly, we are not turning away any qualified student because he or she cannot meet the costs of attending our university. For the third consecutive year, we have met the full demonstrated financial aid need of every first-year student.

This commitment to access is a matter of fidelity to our Jesuit principles. It is a matter of social justice. But the fact is that fidelity to the ideal of social justice is costly. Social justice is not a matter of loving thoughts or kind words. It is an investment, and we are making that investment. In fact, we are strengthening that investment. In the last year, we have seen a 90 percent increase in appeals for financial aid. Yes, 90 percent. Our discount rate for first-year students now stands at 34.2 percent. For all undergraduates, the rate is 33.5 percent. The bottom line here is remarkable: We give our students $45 million each year.

Justice costs, and in tough times, the cost rises. We are paying these rising costs even while revenues are declining. In FY 09, our endowment dropped from $182 million to $123 million. State support has declined by $1.5 million. Philanthropic donations are down. In light of these figures — in light of this economic downturn — our accomplishments are extraordinary, and they are inspiring. We are making steady and impressive progress toward Middle States accreditation. We have completed the Design Document that outlines the nature and scope of our self-study. This coming Monday, the Middle States liaison will visit us and begin assessing our work.

In addition, movement toward the goals outlined in our strategic plan is accelerating:

  • During the last year, we conducted successful searches for four new and 11 converted tenure-track positions.
  • Graduate school enrollments are approaching new highs.
  • First-year enrollment is at 970 — 20 more than we anticipated. In addition, our retention rate among undergraduates is near an all-time high. Precisely because of this retention rate, we have 3,770 undergraduates on campus – 50 more than last year.
  • The official launch of our School of Education will occur next month.
  • Our community engagement initiatives, exemplified by the work of our Clinical Centers, are making a real difference for the people of Baltimore. Last year, our Centers provided services valued at $490,000 . . . and for these services, we charged less than $200,000. This discount points to our commitment to serving the under-served.
  • Our efforts to enrich our science programs received a major boost when the National Science Foundation awarded a grant of $310,000 to two of our computer science specialists — Dawn Lawrie and David Binkley. I know that Dawn and David would want me to acknowledge the valuable assistance they received from Nancy Dufau and Carron DeGrass from our Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.
  • Like our faculty, our students are also receiving well-deserved recognition. Just two examples: Tania Ziegler, a political science major who graduated last spring is now, thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship, studying economic policy in China. And we are welcoming back one of our most illustrious graduates — Jose Vargas, Class of ’99, a Rhodes Scholar and a Fulbright Scholarship recipient who is now a cardiology intern at Johns Hopkins. Jose has agreed to serve on the Board of Advisors of Loyola College, our college of arts and sciences.
  • Finally (and please understand that I am providing only a partial list of notable accomplishments), our integrated marketing initiative, which we will fully unveil at our September 25 Convocation, will bring uniformity and coherence to our branding. This is critical to enhancing our ability to attract the students, staff, and faculty who will carry us into the future. Part of this branding initiative includes our inside.loyola Web portal, which already has more than 3,000 users, with numbers rising each day.

Let me say it again: Loyola is healthy. Loyola is vibrant. We are doing more with less. And we are proving that we can weather any storm. Adversity is not intimidating us — it is energizing us. This is a tribute to all of you. And it is a tribute to a spirit of cooperation, a spirit of collaboration, that I think is very rare. It is at times like this, in many institutions, when fingers start to get pointed. The blame game becomes popular. Not at Loyola. It’s just not happening. We know we are in this together, and we know we will get through this together.

I think we all learned a lot about our togetherness . . . and how deep it runs. . . during those dark days when we learned anew the meaning of senseless violence . . . and struggled to cope with heartbreaking loss. The important point here is a very simple one: We were there for each other, and we were there for our students. In that time, as in happier times, we were reminded that the Loyola community is held together by ideals that are as old as the Scriptures . . . and by commitments that are as fresh as this morning’s headlines. I am aware of these ideals and these commitments every time I assume my role as a salesperson.

Let me elaborate on this somewhat odd comment by speaking more personally than I normally do on these occasions.

The way we do business at Loyola has changed profoundly. There’s been a sea-change in our culture, and as a result of that change, my activities have changed. My job has changed. My understanding of my responsibilities has changed. I want you to know about this. I now understand, maybe for the first time, what my brothers do. They’re in sales, and now I have joined them. I have come to see, more and more clearly, that along with whatever else I am -- a Jesuit priest, a loving son, a recovering academic, a university president, an ardent lover of the theatre -- I am also a salesperson. Yes, I’m in sales. I must be. It is part of my professional responsibility. What I sell is Loyola.

The tough economy of the last year drove home to me, in a new and vivid way, the power of philanthropy. Philanthropic dollars do not come our way . . . donations don’t come our way. . . just because we are a great institution that offers a great product. Someone has to tell our story. To put it crudely, someone has to do advertising.

I want to add that this is, in a very real sense, a responsibility that falls to all of us. But by virtue of my position, I have to take the lead, and I’m doing this in a difficult environment. Corporate philanthropy is not what it was in years past. Increasing our funding through tuition increases is not an option. The new economy has changed all that. And what matters now, more than ever, is cultivating relationships with individuals who might, years from now, provide a donation. This is work that takes time. It is work made for someone with more patience than I.

But here I am. Making trips to visit potential donors, not to ask for money, but to begin to understand them, begin to know their interests, begin to understand their passions . . . begin to understand what might drive them, one day, to say — I want to make a gift to Loyola.

So, again, I’m in sales, and with a little help from Dave Sears and his staff, I think I’m getting better at it. But here’s the key: I am good at sales — or at least I’m getting better at sales — because I sell a great product. I sell Loyola. I am good at selling because I am in love with the product. And it follows from this that it is your work that makes me better at my work. Every time you make Loyola better, every time you make the product better, my salesmanship gets better.

Let me elaborate. Not too long ago, I gave a speech to some mid-level administrators at Holy Cross, and I made a very basic point. I told them that we often hear high-level managers (presidential types) talk about empowering employees. I then said that we needed to get this right and that we could do that by turning this cliché upside-down. We administrators don’t empower employees. They empower us. That’s my point: You empower me to do a better job of selling Loyola.

As I said, I am doing more of this selling. I spend more time off campus, more time on the road, more time making contacts and cultivating relationships and having long conversations so that down the road, perhaps five, even 10 years from now, donations to Loyola will increase. This is essential work, and I now see it as an essential part of my job.

I have to admit that there is a part of this work that is curious, and I want to help you understand this curiosity. We need to live with the fact that donations are not fungible. That is, to use the vernacular, donations usually come with strings attached. So if you hear, for example, that a donor recently wrote us a check for one million dollars, you might think — Great! Now we can create an endowed faculty chair in biology. Or, you might think . . . one million! . . . now we can unfreeze salaries. However, it doesn’t work that way. Donations are often, in fact usually, targeted to specific programs or projects. Donors usually determine the use to which their donations must be put, and their priorities do not always mesh with ours.

This brings me back to where I began: Dollars are not fungible. Given this sometimes uncomfortable reality, let me promise you this: I will do everything in my power to sway donors and to help them develop a commitment to the goals we have put at the center of our new strategic plan. The new strategic plan remains our guide, and it will remain my guide when I’m out on the road as a very priestly and far more honorable version of Willy Loman.

But there is a more important promise I want to make and with which I want to conclude. In case you haven’t heard, we have a pretty big celebration coming up. Just 15 days from now, on September 25, we will hold a convocation that will begin a weekend of celebrating our new designation as Loyola University Maryland. I see this weekend as a time of remembrance and a time of renewal. We will look back at our remarkable history. We will look forward to remarkable opportunities. The most appropriate words here may come from paraphrasing Tennyson:

Though much changes, much abides.

During the weekend of September 25, what abides will receive its due. We will rededicate ourselves to the Jesuit ideals at the heart of our heritage. We will reaffirm our commitment to the education of the whole person, and we will celebrate abiding Ignatian truths:

  • That nothing is beyond the scope of faith
  • That we have both an ethical and a civic obligation to help build a just and compassionate social order
  • That the materially poor are not a burden, but our brothers and sisters.
  • And that when we are asked if we will stand with them or stand for ourselves -- when we face this fundamental either/or question -- we must give the answer that is consonant with Jesuit values. To this either/or question, we will say yes. For they are us. Humanity is one family. We are in this together.

I invite you to join our celebration.

Ad majorem Dei Gloriam