This July marked the anniversary of my appointment as the 16th president of The Catholic University of America. Even before I arrived on campus, I was greeted with well wishes from alumni, friends of the University, and so many others. My wife, Nancy, and I appreciate the support, time, and advice we have received.
Our faculty, staff, and especially our students have been gracious with their suggestions, too. From restaurant recommendations to stories about the many great memories made on campus, the feelings of love for this city and community are certainly apparent.
And all of this advice has been welcome as I have learned more about the University and how I can help it achieve its full potential. Whether it is in the classroom, the laboratory, or on the playing field, I believe that the University’s best years are ahead.
Students — and their parents — seem to agree. This fall we will have the largest undergraduate class in recent memory. These students are enjoying the fruits of the work done by our University Advancement team that raised more than $500 million through the Light the Way campaign, making it our most successful fundraising initiative ever. The new dining commons, Garvey Hall, named after my predecessor John Garvey, opened last fall and the construction of the Conway School of Nursing’s new home is expected to be complete by 2024.
The investments being made provide the resources needed to recruit and train top talent, improve facilities and equipment, and most importantly, provide our students with a life-changing educational experience. Upon our founding, Pope Leo XIII prayed that the University would “give to the Republic her best citizens” and we are committed to fulfilling that mission.
During my installation address last November, I shared that our goal is to be recognized as the nation’s premier Catholic research university. We are building our reputation for academic excellence and innovation through initiatives, including Biology Professor Venigalla Rao’s groundbreaking research on better gene therapies, a unique collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution to explore disaster-resistant dome structures, and the nursing school’s cutting edge virtual hospital designed to provide students clinical experience in the metaverse.
These are among many combined efforts over the past year demonstrating the character of this community. The people here are committed to a faith-informed education that drives a lifetime of learning and service. What I see every day is a spirit in this community that reflects what St. Anthony of Padua once said: “Actions speak louder than words. Let your words teach and your actions speak.”
At the University, we understand that education is about more than accumulating knowledge. Pope Francis has described the importance of learning the language of “the head, the heart, and the hands.” This means learning so that you can think about “what I feel and do; feeling what I think and do; of doing what I feel and think.” Our goal is to educate the whole person to love God and his creation.
Living out our calling as the nation’s flagship Catholic university means we welcome all who wish to pursue truth, knowledge, and service. From those who want to take a deep dive into the faith to those exploring the water’s edge, we work to provide an environment of trust that fosters human flourishing. The prophet Micah tells us: Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God (6:8). From feeding those in need to advocating for society’s most vulnerable through initiatives like the Guadalupe Project that helps promote a culture of life to celebrating trailblazers who paved the way for a more diverse campus, we walk the walk on our journey together.
The University’s motto is Deus Lux Mea Est, God is My Light. From what I have seen over the past year, we are forging a bright path to carry out the University’s mission in service to the Church and our nation.
Dr. Peter K. Kilpatrick
President of The Catholic University of America