Vignettes of Past Inauguration Speeches

During Fr. Bernard J. Coughlin’s inauguration speech in 1974, he spoke on both the University and social responsibility.

“The subject, like a dollar bill, has two sides: Responsibility of the University to the community and responsibility of the community to the University…One of life’s fundamental dilemmas may be posed thus: To turn within and concentrate on one’s own well-being, or to turn without and concentrate on the well-being of others. Academia does not escape the dilemma. It is true that universities and their educators tend to define their functions in terms of the ivory tower where philosophers think and scientists theorize and socialize students to life in the gown as opposed to the town.

Fr. Coughlin Inauguration
From L to R, facing: John Hayes, Carol Magnuson, Harry Magnuson, Fr. Bernard Coughlin, Fr. Arthur Dussault at the inauguration reception line of Fr. Bernard Coughlin, 1974.
Photo courtesy of Gonzaga University Archives.

“Education for leadership in today’s society – and that’s what Gonzaga is all about – is no repudiation of the history, literature, art, culture and philosophy of former ages, for men and their cultures are isolated neither geographically nor historically. One time builds into another, the thoughts and attitudes of each age being conceived in the womb of a preceding generation. As someone has tartly said, ‘Humanism does not aim to educate 18th century ladies and gentlemen for a 20th century world.

“My point is that universities, which have always been concerned about the philosophical question “What is the good life?” need to realize and teach the modern dimensions of that question. The good life is not merely the life of thought and philosophical contemplation, either here or hereafter – though it includes it – neither is it merely the enjoyment of the material benefits of modern technology. Both can turn man narrowly in upon himself. In between is the life where man daily struggles for his ideal and reaches for his salvation. It is a land of many things; central to them all are the decisions that determine the functions and uses of our social and political institutions, which in turn determine what man really can do and how he shall behave. It’s the life where man confronts both himself and the institutions he creates – large and small, rich and poor, white and black, privileged and deprived, republican and democrat, liberal and conservative, ignorant and intelligent, powerful and powerless – and those who who hold the power make wise or unwise, good or bad social and moral choices that affect the powerful and the powerless alike.

“It seems to me that a Jesuit university has something to teach about these things…Society rightly expects that, of all the social institutions, universities address themselves to an understanding of the social fabric that so universally affects human life, both as to its scientific and its moral content. Humanistic education that is neither decadent nor dead will educate leaders who understand both the scientific content and the ethical dimensions of social choices. I hope that this university, without swerving from its outstanding traditions, will in the years ahead more vigorously and insistently educate for that type of leadership and that kind of responsibility. And it is with this hope that I accept the responsibilities of President of Gonzaga University, and pledge to fulfill them to the best of my abilities, with the help of God’s grace.”

-    Bernard J. Coughlin, S.J., Oct. 20, 1974, Kennedy Pavilion, Gonzaga University

Excerpt from Rev. Edward Glynn Inauguration Speech, who related Gonzaga’s mission to the deepest desire in every human heart: A hunger for life, for love, for communion.

Rev. Edward Glynn, S.J.
The 1996 presidential inauguration of Rev. Edward Glynn, S.J. Photo courtesy of Gonzaga University Archives.

“There is indeed a love story being told that does not end in heartache and death. It is a love story that begins as it ends. It is the story that grounds who we are and what we do at Gonzaga University. This love story is at the heart of how and why we educate for vision, how and why we educate for hope, and how and why we educate for responsibility.

“As Catholic, the institution and the education that are Gonzaga proclaim…that the final word spoken is God’s fullest, absolute self-communication, it is the Word that becomes human, it is the Word that transforms human experience and human history, it is the Word that renews creation, it is the Word of the Incarnate God promising us that our hunger for life, love and communion will ultimately be fed by Someone.”

“As Jesuit, the institution and the education that are Gonzaga share in the mission of the Society of Jesus to teach God’s steadfast presence and transforming labor in human history and in human lives.

“…When Gonzaga educates women and men for vision, hope and responsibility, it is the constitutive element of Gonzaga’s Jesuit mission, both institutionally and educationally, that ‘touches something fundamental in the human heart: the desire to find God in a world scarred by sin’ and that seeks to foster ‘the instinct to live fully in God’s love and thereby to promote a shared, lasting human good.’

“If, after graduating from Gonzaga, a student is haunted by the question ‘How and where can I, in my life, provide the greater service of God and of men and women?’, then Gonzaga has indeed succeeded as a Jesuit institution in educating that young woman or man for vision, hope and responsibility. Gonzaga can say of itself what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said of another transforming endeavor: that because it ‘is going well, a little more health is being spread in the human mass and in consequence a little more liberty to act, to think and to love…because you are doing the best you can (though you may sometimes fail) you are forming your own self within the world, and you are helping the world to form itself around you.’

“In the opus we share of shaping ourselves, of shaping Gonzaga University and thus of shaping our world, let us renew together our commitment to seek the best, to seek excellence. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.”

-    Fr. Edward Glynn, S.J., Sept. 19, 1996

Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J.
The 1998 presidential inauguration of Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J. Photo courtesy of Gonzaga University Archives.
Father Robert J. Spitzer, S.J. was inaugurated as Gonzaga’s 25th president on September 17, 1998, in front of a full house in Martin Centre. He was introduced by the Rev. Patrick J. Ford, S.J., and formally installed by then-Chair of the Board of Trustees, James R. Jundt, which was followed by a video tribute to Spitzer from the people who knew him best: former classmates, family and friends. It closed with his three nieces saying in unison: “I love you Uncle Bob.”

With great energy, Spitzer opened by saying, “Thank you for the trust you have given me. I promise you with all my energy, education and prayer to live up to that.” In sharing his vision for the future, Spitzer spoke on four points he felt were important to the growth of Gonzaga: the classroom, culture, campus ministry and community.

Spitzer promised to listen to what students had to say to him, respect what they told him and facilitate every form of dialogue to reach out to students. His speech was followed by a standing ovation. As for his vision, Spitzer said, “Together we will be able to accomplish it.”