Mission Statement and Statement of Affirmation

Mission Statement

Adopted: February 2013
Modified: April 2017

Gonzaga University is an exemplary learning community that educates students for lives of leadership and service for the common good.

In keeping with its Catholic, Jesuit, and humanistic heritage and identity, Gonzaga models and expects excellence in academic and professional pursuits and intentionally develops the whole person -- intellectually, spiritually, culturally, physically, and emotionally.

Through engagement with knowledge, wisdom, and questions informed by classical and contemporary perspectives, Gonzaga cultivates in its students the capacities and dispositions for reflective and critical thought, lifelong learning, spiritual growth, ethical discernment, creativity, and innovation.

The Gonzaga experience fosters a mature commitment to dignity of the human person, social justice, diversity, intercultural competence, global engagement, solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, and care for the planet. Grateful to God, the Gonzaga community carries out this mission with responsible stewardship of our physical, financial, and human resources.

Statement of Affirmation

Concerning Gonzaga University as a Jesuit University

January 23, 2012


In 2008, the Jesuit Conference of the United States determined that it would be in the best interests of the Society of Jesus and its institutions to seek clarity and definition regarding how, in specific terms, a given Jesuit university might seek to preserve and animate its identity as distinctly Catholic and Jesuit. This desire anticipated the consequences of diminishing numbers of Jesuits available to the apostolate of higher education, and sought to consider the way(s) by which a Jesuit college or university might continue to be affirmed as Jesuit and Catholic. The Jesuit Conference therefore directed the twenty-eight universities to work, each within the aegis of its respective Provincial, to create written statements that would articulate these objectives.

This written statement is a testament of Gonzaga University to its identity as a Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic university. While it references various documents of the Society of Jesus and the Catholic Church in an effort to remain consistent with the history, values and principles by which the Jesuits and the Church seek to animate their missions, it does not create any legal rights or obligations enforceable by civil or canonical processes. This document does not constitute a governing document of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit Conference, the Jesuit Community of Gonzaga University, or any other entity; it is instead an articulation of Gonzaga's Jesuit, Catholic and humanistic identity, created within an aspirational context that seeks to affirm and preserve that identity, and thereby continue to carry the name Jesuit: willingly sought by the University's Board of Trustees and willingly given by the Provincial of the Oregon Province on behalf of the Society of Jesus.

Gonzaga University

Gonzaga University, a religious, educational, non-profit corporation of the State of Washington, was founded in 1887, incorporated in 1894, and is governed by its governing boards according to its Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. The governing boards are ultimately responsible for affirming, maintaining, and promoting the fundamental mission of Gonzaga as an American institution of higher education, a work of the Society of Jesus, and a Catholic university in good standing with the Church.

Fundamental to the health of the Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic identity of Gonzaga are strong, positive relationships between the Trustees, the Board of Members, the Regents, the President, the faculty, the staff, the Provincial, the Jesuit Community (primarily represented by its Rector, who is the local superior), the Bishop of Spokane, and the local community.

In accord with its Bylaws, the Board of Trustees is responsible for selecting the University's president and, in turn, charges the President with the responsibility of ensuring that the mission of the University is carried out through its strategic plan, policies, procedures, and decisions. The President will also develop and maintain a strong commitment to the University's Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic mission among the administration, faculty, staff, and Jesuit Community ensuring that decision-making at all levels is in harmony with the expressed values and priorities of the Society of Jesus and the Catholic Church, as well as the highest standards of educational excellence. In order to sustain the University's Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic identity the President will engage in regular dialogue with the Jesuit Provincial and the Bishop of Spokane. At the same time, this charge does not relieve the Board of its fundamental responsibility for ensuring that the University's mission is carried out.

As a Jesuit Mission of the Catholic Church, Gonzaga University exists to teach and educate students at the baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate (Master's, Law, Doctoral) levels with a view towards combining a rigorous, contemporary academic program with specific values reflected in Jesuit and Catholic teaching. The responsibility for achieving this mission is not restricted to Jesuits or to those engaged in ministry; it is the responsibility of the University leadership and all who work and study at Gonzaga. The complexity associated with combining academic programs with Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic values is real and ongoing; it can only be accomplished by facilitating a continuous dialogue within the campus community and fostering opportunities for the development of, and engagement in, practices that the community embraces and imparts.

Values of a Catholic University

The Catholic Church has defined in several key documents its desires for its universities and the students they educate; among these are the Apostolic Constitution of John Paul II, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and various documents relating to the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and Catholic Social Teaching. Ex Corde Ecclesiae identifies the core purpose of the university as the pursuit of truth; it holds at the same time as essential a framing of "truth" in relationship to the Gospels and the teachings of the Church. The fundamental dynamic set up by Ex Corde Ecclesiae is one that seeks to understand how a Catholic university differs in its educational program from that of a secular university.

University education must include not only formal classroom instruction but also experiences which teach the student how to live a life of leadership, social justice, academic excellence, and intellectual pursuits, providing thereby a conduit of the values and doctrines of the Catholic Church into the communities where they live and work.

The Catholic Intellectual Tradition is rooted in a developing and authentic history of scholarship and teaching that derives from the Christian scriptures, the Church Councils, the founding of universities by the Church in the Middle Ages, schools of theology and spirituality, and major Catholic thinkers, artists and writers. This tradition, interpreted for our time by the Second Vatican Council and subsequent teaching, emphasizes the following characteristics of higher education:

  1. The Complementarity of Faith and Reason as shown in the dialogue between religion and science.
  2. The importance of Intellectual Community and Dialogue, especially the community of scholars and students engaged in learning and teaching, which include interfaith and ecumenical dialogue.
  3. An Incarnational and Sacramental Vision of the world through the lens of the incarnation of the divine in the humanity of Christ. From this religious belief and from reason, Catholic higher education promotes a study of the dignity of the human person in society, of the ultimate purpose and significance of human history, and of the sacredness of intellectual understanding through all disciplines.
  4. Whole Person Education that promotes the growth in students in all dimensions of their personhood - intellectual, emotional, social, moral, and spiritual. Such broad education also includes scholarship and teaching in all areas of human learning, including liberal education, scientific-technical education, and professional education.
  5. Emphasis on humanistic Liberal Education, which calls for an integrated and reflective search for truth about the natural world through the sciences; the personal and social world through the humanities, social sciences, and fine arts; and the transcendent world through philosophy, theology, and spirituality.
  6. Concern for Prophetic Witness and Service among its faculty and students as fostered by active learning and service carried out in the light of Catholic social teachings on justice and peace.

Catholic Social Teaching has developed a rich body of principles and ideals to guide the behavior and activity of individuals and communities. Some of the key elements of this Teaching include:

  1. Belief in the inherent dignity of the human person; all people are made in the image of God.
  2. Each person has a responsibility and right to contribute to the good of the whole society, the common good.
  3. Every person has a fundamental right to life and to those things that allow for a decent life. With these rights come duties and responsibilities - to ourselves, our families, our society.
  4. The common good and a just society cannot be attained without working to positively impact the state of the poor, the vulnerable, and those marginalized by society at large.
  5. All people are to be assured a right to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of their society.
  6. All people have a right to work, and access to safe and fair working conditions. Economic progress and prosperity cannot occur as a result of human exploitation.
  7. Humans are the stewards of God's Creation, and thus are responsible for preserving the earth for future generations.
  8. We acknowledge our identity and responsibility as members of a global human community, one which recognizes common objectives despite national, racial, cultural, ethnic, ecological differences.
  9. Core to the nature of humans as social beings is the necessary and appropriate role of government in keeping with the principle of subsidiarity. The function of government is to support the pursuit of the common good.
  10. Peace is the fruit of justice; the active pursuit of peace, through commitment to conflict resolution and understanding, is a Catholic value.

Values of a Jesuit University

The Society of Jesus has articulated in several specific and contemporary documents its understanding of how the apostolic activity of its sponsored works is to be carried out. Chief among these are the Decrees of its more recent General Congregations, the Complementary Norms, and various publications on the Characteristics of Jesuit Education. The principles enunciated in these sources significantly enrich the educational endeavors of the university and include the following:

  1. Each work of the Society is dedicated to the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement. The service of faith involves the evangelizing mission of the Church: the bringing and discovery of Christ's message to a broken and beautiful world. The promotion of justice recognizes the imperative to confront injustice in society and to extend care to the ignored, abandoned, and marginalized.
  2. Dedication to human dignity from a Catholic/Jesuit faith perspective. Human dignity here appreciates not only religious tradition, but respect for human and environmental diversity. Further, this translates into a focused care for students: a way of teaching and relating that underscores the value of community and the never-ending pursuit of an integrated life.
  3. A dedication to creating opportunities for students and community members to grow in their faith, which for Christians includes an experience of Jesus Christ in an atmosphere that supports them, while respecting religious difference and promoting interreligious dialogue. The experience of living in community furthers their sense of the religious importance of abiding relationships with others.
  4. A public and consistent demonstration, throughout the institution, of the university's fulfilling its higher educational mission within the Catholic Church. The university is clearly understood to be not only a source and sponsor of intellectual endeavor, but a community actively engaged in the promotion of faith and faith-filled opportunities, as well as active efforts to participate in and support the local Church.
  5. That educational excellence, which is a hallmark of the Jesuit intellectual tradition, is steadfastly protected and supported as a pre-eminent goal of the university in service of the primary role within the Church: the search for truth. In the spirit of St. Ignatius, intellectual endeavor is characterized by reverence for the mystery of God's creation.
  6. That the promotion of justice permeates the university, not only in its academic curricula, faculty and staff, but in the ways it relates with its myriad constituents across all activities: students, student support, and student conduct; parents; alumni; the local and regional civic and religious community; benefactors; vendors and partners.
  7. That the university through its educational work demonstrates an appreciation for international and global interconnectedness, and the value associated with relating each student's educational experience to the contemporary issues of a global reality.
  8. That the university fosters an appreciation for the cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity of its local communities and the wider world.
  9. That the university fosters a care for creation recognizing the rights and responsibilities of all to promote a sustainable use of the goods of creation, recognizing the importance of biodiversity and the rights of future generations.
  10. That Board Members, administrators, faculty and staff have opportunities to experience the Spiritual Exercises, access to annual retreats, spiritual direction and support.

Values of a Humanistic University

The term "humanistic" is understood to include the quest for self-knowledge and the formation of a virtuous character. We impart to our students a critical understanding and appreciation of our common human nature, the moral heritage of their culture and society, as well as some exposure and education in cultures and societies different from our own. We also impart to students a similarly critically informed understanding and appreciation for their own religious traditions and an exposure and education to other religious traditions prevalent in our global community. Humanistic in its original meaning, "of the humanities," is meant beyond academics to include the development of the whole person, helping students to integrate their lives into a harmonious whole and learning to prize and respect the flourishing of others, however different from themselves. This latter sense links "humanistic" to both "Catholic" and "Jesuit," which have a concern for the faith that promotes not only individual, but social, justice. The humanism that has characterized Jesuit education over the centuries would espouse most or all of the foregoing Catholic and Jesuit values.

Gonzaga University's Baccalaureate learning goals offer an example of such humanism. Gonzaga seeks to graduate Baccalaureate students who possess and demonstrate the following:

  • Knowledge developed through the practices of liberal humanistic learning
  • Intellectual and practical skills, including:
    • Thinking: reasoning, finding and evaluating information, and interpreting and performing critical analysis
    • Communicating: exchanging information and ideas through effective use of listening, speaking, writing, and technological tools
    • Quantifying: understanding and using mathematical skills and reasoning
    • Problem Solving: individually and in collaboration with others
    • Specializing: competence in one or more disciplines
    • Integrating: connecting learning within and across disciplines and experiences
    • Imagining: creating new perspectives, finding one's own voice
  • Habits of mind and heart, including:
    • Reflection
    • Ethical reasoning and action
    • Civic, cultural and intercultural engagement
    • A commitment to a just society and world and the courage to act justly
    • A commitment to developing one's mind, body, and spirit
  • A thoughtful, evolving spirituality, including:
    • Discerning one's faith and vocation
    • Engaging with the personal challenges of formation and transformation
    • Becoming women and men with and for others.

Gonzaga University's Way of Proceeding

Here, with specific view to the foregoing, are the primary ways in which Gonzaga will strive to profess and maintain its Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic identity within its mission of educational excellence:

1. The Governing Boards recognize that the President of the University serves not only as the institution's chief executive, but also as the director of an apostolic work of the Society of Jesus. The appointment and retention of the President involve both the President's selection by the Board of Trustees and missioning by the Jesuit Provincial as the director of a Jesuit-sponsored work. In accordance with the Guidelines for the Relationship Between the Superior and the Director of a Jesuit Work[1] and relevant Decrees[2] of recent General Congregations, the Society of Jesus recognizes that lay men and women are capable of being "missioned" as directors of Jesuit works.

The responsibility of the President as a Director of a Jesuit work includes:

  • Advancing the Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic mission of the university;
  • Maintaining and developing a strong relationship with the local Jesuit community and especially its Rector through regular meetings, meetings with the Board of Members, periodic meetings with the Jesuit Community, individual meetings with Jesuits in formation, and other forms of communication;
  • Maintaining and developing strong relationships with the larger Society of Jesus and its other apostolic works, including the Superior General of the Society, the local Provincial, and the other Jesuit colleges and universities around the world, especially the other Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States; and
  • Maintaining and developing strong relationships with the local Church.

To actualize these objectives, the Board of Trustees will:

  1. Seek, by virtue of authentic dialogue, to affirm the partnership that exists between the Board of Trustees and the Provincial when securing an appropriate candidate to serve as President;
  2. Ensure that the President and other appropriate university officers participate in regular meetings and activities sponsored by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), the Oregon Province, the US Jesuit Conference, and other relevant Jesuit entities or associations;
  3. Support the President's efforts to communicate regularly with the Rector, the Bishop of Spokane, and the Provincial on matters relating to the mission and identity of the university, the relationship of the university to the local Church, and the recruitment and development of Jesuits;
  4. Support the President in efforts to collaborate with the Jesuit Community of Gonzaga University, and in fostering Jesuit participation in the life and work of the university. This includes, but is not limited to, seeking the counsel of Jesuits and experienced lay associates working at the university and elsewhere on matters of special concern to the Society of Jesus, such as Jesuit Mission & Identity, University Ministry, Core Curriculum, and Religious Life, thus honoring the long and distinguished contributions of the Society of Jesus to the University.

2. The President, acting on behalf of, and at the direction, of the Board of Trustees will ensure that:

  1. The University maintains trans-departmental administrative structures, procedures and activities designed and specifically intended to promote the Jesuit and Catholic mission and identity of the university (e.g., Office of the Vice President for Mission; Office of University Ministry; regular and ongoing participation in the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities [AJCU]; Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities [ACCU]; the Ignatian Colleagues Program), as well as developing and implementing meaningful practices and procedures for mission-centered recruiting and hiring.
  2. The University facilitates and sponsors an active faith life for its students, faculty, staff, trustees, regents, alumni, and parents through regular opportunities for Catholic liturgy, faith development, sacramental celebration, religious retreats, prayer, and opportunities to serve others. To the extent possible, the University supports and sponsors religious programs for members of other Christian faiths and non-Christian religious traditions.
  3. The University continues to host and maintain an active, vibrant Jesuit Community, one which can strengthen the educational environment of the university by making Jesuits available for service as priests, scholars, teachers, researchers, ministers, administrators, consultants, and advisors.
  4. A cordial, respectful, and collaborative relationship with the Provincial and the Rector is maintained on behalf of the university; that the President and Provincial/Rector engage in regular dialogue regarding the Jesuit mission and identity of the institution; and that the Provincial is invited to major university events and to meet periodically with the Board of Trustees for dialogue on matters relating to the Society.
  5. A cordial, respectful, and collaborative relationship with the local ordinary (Bishop) is maintained on behalf of the university; that the President meets with the Bishop on a recurring basis; and that the Bishop is invited to and welcomed on the campus for appropriate occasions. The local Bishop is the one ordained by the Church to care for the people and institutions within his diocese; thus, the standing of the university in relationship to the Church is mediated, together with the Provincial, through the local Bishop.
  6. The fostering of relationships with the other Jesuit apostolic works of the Province, particularly those in Spokane (St. Aloysius Parish and School; Gonzaga Preparatory) continues and is supported.
  7. The University engages in a formal, long-term, and consistent effort to strengthen the educational environment by garnering full participation in, and ownership of, the institution's Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic identity on the part of faculty, staff, and students, through the efforts of the Mission Committee and Mission Council, with evidence of progress made periodically available to the Board of Trustees. The Mission Council and Mission Committee will consider ways in which this will be measured.
  8. The University fosters positive relationships with civic entities and authorities in order to sustain core Jesuit and Catholic values of justice and compassion in public discourse, and to model and facilitate the positive engagement of students in civil society.


The Board of Trustees has charged the president with the responsibility for creating, on an annual basis, a report which represents and assesses, in quantitative and qualitative ways, the University's efforts to respond to and fulfill the elements of this statement.


I hereby affirm, on behalf of the Gonzaga University Board of Trustees, that the Board -- having reviewed this Statement -- gives its support to the President to execute it and to represent the Board's agreement to it with the Provincial of the Oregon Province.

John J. Luger, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Date
The Corporation of Gonzaga University

On behalf of Gonzaga University, I hereby affirm the University's commitment to its Jesuit, Catholic and humanistic identity and to the Society of Jesus as set forth in this document. I further commit to manifesting the centrality of its Mission identity in every aspect of the work.

Thayne M. McCulloh, President, Date
The Corporation of Gonzaga University

On behalf of the Society of Jesus and the Oregon Province, I hereby accept this Statement of Affirmation and the commitment to Gonzaga University's Catholic, Jesuit, and humanistic identity that it represents.

Very Reverend Patrick J. Lee, S.J., Date
Provincial of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus

[1] Guidelines for the Relationship Between the Superior and the Director of a Jesuit Work (1998).

[2] The Decrees of GC 34 and GC 35, especially those relating to Jesuit-Lay Collaboration.