Interview with Rev. Edmund J. Dobbin, O.S.A., President of Villanova
Fresh@News: On September 9, Villanova University celebrated Saint
Thomas of Villanova Day. What is that about and what does it mean for
the class of 2003?
Fr. Dobbin: Saint Thomas of Villanova Day (STVD) is a time when the
university comes together as a community. Except for graduation, it is
the most important ceremony we have during the year. Our first year
students get to know one another very well during New Student
Orientation, but STVD is the time when we introduce the new class to the
rest of the university.
Fresh@News: What actually happens on that day?
Fr. Dobbin: We compress our class schedule so that there are no classes
at all in the afternoon. The celebration started with an outdoor
liturgy. At 3:00 we moved to a convocation in the sports pavilion,
where we gave awards to our most outstanding faculty members, students
and staff, and also heard an inspiring speech by an invited speaker. One
of the things that I always find so moving is the degree to which the
day is shared by our whole community: faculty, students, and staff.
For the new students, one of the most impressive things is always the
procession of our faculty, dressed in their colorful academic regalia.
Many of the Core Humanities Seminar faculty members asked their students
to write something about the convocation speech, so the convocation was
really part of their classwork. After the convocation, we all
processed to a festival and feast, that featured delicious food and
wonderful entertainment. It is a lovely day and a great way to start
our academic year.
Fresh@News: What is the theme of Saint Thomas of Villanova Day?
Fr. Dobbin: On STVD, we ask the whole community to focus on the themes
that are most important to us here at Villanova. We reflect on our
Augustinian values and heritage. Indeed, the whole idea of faculty,
students, and staff celebrating together is based on an Augustinian
concept of community. We also talk about Augustine’s conception of the
"unity of heart and mind," which, for us means that education isn't just
about knowledge, but must also be rooted in values. STVD also focuses
our attention on Saint Thomas of Villanova, the 16th century Bishop for
whom Villanova is named. St. Thomas was known as "the Bishop of the
poor," and was famous for his concern for the poor of his own time. We
use this day to help focus our community on the needs of the poor, sick,
and homeless of our own time.
Fresh@News: Who was the convocation speaker?
Fr. Dobbin: This year our convocation address was given by Professor
John J. DiIulio, Jr., of the University of Pennsylvania. Much of his
work is on faith-based anti-crime programs, which "are predicated upon
the concept of 'restorative justice,' according to which the ultimate
purpose of the criminal law is to restore the 'shalom' or peace that
crime robs from victims, perpetrators, and communities alike ( John
DiIulio, Jr. "Two Million Prisoners Are Enough," Wall Street Journal,
4/12/99). (Several of his recent articles are available on the web at
www.brook.edu/press/review/oldtoc.htm#SPR99.). His focus on
faith-based anti-crime programs is very much in tune with Villanova’s
joint emphasis on its Catholic Heritage and its mission to the poor.
Fresh@news: What is your impression of the incoming class?
Fr. Dobbin: By any measure the class of 2003 is the best class we have
ever had, and the early reports are promising. We look forward to
working with your students and we hope they have a wonderful experience
as members of the Villanova Community, and we also look forward to
meeting with parents and friends at events such as Parents' Day.
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