GUEST COLUMN: ‘Lead in service to the common good’

This piece is excerpted from Dr. Eric Spina’s presidential installation address at the University of Dayton on Tuesday.

We are stewards of an extraordinary legacy.

Throughout its history, the University of Dayton has quietly, yet dramatically, transformed itself by turning big dreams into bold moves — always with the common good at the center.

That entrepreneurial spirit has shaped us, time and time again, allowing us to model innovation, creativity and servant-leadership in service to our students, the Catholic church, the Dayton community and the world.

Our Marianist commitment to building community and our history of adapting to the needs of a changing world compel us to ask how we will educate students to confront the tests facing humanity.

Forty-nine years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and I still hear the echo of his words, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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Our city, country, and world confront seemingly insurmountable challenges — including racism and religious intolerance, poverty and its effects on education and health, economic stagnation, environmental degradation and violent conflict.

The University’s Catholic, Marianist values and our faith in our ability to work together to shape a more just future call us to lead in service to the common good. We can no longer afford to have these societal issues as background for our education, research, and engagement. Rather, we need to place them in the foreground, such that they are a compelling motivation for our strategic direction, investments, partnerships, teaching, learning and research.

As we reflect on our mission to Learn. Lead. Serve., we declare proudly and clearly that we are "a University for the Common Good." We prepare servant-leaders who contribute to solutions through community collaboration (LEARN). We perform research that addresses critical issues and supports economic growth (LEAD). We engage in mutually beneficial partnerships to strengthen our communities (SERVE).

We are not so naïve and self-flattering to think that University of Dayton efforts alone will “solve” the world’s ills, but we also understand that we are an influential research enterprise, a powerful economic engine, and a university dedicated to graduating servant-leaders prepared and eager to make a difference.

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As we embrace the future, let us design the ideal, integrated education to prepare students for leadership roles in building socially just communities. Let us deepen our reciprocal partnerships in the Dayton community and do our part to enhance its vitality. Let us conduct research that matters, with an impact locally and globally. And finally, let us harness the innovative spirit of faculty, staff and students and spin out ventures that create jobs and economic value, especially here in Dayton. Let us become known, nationally and globally, as THE University for the Common Good.

While we are not the only university that aims to impact the public good, I call on all of us to work together to make the University of Dayton the destination for students who want to be innovators and leaders; the destination for faculty and staff who relish forging partnerships and leading community-engaged teaching, learning, and scholarship; and the destination for pragmatic dreamers who see the development of community as essential in our world and are willing to work hard to achieve it.

Eric F. Spina is the 19th president of the University of Dayton.

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