SHU Bestows Honorary Doctorate Upon Georgetown University President John DeGioia

News Story: September 1, 2011
President Petillo presents Dr. John DeGioia with his honorary doctorate. 
Trustee James T. Morley looked on.

Speaking to an audience of Sacred Heart University professors, John DeGioia, Ph.D., the president of Georgetown University who was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on September 14, told them to strive toward global connectivity through their gift of teaching and through the Catholic philosophy inherent in the ideals of the institution.

“There is always something extraordinary about this time of year. It’s a secret I think we share, those who live our lives in the context of the academy,” he said to the faculty members in attendance at SHU’s Chapel of the Holy Spirit. “We start afresh. Disappointments of the past – we can put all that behind us. We begin every year anew … Every year we get new students, new classes, new ideas and the energy of our young people. There is nothing quite like the start of the year in the academy.”

At the Special Academic Convocation, SHU President John Petillo, Ph.D., conferred the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Dr. DeGioia for his untiring efforts to bridge the global divide, continue the ideals of the Catholic university and work for social justice.

Following the faculty processional and musical selections, performed by the Sacred Heart University Concert and Liturgical Choirs, Dr. DeGioia was welcomed by student Edward Kennedy, ’12, who called him a “true Pioneer.” Kennedy said Dr.Gioia, “paved the path to assist students in their pursuit to achieve academic successes. Furthermore, Dr. DeGioia played an instrumental role not in building the lives of generations of students but in the next generation of leaders.

Dr. DeGioia is credited with defining and strengthening Georgetown as an institution for education and research. He is a 1979 graduate and has served as both a senior administrator and faculty member. As president since 2001, he has helped to recruit intellectual leaders to the faculty and secured funding for scholarly research and academic programs. Under his leadership, Georgetown University completed in December 2003 the largest fundraising effort in its history. The $1 billion campaign benefited the main, medical and law center campuses to secure endowment funds for curriculum and faculty support, increase student financial aid and build and renovate facilities. In 2002-03, he oversaw the largest expansion of campus facilities.

In drawing similarities, Kennedy said that in his three years at SHU he too has witnessed a transformation and the growth of the school’s academic reputation. Sacred Heart, he said, recognizes its own efforts with the recognition of Dr. DeGioia.

Speaking on behalf of the faculty, Professor Lucjan Orlowski, Ph.D., the chairman of the Department of Economics and Finance, extolled the traditions and virtues of his colleagues. With tradition, he said, the faculty has “embraced and pursued teaching excellence” and with the SHU administration’s assistance has enabled “our students to become knowledgeable, engaged and competitive members of our community.” As for virtues, he said. “We are not just teaching but educating our students in a broad sense. They are very special to us.”

In introducing the honoree, Dr. Petillo told the gathering that Dr. DeGioia has continued to have a responsibility for and appreciation of a liberal arts education and has ensured its quality. “We hope to do the same here,” he said. “Under your leadership, your students continue to understand their role historically, socially and spiritually in a global community. The Sacred Heart community of almost 50 years welcomes you with warmth of friendship and proud of our mutual accomplishments. You indeed honor us today with your presence.”

Dr. DeGioia and Professor Stephane Kirven walk to the Chapel for the Convocation.

Stephane J. Kirven, J.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at SHU and a Georgetown University alumna, read the citation honoring Dr. DeGioia, noting that he has “prepared young people for leadership roles in the global community by welcoming world leaders to campus and convening international conferences to address challenging issues.”

After the conferral of the degree and the vesting of the hood by University Trustee James T. Morley, Dr. DeGioia remarked on his “profound privilege to be here with all of you.” He grew up in Orange, not too far from Sacred Heart, and remembers as a young athlete passing the school “and wondered what went on here,” he said smiling. As he grew older, he said he “had some idea of the wonderful things that take place in this community.”

Referring to now being an “exciting time for our work,” Dr. DeGioia explained to the audience that the implications of the current globalization, interfaith understanding and Catholic philosophy are the reasons for why “this is the most exciting moment for Catholic higher education.”

The “new globalization” is the not the first one, he said, adding that “we certainly have been connected to one another in profound ways,” pointing to the immediacy of social media, particularly among young people. While globalization traditionally has been defined in financial and market terms, he said, it should not begin there and as members of Catholic institutions of higher learning, they are given an opportunity to foster and further a dialogue. “I believe we have an extraordinary opportunity to bring our voice, the voice of the academy, to the conversation about the meaning of globalization and the nature of our response.”

Globalization, he said, should be understood “as a force through which we can further advance the betterment of humankind.”

Noting that Georgetown University has a full-time rabbi and full-time imam, he turned to the importance of the interfaith community and its participation in making the world a better place. “I would like to suggest through the insights of scholars … and through the experience we have of interfaith understanding, we might just be able to re-imagine the potential of the academy to engage in questions that for centuries might have seemed off-limits within the context of the western academy.”

He offered, “It would be an invaluable contribution of Muslims, Christians and Jews – peoples of all faiths together – and focus our conversation on our distinctive approaches to justify these universal human rights.”

The Catholic university, he added, can take on an integral role in pursuing the conversation for the rights and betterment of all people.

The faculty lines up for the procession.

He concluded that the “living stone” images from the letter of Peter are “so appropriate as we gather here in this space … If we listen carefully to these words of Peter, if we listen carefully, we realize that it is us. It is all of us who are the living stones because we too are chosen and precious in the sight of God. You are the living stones - that these stones have the life they do because of the work and scholarship and teaching and research and prayer and service; the very life that is lived here on this campus. The lives you live here every day in this community.”

“This is an extraordinary moment that demands the very best of us. The challenges facing our world, the world our young people will soon enter. But at the same time, the opportunity is to embrace our tradition in its multiple parts … these opportunities may be greater now than perhaps at any moment in our history … This is your time.”

To view a photo slideshow from the DeGioia Convocation, CLICK HERE
For video, CLICK HERE.