This week I had the pleasure of announcing that Laura Niesen de Abruna, Ph.D., has been named the new provost of Academic Affairs at Sacred Heart University. She comes to us from Roger Williams University where she was vice president, provost and professor of English. Dr. Niesen de Abruna’s integrity, drive, personality and experience make her a perfect choice. In this year, when we are celebrating “a time for new beginnings,” her role will be critical to the success of our strategic plan, mission and goals. She will formally join us on December 12. In the meantime, as you have a chance to meet her, please make her feel welcome.
I also want to thank the selection committee for the excellent job they did. We had a large pool of highly qualified candidates, so theirs was not an easy task. Congratulations to Selection Committee Chair Dr. Andra Gumbus, Dr. Jody Bortone, Dr. Edward Hendricks, Dr. Michael Higgins, Dr. Stephen Lilley, Dr. Lucjan Orlowski and Dr. Brian Stiltner on a job well done.
We had beautiful weather for Family Weekend, and everyone seemed to be out and about experiencing the various events and programs. By all accounts, it was a “wicked good time!” Thanks to Dean Wielk and all our sports teams for their warm welcome to the visiting families and for the great sportsmanship displayed on the playing fields -- win or lose. Thanks also to the students and families who stopped by for breakfast Sunday morning. I enjoyed the chance to chat with everyone.
Congratulations to the six members of the 2011 Sacred Heart softball team who have been named Division I All-America Scholar Athletes by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). They are Lisa Dean, Taylor Lane, Nicole Sidor and Annie Dreher, who will be back for the 2012 season, and Taylor Froelich and Courtney Lee who graduated last spring. The NFCA awards All-America Scholar Athlete honors to any student-athlete who achieved a 3.50 grade point average or higher during the 2010-11 academic year. In 2011, more than 4,000 student-athletes representing 709 different academic institutions were named as a 2011 NFCA All-America Scholar Athlete. SHU ranked 42nd among all Division I programs in 2011 with a 3.300 team grade point average.
Wednesday evening marked the first annual Henri Nouwen Lecture on Contemporary Spirituality. Kevin Burns, noted producer, editor and broadcaster, presented Listening to Henri to a packed house at the Schine Auditorium. Mr. Burns punctuated his remarks with sound bites, photographs, film clips and music to the entertainment of all present. It was the perfect way to kick off this series, and I am already looking forward to next year’s Nouwen lecture. Sacred Heart is very fortunate to have Nouwen’s official biographer -- Dr. Michael Higgins -- on its staff.
The Schine was packed again on Thursday evening, for the fall Hesburgh Alumni Lecture featuring Notre Dame’s Gary Lamberti, professor and chair of Biological Sciences. His topic was The Global Freshwater Crisis: Challenges and Solutions. He pointed out that fresh water is one of our most imperiled resources with more than a billion people lacking access to clean water. The water crisis also creates additional issues, including the endangerment of such species as fish, mussels and crayfish and the increase in mosquitoes that breed in degraded fresh water. My thanks go to University College and the Departments of Biology and Chemistry and the Graduate Program in Environmental Systems Analysis and Management for sponsoring this great event. And thanks also to the Fairfield County Notre Dame Club for a wonderful ongoing partnership with SHU that is now in its sixth year.
This weekend we will welcome visitors and alumni back to campus—undergraduate and graduate admissions is hosting an Open House and alumni from the classes of 1967 to 1979 will gather for a mixer at University Commons. Some of those who plan to travel to Connecticut for the gathering will be seeing the campus for the first time since they graduated. A tour is planned for those who are interested. Hopefully they will be excited to see how their alma mater has changed and grown over the years. These men and women built the foundation for what Sacred Heart has become today. I hope their old-fashioned mixer brings back many fond memories and they have a chance to renew old friendships and make new friends.
I imagine there will also be plenty of Halloween festivities during the weekend. Be safe, and have fun!