Friday, April 23, 2010

Tenth Anniversary Celebration

On Thursday, April 22nd of this year, we celebrated our 10th anniversary in McKenna Hall in exactly the way you might expect: with a top-notch academic event followed by a festive reception and a sumptuous banquet with continuously pouring wine. For this occasion, we chose to honor our Senior Research Fellow, Alasdair MacIntyre with a symposium on his latest book, God, Philosophy, Universities: A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition. The format involved three presentations followed by Prof. MacIntyre’s comments. In planning this event, we sought to find commentators on this book drawn from the disciplines engaged by MacIntyre, but who were also familiar with the practical affairs of the contemporary Catholic university. We especially hoped to identify a philosopher, a theologian, and a historian of Catholic institutions who could critically engage MacIntyre’s ambitious project. We were very fortunate to find ideal commentators close to home, indeed among our most distinguished colleagues on the Notre Dame campus:

Our philosophical commentator was The Reverend John Jenkins, C.S.C., President since 2005 of the University of Notre Dame. Father Jenkins has a D.Phil. in Philosophy from Oxford University and is a member of the Department of Philosophy at Notre Dame while serving as President of the University. He is the author of a number of significant publications in philosophy, including his most recent book, Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas.

Our theological commentator was Professor John Cavadini, Chairman, since 2001, of the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Prof. Cavadini is a noted scholar in patristics and early Church history and the author of three books and many scholarly articles. His most recent book is Miracles in Christian and Jewish Antiquity: Imagining the Truth.

Our historical commentator was Dean John McGreevy, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Notre Dame since 2008 and a distinguished historian of the Catholic Church in America. He is the author of two books, the most recent being his award-winning historical study, Catholicism and American Freedom: A History.

The three commentators offered very interesting and provocative reflections which were all well received. After these, Professor MacIntyre offered a reply which included such memorable bits as his assertion that “grades are one of Satan’s inventions,” by which he means not that evaluations should never take place, but rather that every three years or so, physicists should have to take a competency exam on opera. He emphasized that we should all be broadening our education all the time. To help make this point, he said that undergraduates should never be focused on specialized research, but instead they should be cultivating a generalist education. Video of all four presentations is available on our website, and we strongly encourage everyone to watch them all in full.

Fr. Jenkins, after the concluding remarks, graciously gave a public expression of gratitude to David Solomon for his leadership of the Center for Ethics and Culture. Everyone rose to a standing ovation for our fearless leader. It was a beautiful moment. Afterwards, we all gathered in the atrium for a reception and everyone was buzzing with their thoughts about the symposium. If you’ve ever been to one of these receptions of ours, you know exactly how fun it was.

Finally, the CEC staff and many close friends gathered in the basement for a banquet to celebrate and remember our 10 years. On one wall, a slideshow of photos from the first event to the most recent ran on a loop throughout the dinner. At one point, the Notre Dame Glee Club treated us all to a wonderful performance of a few of their best-loved songs. Towards the end, David Solomon led everyone in a toast to Alasdair MacIntyre for his 80th birthday, and then thanked all of the member of the CEC staff for all of their hard work through the years: Elizabeth Kirk, Tracy Westlake, Kathryn Wales, and the current undergraduate assistants, Tom Everett, Octavia Ratiu, Kelly Mason, Peter Freddoso, and Victor Ratiu. Then, the Center’s first undergraduate assistant, Jennie Bradley paid tribute to the Center by presenting a “ND: What do we fight for?” commercial specifically tailored for the CEC, complete with theme music. Next, Elizabeth Kirk, Associate Director for the last five years and David’s right hand, and Dan McInerny, who flew in from Baylor for the event, sharpened the focus on David specifically, thanking and honoring him for his ten years of strength, courage, warmth, humor, and much more with delightful anecdotes and sincerest gratitude. Dan presented David with a leather bound collection of tribute letters from David’s current and former colleagues, students, and others whose lives have been touched by him. David was then presented with two beautifully framed posters, one displaying all ten Fall Conference posters and the other all of the Catholic Culture Series posters. He chastised everyone for their exuberant praise and thanked everyone back and again. It was a very merry night indeed.

Thank you to all of you who have supported us and were not able to attend the event. We hope that you will be a part of our next ten years and beyond!

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