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Joyous Return to Scranton

Joyous Return to Scranton

"I love this place, and I am blessed to be here with you.”

This is how Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J. H’15 began his Inauguration Address as the 27th president of The University of Scranton, and it is a phrase he has repeated again and again since the announcement of his presidency in March 2017.

His declaration of love for the University and its community set the tone of the Inauguration where more than 1,500 people were gathered on campus on Sept. 21.

Community, Core, Commitment

Fr. Pilarz’s address called for love and emphasized the sacred role played by teachers and the blessed atmosphere of a university as a place to search for and discover truth. He recommitted to dedicating University resources to the key role humanities play in a Jesuit education, announcing the establishment of a center for the humanities at Scranton, as well as a leadership gift of $1 million from University Trustee James Slattery ’86, and his wife, Betsy, in support of this effort. Slattery took part in the installation of the president.

“The humanities and liberal arts are home to the great stories, and Jesuit educators have always believed that reading the great stories is the best preparation for a life lived generously in service of others and God,” said Fr. Pilarz. “In addition, they knew that the great stories teach you that time is a finger snap and a blink of an eye and that you should not allow a moment to pass you by without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it. In other words, the humanities teach us, don’t waste love.”

Fr. Pilarz also promised to raise funds to support endowments for scholarships and financial aid to students, as well as support for life-changing service and service trips.

“Our devotion to community, our passion for the liberal arts, and all of our commitments constitute a call to action, a call to think beyond ourselves in service of our mission for the greater glory of God and the world’s well-being. Ultimately, they are a call to love,” said Fr. Pilarz. “I pray today and every day that all of us at Scranton will be preoccupied with love for our students and for one another.”

Day of Great Promise

Inauguration included video greetings from faculty, students, alumni and staff, as well as college presidents and elected officials.

“Fr. Pilarz, I want to sincerely welcome you back to the city of Scranton. The University of Scranton is such a bedrock of our fine city, and I know you’ll serve it well,” said Bill Courtright, mayor of Scranton, in the video greeting. “We are all very lucky to have you back.”

At Inauguration, Joseph M. Vaszily ’95, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, welcomed Fr. Pilarz home.

“This is a day of great promise for The University of Scranton,” he said. “We have chosen you to lead this University community and to embrace, strengthen and further our mission. As you undertake the presidency, the Board of Trustees and the entire University community pledge our support and collaboration to work with you to enlighten the minds and lift the hearts of our campus, our community and our world.”

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The ceremony also included a surprise performance by acclaimed trombonist Wycliffe A. Gordon H’06 and the world-premiere performance of “Don’t Waste Love,” which was composed by Joshua Rosenblum and commissioned especially for Fr. Pilarz’s Inauguration. Rosenblum conducted the piece, which was performed by the University’s Concert Band and Concert Choir.

Indelible Mark

Fr. Pilarz served as Scranton’s 24th president from 2003 to 2011, becoming the fifth longest-serving president at Scranton and third longest-serving Jesuit president. During his first tenure as president, the University earned national recognition for academic quality, community engagement and student success, achieving then-record admissions and undertaking the largest construction projects in its history. He expanded international mission and service opportunities and programs to enhance its Catholic and Jesuit identity. Transformational capital projects included the 180,000-square-foot Patrick and Margaret DeNaples Center; the 108,000-square-foot Christopher and Margaret Condron Hall; the John and Jacquelyn Dionne Campus Green; the expansion of the Retreat Center at Chapman Lake; the 189,000-square-foot apartment and fitness complex on Mulberry Street; and the 200,000-square-foot Loyola Science Center.

Other accomplishments included dedicated support for research by new faculty, the President’s Colloquy for Presidential Scholars and five endowed chairs to attract top scholars. The University’s progress was supported by the Pride, Passion, Promise Campaign, the most ambitious capital campaign in the University’s history, which surpassed its $125 million fundraising goal.

As a scholar, Fr. Pilarz has delivered numerous papers at scholarly conferences on various aspects of medieval and Renaissance literature. He has also lectured and published on topics related to Jesuit education and published a book on St. Robert Southwell, S.J. That book, Robert Southwell, S.J., and the Mission of Literature 1561-1595: Writing Reconciliation, was published by Ashgate Press.

Thanks to Fr. Pilarz, a quote of St. Robert Southwell’s, “Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live,” is engraved above a prominent entrance to the DeNaples Center. It is just one mark the Fr. Pilarz left on Scranton’s campus, a subtle reminder of his former work here.

“I’m excited to have Fr. Pilarz as the school’s president after hearing so much about him as a Jesuit and leader,” said Colleen Boyle ’20. “He has already established himself as a bold presence and has been able to provide the University reassurance and celebration of our Jesuit mission and values. In the few weeks I’ve been back, it has become clear to me why many of my professors speak of his last tenure here so fondly.”

See videos, photos and read Fr. Pilarz's full Inauguration Address in our web exclusives section: scranton.edu/extras.

Excerpt from the Inaugural Address

"When Scranton friends first suggested that I consider coming back, my respect for and devotion to this place led me to discern the pursuit of this opportunity. And throughout that discernment, I was haunted by some words that somebody etched on the front of the DeNaples Center:

‘Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live.’

While community is a key strength, we can never be complacent here at Scranton. As you know, community both here and everywhere is under stress. Some of these stresses are not new. In 2011, Father General Adolfo Nicolás in Mexico City said:

‘When one is overwhelmed with such a dizzying pluralism of choices and values and beliefs and visions of life, then one can so easily slip into the lazy superficiality of relativism or mere tolerance of others and their views, rather than engaging in the hard work of forming communities of dialogue in the search of truth and understanding.’

We have never been afraid of this kind of hard work at The University of Scranton. In our current context, this work requires a focus on reconciliation. As our current Father General recently wrote:

‘The university is … a privileged space for exercising human freedom. Freedom to search and find the paths of social transformation through research and teaching. It is a space in which the message of liberation of the Good News of the Gospel can contribute to finding better ways to generate life in the midst of difficulties and uncertainty, which seem to overwhelm the daily lives of most men and women, opening a space for hope to enter.’

What better place for hope to enter than here at The University of Scranton. We must ensure that hope always abides here and more, that we are the source for hope in our local community, the communities in which our graduates live and work, in the Church and in the world."

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