A Letter from the President
August 29, 2019
To the Iona Community:
Iona President Seamus Carey, Ph.D.
With our students moved in and classes underway, the unofficial end of summer has arrived. Labor Day weekend gives us brief respite to catch our breath after the first week of classes. Green trees will soon turn to yellow and gold, and the descending angle of sunlight anticipates winter’s chill at the far horizon. In contrast to nature’s drowsy descent, we follow a driving need for new pencil boxes, the fresh pages of new books, and reunions with classmates, faculty and friends. It is our new year. This is our beginning. We quicken with hope and anticipation for what it will bring, and I am moved by how right and good “going back to school” here at Iona feels.
As I start my presidency, I am struck by how much is right and good about Iona. The welcome that has been extended to my family and me has been heartwarming. I quickly came to realize, however, that the welcome we have received is not extraordinary for the Iona community. Hospitality is at the core of who we are. From the alumni and alumnae to first-year students and their families, from the faculty to the Trustees, Iona is a learning community of scholars and learners bound by a concern for others and the world. We embody better than most the educational vision of Hannah Arendt, who wrote, “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from that ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for that task of renewing a common world.”
I thought of Arendt’s description of education in Ireland this summer while visiting the birthplace of Blessed Edmund Rice, the founder of the Christian Brothers. In the wake of great personal loss, Br. Rice was called to share the transformative power of education with the poor and outcast children of Waterford. He was a visionary who saw that the renewal so essential for the well-being of our common world required the elevation and liberation of children through education. This visionary force for good continues across the world today and nowhere more powerfully than Iona College.
This renewal is evident across campus as well in the soon-to-be dedicated Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, where students from all disciplines can explore ways to apply their knowledge to the world. The LaPenta School of Business will provide bright and spacious spaces for collaboration and study. The refurbished basketball arena will enhance the atmosphere for our student body to support our basketball and volleyball teams. Throughout the year we will celebrate 50 years of contributions and successes by the women of the Iona community. Most importantly, we can feel the energy pouring from classes filled with new ideas and experiences. And everywhere we can read the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of students, professors and parents.
There is also much that is right and good in the liberal arts education we craft together despite complaints from pundits and prognosticators. They question our purpose and wonder naively if there is value in the disciplines we teach. We cannot dismiss such critics out of hand, but we do not have to simply accept their words at face value. It is essential that Iona prepares students for all the professional success they seek and deserve. But I hope that it will also inspire you to achieve that success in order that you might live in accordance with your highest selves and make the world a better place.
I ask each of you to challenge yourselves this year to imagine more and see farther than you think you can. I ask you to seek the significance of what is taught beyond the obvious facts on the page or the discipline studied. I ask you to discover the dignity, and joy, and purpose in your work, and then I urge you to take that work into the world to make a difference. Ralph Waldo Emerson called out to his generation, “We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds.” You are in a privileged place to take advantage of the gifts you bring to Iona. Our country and the world need you to make the most of them.
I wish you all the best for a successful, rewarding and healthy year.
Seamus Carey, Ph.D.