December 23, 2013

MISSION MATTERS: Dig Deep In Gratitude

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Two sentences of our Saint Louis University Mission really speak to the events of the past 12 months and those I anticipate we will experience in the next. Specifically, I want to draw your attention to the following:

The University seeks excellence in the fulfillment of its corporate purposes of teaching, research, health care and service to the community. It is dedicated to leadership in the continuing quest for understanding of God's creation and for the discovery, dissemination and integration of the values, knowledge and skills required to transform society in the spirit of the Gospels.

It is, of course, no secret that the University seeks excellence. I believe that is a characteristic all of us who work and study at SLU share. That phrase alone seems to be the glue that holds all of us together. Yes, each of us has our individual duties and assignments, each of us has our own tasks — teaching, research, health care and service and every other job associated with this great institution. Nevertheless, all of these undertakings ultimately share the same purpose, that of fulfillment.

That fulfillment — that sense of completeness, that utter joy — is often expressed at this time of year through gratitude. Yet, we know that thankfulness is not restricted to the last Thursday in November. Rather, each of us is asked, in all we do, to give thanks — to be thankful for all we have received.

Since we've reached the end of the semester and Christmas fast approaches, now is the time to increase our gratitude for the many gifts and blessings of the past few months. With this thanks also comes resolve — how can we continue to seek excellence in our lives together at SLU? How can we serve the community here on campus and in those places we live? How do we help those we already know and those we have yet to meet?

Those are some of the expectations of our Mission — the opportunities of this Christmas season. We each will develop our own way of meeting these expectations. For me, I know we are on the right path, and I resolve to continue to do my very best to move our University forward and to ensure that we do everything we can to attract an excellent candidate for our new president of a great university.

Having said that, I must thank people who have been extremely helpful to me as I have taken on new responsibilities in this period of transition. In truth, there are few in this world who have more to be grateful than I. My colleagues all over this campus and at SLU Madrid have been wonderfully supportive, and I truly appreciate their work and their dedication. I am fortunate to work with so many wise and passionate colleagues. I am also thankful for the Board members who have put their trust in me, and who have devoted their time, energy and expertise to the business of our University.

I am also very grateful to our students who have entrusted their education to all of us and who have relied on our leadership this year. You are the reason we are here, and for you, we strive to continue to make SLU even better than it already is.

Pope Francis recently told a large group of people at St. Peter's, "You come from many different countries, from different cultural traditions and experiences... Yet tonight we feel we have many things in common among us. We have one in particular: the desire for God." As a descriptor of our SLU community, in this season of gratitude and grace, we can all think of where we are now, where we in our University community are going, what we can do for others this season, and all of those people we wish, and want, and need to thank.

This is the season after all, and what better treasure could anyone receive than the gifts of gratitude, kindness and faith?

So, I ask you to dig deep. Give the gift of yourselves this year. We all will be the better for it.

— William Kauffman, J.D.
Interim President, Saint Louis University

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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