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Liberating the Spirit in Oakland Since 1868 - The Inauguration of William J. Hynes, Ph.D.

The Inauguration of William J. Hynes, Ph.D., as the 17th President of Holy Names University

President Hynes' Inaugural Address

William J. Hynes, PhD, addressing the Holy Names community following his Introduction by Cynthia Canning, SNJM '68, and Investiture by Ronald V. Rosequist, JD, and Jo'Anne DeQuattro, SNJM '66.

Introduction and Investiture of the President

Inaugural Address

William J. Hynes, PhD, President

Read the full text of President Hynes' speech


March 16, 2011

Welcome everyone!

The term inaugural or inauguration commonly means the beginning of something. Hidden in this Latin word is the Roman term “augur” for the person who could read and interpret the auguries – in this case, the patterns of birds flying overhead. Of course, the object was to foretell what was coming. Thus, an inauguration marks not simply the beginning of something, but it takes its name from the auguries themselves – that moment when people try to read where things are headed: “where is this new person going; where is s/he likely to take us; and is it a place that we want to go!?” If we had had an augury today, we might have asked what does it mean to inaugurate a president one day after the Ides of March and the day before St. Patrick’s Day!

American higher education typically inaugurates a new president within a month or two of his/her taking office – a time so early in the person’s new tenure that there has been little time to get to know him or her - so there very well may be a need for auguries to read the future.

But some institutions, such as Holy Names, are now scheduling inaugurations six to eight months after the president has taken office. By that time the new president and the community have begun to take each other’s measure, avoiding altogether the need for any auguries!

By the way, my publisher wishes to thank the HNU community for the slight uptick in sales of my last book – Mythic Trickster Figures – which occurred after the announcement of my appointment last spring. In hindsight, it probably would have been easier to have you just interpret the bird auguries rather than read my book!

Indeed our first seven months together have been a busy time for everyone here, Sisters, students, faculty, staff, alumni, Trustees, Regents, friends and the President, all getting to know each other. We have been aided in this process by the drafting and redrafting, discussing and re-discussing a plan to take us forward, completing our current strategic plan and leading us into another planning process. More on this in a moment.

We at Holy Names University are blessed to be felicitously located at the confluence of rich spiritual, cultural, and altruistic traditions. How did such an exceptional enterprise begin?

One-hundred and forty-three years ago, in 1868, six holy, enterprising, and courageous women, Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary came from Montreal, Canada, boarded the Ocean Queen in New York City, journeyed to the Atlantic side of Panama, travelled by rail to the Pacific side of the isthmus, boarded the Golden Age, and arrived in San Francisco on May 10th. Welcomed by and resting with the Sisters of Mercy in San Francisco, on May 18th, they arrived in Oakland, California, a thriving metropolis of 8,000 people.

Here, on the shores of Lake Merritt, Sister Mary Anthony LaChapelle, the first Superior, all of 21 years of age, and the other five sisters, Sister Mary Salome Martin, Sister Mary Marcelline Bernard, Sister Mary Seraphine Derome, Sister Mary Celestine O’Leary, and Sister Mary Cyrille Metras, moved into their new home. Sister Seraphine recalled “Can you imagine our delight at the beauty of the scene unfolded before us? From snow and ice, to the unfolding of spring. Fragrant with the scent of roses, bathed in sunshine and made joyous with the song of birds.”

That evening, sitting on the floor, because they lacked chairs, this pioneering Holy Names community had had their “first supper of bread, eggs and tea, prepared at the grate in the Community Room.” They celebrated with strawberries with fresh cream provided by their host, Fr. King; and “all felt themselves to be truly in their own home.” As many of you know, the Sisters re-celebrate this moment each May on our Founders Day when they serve strawberries and cream to the entire community …. Of course, now we have chairs.

Over the next 90 years, HNU grew and prospered. By 1957, the students had outgrown the first campus. So the Sisters sold the Lake Merritt property to Henry Kaiser so he might construct the Kaiser Building. This enabled Holy Names to move to a modern campus here in the Oakland hills. In 1971, we went co-educational. And in 2004, we became a university.

Now, over 140 years later, HNU has evolved into a vibrant, co-educational, academic community of over 1,200 students, consisting of more than 700 undergraduates (both traditional and adult) and more than 400 graduate students. Fifty percent of HNU students are the first generation in their families to go to college. Consistently ranked in the top five universities in the west for its diverse student body, HNU empowers this diverse student body for leadership and service in a global setting. We proudly declare that we have been “Liberating the Spirit in Oakland since 1868.”

Let me introduce you to someone whose family is a living embodiment of the Holy Names legacy in Oakland. Carla Kravanas will you stand? Carla is the sixth member of her family to attend Holy Names. Like others in her family, Carla has pursued several degrees from HNU. For her BA, she designed her own joint major in philosophy and political science. At the moment, she is working on her Masters in our Sophia program in Wisdom Literature. This family tradition began with Carla’s Aunt Leontyne Alexender (Miles) who began her studies at the Lake Merritt campus. And Carla and I are proud to announce that the seventh member of her family has just been accepted as a freshman for the fall: Ms. Taylor Austin.

As many of you know Holy Names is a place that I have followed closely since my family first started to live in the East Bay in 1990. What impressed me from the start was this community’s spirit of profound hospitality, diversity and social justice – based upon a deep belief that we are all brothers and sisters under God’s parenthood. Accordingly, I am absolutely delighted to be inaugurated as the 17th President of Holy Names University.

Rooted in three master traditions, the University is committed to the full development of each person’s full potential. In this way each graduate can become not only a whole person but a vital contributor to the common good of the world, the United States, the Bay Area and particularly our front yard, the city of Oakland.

The first of these master traditions centers upon the liberal arts, that is, the arts that mentor and free the human spirit. These include such empowering abilities as critical thinking, empathy, persuasive communication, leadership, and altruism. With the Stoics, we believe that seeking to know the underlying patterns, laws, or logics of such fields of knowledge as literature, philosophy, sociology, psychology, business, nursing, and religious studies, prepares us to use them for good. Critical to this process are teachers who are mentors. The first use of the word mentor comes from Homer’s Odyssey. In Odysseus’ absence, his son Telemachus grows in wisdom and grace, becoming particularly concerned about what he should do about his mother, Penelope, around whom prospective suitors are hovering. Two figures appear to him, Mentor and Mentees, and when they leave he “is filled with the spirit of God and he knows what he must do.” It is then that he discovers that Mentor and Mentees are godly guises of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, crafts, justice and skill.

Forming the second master tradition, Roman Catholicism embraces and celebrates the profound goodness and sacredness of all creation, particularly human beings. Or as St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, and a doctor of the Church put it: “God became human so that humans might become god.” At Holy Names, we revere the divine spark in each of our students and in each of us.

Roman Catholicism also believes that there is a positive and synergistic relationship between the beliefs of faith and the discoveries of reason. Thus, to paraphrase St. Thomas Aquinas there can be no inherent conflict between the beliefs of faith and the discoveries of reason. If there appears to be a conflict, it can only be a temporary one that occurs because either faith or reason, or both are not yet being done properly.

But if we look for models of mentoring, we need to look no farther than Jesus and Mary. What a marvelous mutual mentoring occurred between them. Mother and Son, each leading, each learning, each pulling the other along, heart to heart, hand in hand.

The third master tradition stems from the core values of the Sisters of the Holy Names. This ethos or charism embodies a commitment to liberating the spirit of each person in the HNU family, most especially students, but also everyone who gives such dedicated service here. Recently Rabbi Shelly Waldenberg said to me “Bill it is this very familial quality that is so distinct about HNU. This is the very spirit that is absent in so much of our modern world.”

Here students are liberated and transformed, discovering their brotherhood and sisterhood, gaining cultural competencies that allow them to understand, relate, and work together as teams across our cultural diversity, and most importantly, becoming passionate about working for social justice. Social justice goes beyond acts of charity that help people for the moment and focuses upon the underlying social and economic causes, such as ignorance or social structures that create and perpetuate poverty.

And as for models of mentoring, we need only look to the Foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Names, Blessed Marie Rose Durocher, or to Sister Veronica of the Crucifix who mentored Sister Mary Anthony by letter from Canada, or to the Sisters of Holy Names University, who have mentored each other and with grace and good humor continue to mentor students, faculty, staff, and presidents, nudging us toward enlightenment and love.

Thanks to the energetic and effective leadership of my predecessor, mentor and friend, Sr. Rosemarie Nassif, SSND, this University has made impressive strides with successive years of climbing enrollments, financial stability and fundraising successes. Building upon this solid foundation, Holy Names is well poised to take the steps to achieve its next level of excellence.

As Holy Names plans for growth over the next decade, the University needs to invest in its personnel, programs, facilities and infrastructure. At the same time, to assure our long term viability, HNU must grow its endowment fund to ensure a permanent source of income.

With this in mind, as mentioned earlier, after six months of intensive conversations and consultations about where Holy Names needs to go next, thirteen days ago our Board of Trustees, led by Chairman Ron Rosequist, approved a community-based action plan entitled Next Steps. Today, I am delighted to share with you a summary of the eight initiatives that compose this plan.

One - Gaining Greater Visibility Through Increased Civic Engagement and Community Outreach:

HNU has a visibility challenge. Despite our many successes and our impressive alumni, unlike “Cheers,” the Bay Area is not “a place where everyone knows our name.” Others know our name but have no idea where we are in Oakland.

We propose to gain more visibility not only through improved branding and marketing, but through more concerted, visible civic engagement and community outreach. This intensive effort will begin tomorrow when our students, faculty and staff will have a service day cleaning up Lake Merritt, the place where Holy Names began.

Our plan calls for a wide range of significant actions. For example, we are drafting a system of articulation agreements with local Catholic and public high schools which will assure that if high school students successfully take a prescribed list of courses they can be admitted to Holy Names University or other institutions of higher learning. We are seeking funding for a new Holy Names University Urban Survey Center that will conduct scientific surveys and studies of economic, social and educational issues in Oakland and the Bay Area. We are asking faculty, staff and students to share on our web site the vast array of volunteer work they do in this area. And one final example, building upon our history of economic summits, I am pleased to announce that we will be hosting a series of CEO Breakfasts on campus that will feature prominent business and non-profit leaders sharing their wisdom about innovation, entrepreneurship, and strategic thinking.

Two - Codify Our Student Success Model with First Generation Students and Share it More Widely:

Fifty percent of our students at Holy Names are the first in their family to go to college. Our plan calls for us, as a University, to study our success and to codify this model, add to it, and generally improve it. In this way, not only can we do an even better job with our first generation students, but so we can also share an effective model with others so that they might benefit from it.

For these students to succeed in college, they typically need not only strong financial support, but deeply engaged academic advising, personal tutoring, and other significant community support to develop academic competencies and meta-cognitive skills, that is, learning how to learn. We intend to share our results with others in an annual conference on success with first generation students, professional articles, and a practical handbook for others to use.

Three - Strengthen Our Bilateral Relationship with the Sisters of Holy Names:

It is critical to strengthen our core values and ethos, by renewing and deepening our connections with the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. In consultation with Sisters on the staff and faculty at HNU and other Sisters in this province, we propose a variety of activities and a major endowment fund which can finance these activities on a permanent basis.

These activities include creating a visiting Sister Fellowship that would allow Sisters active elsewhere to be in residence at HNU, creating opportunities for Sisters to address and inform this community, encouraging students and others to consider joining the SNJMs, and fostering partnerships with the Sisters’ Los Gatos community for off-campus programs.

Efforts will be made to educate key HNU constituencies about SNJM values through such efforts as annual symposia on social justice and diversity, orientation for existing and new employees, coffee and lunch discussions of key values, publishing an updated history of HNU, publishing a prayer book of classic and modern prayers, and deepening appreciation of HNU’s social justice engagement. In collaboration with the Province leadership, HNU will sponsor an effort to capture and record the oral history of this University from retired Sisters.

In addition, the campus can be used as a powerful symbol of core values by an increased use of historic photos and religious art, creating a Center for SNJM Spirituality and Applied Values, creating an archive for the oral histories of the Sisters, increasing the use of the web and internet to celebrate HNU, and agreeing that any significant construction will have at least 1% of its budget allocated for focusing on SNJM and HNU heritage.

Four - Increase Our Faculty and Staff Development and Numerical Presence:

The ability of HNU faculty and staff to educate students to become effective agents for social justice, diversity, and equality is a key element for our success. We need to make provision for professional and personal development. Such development insures that people are less likely to burn out or become disengaged, but rather grow in wisdom and grace. A recent HNU survey reveals the nature of the type of development and community which the faculty and staff value. This has been further refined with discussions with both the staff and faculty.

Activities include workshops on essential skills such as conflict management, time management, core values, building community, etc. To establish a permanent source of funding for this effort, a significant endowment is proposed.

There also needs to be a careful addition of staff and faculty. This will have to be done in conjunction and coordination with planned program growth, especially for academic programs, and particularly graduate programs. For example, this fall we will add an undergraduate accounting major, a certificate in vocal pedagogy, and a certificate in trauma and spirituality.

Five - Enhance Our Academic Excellence, Library and Technological Infrastructures:

Academic excellence is directly dependent upon the quality of the faculty. Accordingly, significant additional resources will be devoted to the improvement of teaching as well as to the improvement of scholarly knowledge and research. Thus, HNU will increase the amount of release time for scholarship, support for scholarly travel, and start up funds for new faculty.

Student learning will be enhanced by additional support for Writing Across the Curriculum program, Mathematics competency, the Connections project, Cushing Library and technological infrastructures.

For students and faculty alike, libraries are the second most important facility in the university selection decision process. As the exciting and evolving plans for the Library become more refined, major physical and programmatic improvements will be funded out of operational budget surpluses.

Integrating technology into the educational process and University operations is essential to the growth and continued success of HNU. Current and prospective students as well as faculty and staff expect to have current technology that is highly available and well supported. Most students today expect their classes to be supplemented by online materials. Hybrid classes, those part face-to-face and part distance learning via web conferencing, online, or video conferencing, have been shown to increase student engagement and to improve learning outcomes. Lecture capture, that is, providing digital copies of class lectures, has been shown to increase class attendance.

As we well know, costs of keeping up to date with technology are high. Thus, the Trustees have authorized the commitment of 1% of this year’s tuition raise to fund technology. In addition, we will seek to fund a permanent technology endowment for the continuous improvement of our technology infrastructure.

Six - Strengthen and Expand Our Physical Campus:

The physical core of the campus was built in 1957. Key systems such as the centralized boiler, fire alarms, and other systems function poorly and need to be replaced. In addition, as the recent Ira Fink master plan study pointed out, there is a need for a facility at the front of the campus which could house admissions, marketing, and other offices as a welcome point for visitors and prospective students.

There are inefficiencies associated with having only a single entrance and single exit gate at the front of the campus. HNU needs to create a third gate at the front of the campus to facilitate the automatic entrance for community members. There also needs to be a way-finders map board just inside this entrance and improved signage throughout the campus. Fortunately, two gifts have been received from the Y & H Soda Foundation to underwrite the redesign of the campus entrance.

With the addition of NAIA collegiate athletics and the proposal to join NCAA, the HNU sports programs have exceeded our modest facilities, presenting a critical need for field sports, such as soccer and softball. Currently, these teams need to practice and play their games at other rented facilities often at significant distance from the University. HNU needs to begin finding a permanent home for many of its athletic programs. Initially we propose to purchase some 3+ acres off-campus for one field.

Seven – Expand Our Revenues:

A primary way for Holy Names University to gain more discretionary funds is to increase the annual revenues produced by academic and other programs.

Because of the economic needs of undergraduate students, 50 cents of every tuition dollar is used for financial aid. Graduate students, having completed at least one degree, generally do not need the range of support services associated with first generation undergraduates; thus, beyond faculty costs, the attendant support costs are considerably less. At the same time, HNU needs to be responsive to special needs of certain graduate programs, for example, faculty are finding that some graduate students have significant tutorial needs.

I am asking the faculty that they consider additional graduate programs such as: MA in Social Justice, MA in Social Entrepreneurship, Executive MBA, MBA in Non-Profit Management, MA in Logistics, etc.

A number of new non-credit, but revenue producing programs, could be initiated including a CEO Breakfast, a program of economic education for Oakland families, annual symposia on such topics as Social Justice and Diversity, Certificates in such areas as cultural competency or urban engagement, should also be considered.

Eight - Initiate Our First Comprehensive Campaign for Endowment, Programs and Capital Needs:

Given these initiatives, I am very pleased to announce that the Board of Trustees has approved Holy Names University begin to plan for our first comprehensive campaign. We have had successful capital campaigns before to build or remodel the campus. However, we have never had a comprehensive campaign that includes capital needs, program needs, and endowment.

We believe that endowment will be the greatest portion of this campaign. Why? Because we are intent to create a permanent funding source that will grow over time.

The colleges and universities that generally have the largest endowments in the USA are those which are Protestant or were formerly Protestant. Many of these like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Williams began in the 1600s or 1700s. Early on their founders saw that endowments were the only way they could afford to educate students. For centuries, Catholic institutions could survive without an economic endowment because they had human endowment, large religious orders. After Vatican II, when the size of religious orders began to decrease, Catholic institutions began to employ lay teachers at market prices, and soon discovered the need for economic endowments.

We are currently beginning to consult with our friends and supporters regarding the size and shape of our comprehensive campaign. We want always to temper our dreams with reality. We are counting on your advice, counsel, and support in the months ahead.


We are committing ourselves to these initiatives so that Holy Names can fulfill our most fundamental commitment: to free the human spirit in a familial context, empower graduates to work for the common good, and to create other places where other people and communities can come fully alive as the HNU community!

In this way, with God’s grace and your support, we can all insure that HNU will be able to continue to liberate the spirit in Oakland and the world for generations to come!

At the reception I hope you have a few minutes to view a short iMovie that provides an overview of the history of our Holy Names’ commitment to the common good and social justice. I would also urge you to find a way to help support our suffering Japanese sisters and brothers devastated by earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear disasters

Thank you!

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