December 3, 2012

CHESTNUT HILL, MASS. – Leadership and creativity are crucial to a university establishing and maintaining a distinct identity, the president of Wake Forest University told participants at a Boston College symposium.

"Leadership is critical. To develop anything like a distinct identity will take formative leaders and great creativity. It will not be a natural evolution. It will not just happen," said Nathan Hatch.

He spoke at a symposium on Religion and the Liberal Aims of Higher Education, held as part of Boston College's 150th anniversary celebration.

It addressed the question of what sets religious colleges and universities apart from secular institutions.

In his address, Hatch outlined several points for establishing an institution's distinct religious identity while at the same time addressing the educational needs of a student body that does not always share that identity.

That will be more difficult for Catholic universities and colleges because of the short supply of priests and religious who, in the past, upheld the identities of Catholic institutions, he said.

Hatch said hiring and developing faculty in line with the identity of religiously affiliated colleges and universities must take priority.

He encouraged dedication to diversity on campuses, including tolerance toward conservative-minded individuals.

"Some of the sharpest divisions in our society involve things that most American Catholics have a heavy stake in: the rights of women and the rights of the unborn, the nature of marriage, the priority of free enterprise and of individual rights, and the priority of solidarity in the common good," Hatch said.

Finally, he said religiously affiliated colleges and universities must give students something to believe in.

"In a world that is cynical about the Church and its leadership, we need to show patterns of worship and service that are winsome and life-giving.

"In a world that preaches that the self is the centre of life, we need to show compelling examples that the purpose of life is not to find yourself, but to lose yourself in education, in health reform, in Third-World development, in building businesses and professions that are genuinely for the common good."