In May, as we approached the back-to-back celebrations of commencement for the Classes of 2021 and 2020, I reflected on how our community triumphed over three distinct yet clearly interconnected challenges we had faced since last spring.
The first was Covid-19, which disrupted our 2020-2021 academic year on the Hilltop. We made it our goal to return to campus last fall and focused energy on how to balance the safety of our community with a robust and rewarding curricular
and co-curricular experience for students. We became skilled at preparing for an unpredictable virus and the issues faced by a congregate-living setting like a college campus. While far from an ideal situation, I believe we navigated the pandemic in a way that could be a case study in crisis management.
Second, many of our students faced financial hardships due to Covid. In response, we created the Anselmian Student Relief Fund to help with basic necessities. More than $92,000 was raised by 624 generous donors, helping 45 students weather the pandemic.
And third, in the days following the death of George Floyd, we watched as our nation confronted the issue of race in America with anger, rhetoric and even violence.
Here at Saint Anselm, we saw this moment as calling us to empathy and action. We believe that the human dignity of all people is foundational to our Catholic and
Benedictine mission and therefore we actively advance the cause of racial equity in society. With this in mind, we as a community responded in a positive manner by creating a number of initiatives to promote dialogue, review curricula and policies, and support our work to make the campus even more inclusive.
Among the many wonderful articles in this issue of Portraits, you will read how we managed campus life during Covid and about one of the many programs launched in response to
my call to action on racial equity. Both are examples of what it means to be Anselmian—helping others and engaging in difficult but vital conversations.
In those days before our commencement weekend, I felt joy for our students and also a sense of victory. We did it!
After 15 difficult months, we were preparing once again to hold large-scale, in-person events. It reminded me how far we had come since the start of the pandemic, and it demonstrated there is little we cannot accomplish when we come together to achieve a common purpose.
Joseph A. Favazza, Ph.D.
Past Letters From the President
So much of the past year has been buffeted by Covid-19, and certainly that is true here on the Hilltop. We have worked hard to reimagine nearly all aspects of campus life and we came together as a community to ensure a safe and rewarding on-campus experience. A tremendous amount of ingenuity, compassion, fortitude and student-centered decision-making went into creating a successful fall semester, and as I write this letter, we are well into our plans for a spring semester that promises to be even better.
As the countdown to Thanksgiving approached, a time when students would be returning home for the winter break, I was struck by how our months-long efforts to confront an unprecedented health crisis were informed by our core principles and our uniquely Anselmian qualities. While Covid-19 has forced us to rethink many things, it also has occasioned reflection about how we carry our mission into the future. Indeed, it has awakened us to how much our mission of community and hospitality, inspired by our Benedictine values, makes us distinctive among institutions of higher education. Yes, we provide a rigorous educational experience, but we do so with care and compassion. Never have care and compassion been needed more than in this moment!
This issue of Portraits is a reflection of our values, as seen through a lifetime of service by Dan Forbes ’81; and through the substantive work on racial equity by the Anselmian Network for Racial Justice; and through the inspiring support by alumni, the college community and friends for our Faith in the Future campaign. Throughout the magazine, you will see that, while life has been disrupted by the pandemic, we have persevered as a family and have even grown stronger in the face of many unique challenges.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to our students, faculty, staff and members of the monastic community for continuing to deliver a transformative curricular and co-curricular experience that is the hallmark of Saint Anselm College. And I sincerely thank all of you for the continued and steadfast support of our mission—today and always.
In this moment of uncertainty, it is reassuring to know that our foundation has remained unshaken. I hope you enjoy this issue of Portraits, which provides a unique window on the Hilltop during this most interesting time.
Joseph A. Favazza, Ph.D.
A year ago, when I first stepped into Alumni Hall as the 11th president of Saint Anselm College, I was eager to embrace the opportunities and challenges that awaited my own freshman year on the Hilltop. As an educator and a lifelong learner, I looked forward to understanding the transformative experience of what was referred to as “being Anselmian.”
And learn, I did. While it certainly was not the year I anticipated—it was not the year anyone could have anticipated, as the world confronted a pandemic the likes of which we have not seen since the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak—I surely discovered what this idea of “being Anselmian” was all about.
When we made the decision in March to cease on-campus classes and activities, the moment was a test of the character and resolve of every student, faculty and staff member, and members of the monastic community, as we pivoted to a remote-learning environment. I am proud to say we met the challenge and emerged as a stronger, smarter and more supportive community.
As for our students, from first years who were just getting their footing, to seniors who faced the disappointment of an abbreviated final semester, their resiliency was nothing short of inspiring.
Meanwhile, many of the Anselmian alumni community continue to serve on the front lines of this global health crisis, working as nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, first responders and nursing home providers. Even more are giving their time and expertise to support those in need, a philanthropic spirit the college experienced firsthand through a tremendous outpouring of financial support for the Anselmian Student Relief Fund and other student-centered causes.
It seems hard to believe we were already having a momentous year at the college, particularly as the first-in-the nation primary season put Saint Anselm in the political spotlight when we hosted the only nationally televised New Hampshire debate on February 7.
Today, as we prepare for a fall semester that promises to be unlike any before, I reflect on the words I shared during my inauguration in October: “We will not limit our challenges out of fear or conflict or timidity; rather, we will challenge our limits by coming together to accomplish the hard but necessary things to keep this college vital for the next generation and the generation after that.”
You may rest assured that we are indeed facing those hard but necessary things to guide us through these challenging times and well beyond.
And we do so as Anselmians. It has been my great pleasure and privilege to become a member of the Saint Anselm family this year, and I so look forward to the years ahead.
Joseph A. Favazza, Ph.D.
The first time my wife Paddy and I visited the Saint Anselm College campus was in the fall of 2009 when our oldest daughter Alina was in her college search process. My memory of this visit is hazy: a very enthusiastic tour guide, the iconic Alumni Hall, and hitting the coffee shop as we departed. But something about the spirit of the place reminded me of my own transformative Catholic and Benedictine undergraduate experience at St. Meinrad College in Indiana. While Alina did not chose Saint Anselm, I never forgot the visit.
Fast forward nearly 10 years later, to spring 2019, when the possibility of coming to Saint Anselm College as the president arose. Honestly, at first I did not give it serious thought, until Paddy said, “What have you got to lose?” So, the next thing we know, we are traveling up from our home in Sharon, Massachusetts, to begin a new life in New Hampshire at one of the most beautiful and inspiring campuses in the country. I am so happy that Saint A’s took a chance on me, on us. We simply have been overwhelmed by the warm and genuine welcome and hospitality that is in the Benedictine DNA of this special place. Saint Anselm has been welcoming and inviting students, faculty, and staff (including presidents) for its entire history. This is why I am thrilled that in just a few short months, a new Welcome Center will open that will serve as the front porch to the college. Our warm welcome won’t change, but it will sure be nice to offer that welcome in an aesthetically beautiful and technologically advanced space.
Since beginning my work in July, I have experienced the rhythm of life on the Hilltop, grounded in the daily cadence of prayer and work of the Benedictine community. While my schedule is packed with meetings, events, and travel to meet our incredible alumni, nothing I do is extraneous to the mission of the college. And because of that, it never (or rarely never!) feels like work. Just having the opportunity to meet with students, faculty, staff, and monks makes it a pleasure to come to campus every day.
Later in this issue you will read about and see images from my inauguration on October 16-17, 2019. It was quite a celebration. I ended my inaugural address with these words: “I leave this thought with you today as we begin this new moment in the history of Saint Anselm College. We will not limit our challenges out of fear or conflict or timidity; rather, we will challenge our limits by coming together to accomplish the hard but necessary things to keep this college vital for the next generation and the generation after that.”
Thank you for your support of Saint Anselm College and I look forward to seeing you on the Hilltop soon.
Joseph A. Favazza, Ph.D.