Monday, August 30, 2010

Gonzaga University - Freshman (& Parent) Orientation

Gregg and I spent a long weekend at Gonzage University, walking through the orientation process with David. I am deeply impressed with the professionalism and friendliness of the people we met on campus. I found myself giving thanks to the Lord that David was led to apply (and was accepted) there.
It's a looooong drive from here - over 5 hours. David used the time to do a little bit of reading for pleasure.
We crossed the Columbia River, and miles and miles of prairie.
We had the privilege of visiting with beloved relatives who live in Spokane, and with others who were visiting the city at the same time.
Mary & Kim, our hosts. Mary is a Zag, and she & Kim did some heavy-duty lobbying for David to attend the university she loves!
Doug, Paul, Kristin, Alice and Karl (Doug & Paul are Kim's older brothers. Kristin is Paul's wife, Alice is Doug's wife, and Karl is Kim's son.) Kim's other brother, Scott, was not present, but Alice's brother Brian was, and he brought his beautiful seeing-eye dog, Tiffany, with him. Got all that?
Alice, Brian, Tiffany, David, Karl & Kristin.
Kristin, Alice, Karl, Gregg, David and Mary.
Having family nearby makes us feel even better about David's decision to attend Gonzaga.

As we walked around the campus, I was struck by several banners that hung from lampposts everywhere. Here is what they said:
My colleges did not have banners like that.
We saw well-tended lawns, flowers, statues and beautiful buildings.
This statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits) had the following saying on the back:
We saw Gonzaga's mascot, Spike (the bulldog).
The real bulldog was roaming on a leash with a student, and I must tell you that she licked me. I like that in a dog.

We were greeted by kind, friendly people EVERYWHERE we went. When we drove up to the dorm to move David's things into his room, at least a half-dozen students in matching t-shirts came up to our car and asked how they could help us. David's gear was in his room within 10 minutes - literally. Gregg then moved the car out of the way, and the next wave of freshmen moved in.
 We helped David unload his clothes, set up his printer, assemble his desk chair, stow things under his bed, make the bed, etc., all in the first afternoon. He got his textbooks that same day. Efficient, polite, clean-cut people were all around us. What a great feeling, when you are leaving your only surviving child in a city far from home, to know that he is going to be part of such a good community!

When I went to college, I made some wonderful friends, but I didn't have a feeling of "family" at school. The people at Gonzaga extended that kind of feeling right away, and they have high expectations for learning, service and morality. Cura Personalis is part of the Gonzaga "lingo," and it means "care for the whole person." To quote from the Parent & Family guide: "This is a hallmark of Jesuit education where teachers form personal relationships with students and encourage students to take...initiative and responsibility for learning. This phrase also asserts the dignity of each individual person."
All of the freshmen received this t-shirt:
On the back, it says:
The orientation was planned with a perfect balance of family involvement and independence for the incoming freshman. They gradually separated from us, as we had different activities during the weekend, with time to come together and share what was happening to us. The culmination of the weekend was the Welcome Mass at the Catholic church on campus, St. Aloysius (named for Aloysius Gonzaga). It was a deeply moving experience, a beautiful way to pray for the community, and to begin to "let go" with the ritual of community prayer.
Those Catholics (particularly the Jesuits) have got so many things right! I admire their tradition. For example, one of the priests for whom a dormitory is named was Fr. De Smet:
The Mass was a mass of thanksgiving. The president of the university gave a homily on the subject of humility as Jesus taught it - not something that one necessarily expects to hear on a campus devoted to higher learning, but a refreshing perspective with which to begin one's undergraduate career.
A view of St. Al's.

One of the most powerful images in the service came when a priest invited all of the incoming freshmen (the Class of 2014) to stand in the main aisle of the church. Since the church was built in the form of a cross, the students were standing in that shape in front of us. The priest then asked us to raise our hands in blessing upon them, and we all prayed together for them. It was a deeply moving moment.

The freshmen were dismissed to precede parents and family members out of the sanctuary, and after they had left, another priest addressed us in this way:  "Brothers and sisters, here's the deal..." He told us that he knew that our children are the greatest gifts that God has bestowed upon us, and that it was with great love and effort that we had brought them to this place. He thanked us for trusting the faculty and staff with our children's care, and promised that they would be loved, supported and nurtured at Gonzaga. He said a number of things that helped me. When we walked out of the sanctuary, our freshman were waiting for us, applauding us. Powerful teaching - powerful mentoring - was already beginning at the university.
We have been supporting and preparing David for this day since he started at the Children's Garden Montessori Preschool. He has tremendous gifts and potential, and we are thrilled, excited and happy for him.
God bless you, David! We are proud of you.
Here is the "Mission Statement" from Gonzaga's website.
It's long, but it's worth reading.

"Gonzaga University belongs to a long and distinguished tradition of humanistic, Catholic, and Jesuit education. We, the trustees and regents, faculty, administration and staff of Gonzaga, are committed to preserving and developing that tradition and communicating it to our students and alumni.
As humanistic, we recognize the essential role of human creativity, intelligence, and initiative in the construction of society and culture.
As Catholic, we affirm the heritage which has developed through two thousand years of Christian living, theological reflection, and authentic interpretation.

As Jesuit, we are inspired by the vision of Christ at work in the world, transforming it by His love, and calling men and women to work with Him in loving service of the human community.
All these elements of our tradition come together within the sphere of free intellectual inquiry characteristic of a university. At Gonzaga, this inquiry is primarily focused on Western culture, within which our tradition has developed.
We also believe that a knowledge of traditions and cultures different from our own draws us closer to the human family of which we are a part and makes us more aware of both the possibilities and limitations of our own heritage. Therefore, in addition to our primary emphasis on Western culture, we seek to provide for our students some opportunity to become familiar with a variety of human cultures.
In the light of our own tradition and the variety of human societies, we seek to understand the world we live in. It is a world of great technological progress, scientific complexity and competing ideologies. It offers great possibilities for cooperation and interdependence, but at the same time presents us with the fact of widespread poverty, hunger, injustice, and the prospect of degeneration and destruction.We seek to provide for our students some understanding of contemporary civilization; and we invite them to reflect with us on the problems and possibilities of a scientific age, the ideological differences that separate the peoples of the world, and the rights and responsibilities that come from commitment to a free society. In this way we hope to prepare our students for an enlightened dedication to the Christian ideals of justice and peace.
Our students cannot assimilate the tradition of which Gonzaga is a part nor the variety of human culture, nor can they understand the problems of the world, without the development and discipline of their imagination, intelligence, and moral judgment. Consequently, we are committed at Gonzaga to developing these faculties. And since what is assimilated needs to be communicated if it is to make a difference, we also seek to develop in our students the skills of effective writing and speaking.
We believe that our students, while they are developing general knowledge and skills during their years at Gonzaga, should also attain more specialized competence in at least one discipline or profession.
We hope that the integration of liberal humanistic learning and skills with a specialized competence will enable our graduates to enter creatively, intelligently, and with deep moral conviction into a variety of endeavors, and provide leadership in the arts, the professions, business, and public service.
Through its academic and student life programs, the Gonzaga community encourages its students to develop certain personal qualities: self-knowledge, self-acceptance, a restless curiosity, a desire for truth, a mature concern for others, and a thirst for justice.
Many of our students will find the basis for these qualities in a dynamic Christian faith. Gonzaga tries to provide opportunities for these students to express their faith in a deepening life of prayer, participation in liturgical worship and fidelity to the teachings of the Gospel. Other students will proceed from a non-Christian religious background or from secular philosophic and moral principles.
We hope that all our graduates will live creative, productive, and moral lives, seeking to fulfill their own aspirations and at the same time, actively supporting the aspirations of others by a generous sharing of their gifts."
This is another reason I feel grateful that David is going to continue his education at G.U.


Kay said...

Wow. I'm sure you are overflowing with emotions now. Happy he's in such an amazing place. Sad that this begins a new chapter in your life. Happy he's growing up so wonderfully. Sad that he's growing up so wonderfully. : ) Hugs my friend.

Love seeing the pics. So beautiful.

Stephanie said...

All of those things that you mentioned are why I loved going to Seattle University (another Jesuit school). The Jesuit tradition and it's mission to educate the WHOLE person is really powerful. I know a lot of people who have graduated from Gonzaga, and I know that they are so good to their students. Congrats, David! Praying for you, Truffle. :)

Elizabeth said...

Magnificent. And it sounds like the best of Catholic tradition and Jesuit tradition is followed there --

Karen, this is SO momentous -- how excited and joyful and thankful and drained you must be. I KNOW that your son will thrive in such a wonderful environment. I wish for your own personal thriving as well -- and I pray for peace and rest and fulfillment for you, too!

ChiTown Girl said...

Wow, what a post. I have no idea what came over me, but I was reading and scrolling along, and when I scrolled down to David's preschool picture, I was overcome by emotion and started crying. What the hell?

I can't tell you how thrilled I am for your family that he'll be attending such a wonderful university. What comfort you must be feeling right now about him being so far from home.

Busy Bee Suz said...

This college looks like the perfect mix of education, good values and FUN.
I hope he has a blast and I hope you and Greg are doing well.
You must be thrilled for David, getting this wonderful opportunity.

Robin said...

So happy for all of you. It looks like you had a great time, and any school with a statue of Iggy in the middle is a great kind of place.

Mary Potts said...

Congratulations to all of you as you take this big step together. Yea - we Catholics have some pretty good ideas sometimes!

What a handsome young man David is. I can feel your pride in your words Karen.


Karen said...

What an amazing place. If only every college had such noble, yet grounded, ideals. I want to go there too! I can easily imagine how much you all will be blessed by association in the next four years of having David there. The church service sounds amazing, and so sensitive to the heart of parents, while also modeling for the students gratitude for their privileged opportunity. I am so totally impressed by this place. If you've got to let them go, this is the place to do it. You will definitely sleep easier after that wonderful beginning for your beautiful David.

Allegra Smith said...

"We shall give them roots and wings"
Good job you two! He is well prepared, had plenty of excellent examples from you and Gregg, and now he is about to spread his wings with your support and encouragement. What a gift to have parents like you who have given him deep roots and wide wings. Your post took me back many years to other times and other places, but the emotions were the same. Now, you and Gregg go back yourselves to another version of the newly married nest, never the empty one. Hugs from here.

Anonymous said...

How appropriate that you started this post with a road sign.

Thinking of all of you as you step into this new time.

Much love,

Erin said...

I got teary at your description of the student-formed cross in the chapel and then all of the students applauding their parents. Wow. How moving. Thank you for sharing!

rebecca said...

i feel such wonderment. from your heart to this loving community.
thank you for a glimpse into your right of passage.

yours and your son's.


Dawn ~ BJSMomma said...

What an amazing place. And I know that it helps your heart so much to know that your beloved son is in such a wonderful place! Many blessings to you and your family in this new season of life!


AnnDeO said...

I can understand how you feel. We just took our oldest to University of Montana and it was wonderful to be surrounded by friends and colleagues that will watch out for those "babies" of ours. Such an accomplishment that he is attending Gonzaga (our beloved John Stockton is a Zag) I think I truly know what it means when they say your children are "heart of your heart" You are a sweet girl. God Bless.

deb said...

there is so so much here.

I don't know what to add.
I wish I could give you a hug. Is that weird?

love to you

Daisy said...

(((Karen))) Looks like a great place.


Jason, as himself said...

What a special place. And so beautiful!

So glad that he will have relatives nearby.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to David and to you and Gregg! It's great that you are happy with your first experience of the college. I wrote on the first page of my thesis "Ad majorem Dei gloriam" - to the greater glory of God - my dad (who went to a Jesuit school) used to write AMDG on the front of every school copybook! May David's work at college be for the greater glory of God and give him enthusiasm and a love for learning.