I have had the good fortune to work and study at a number of fine colleges and universities. Each of them describes itself as a close and caring community. And all of them are. But the authenticity that permeates the Iona community is unparalleled. This authenticity is manifest in the welcome extended to everyone who visits, studies, or works at Iona and the genuineness with which colleagues, friends, and strangers interact. The values that define the Iona community—sincerity, care, courage, hospitality—are deep. From what I can tell, this depth arises from the quality of our people joined with the lineage of the Christian Brothers and their founder, Blessed Edmund Rice.
Br. Rice combined courage, care and vision to blaze a new path to educate poor, disenfranchised Irish children in the early 19th century. He knew that education was essential if the young were going to liberate themselves from the constraints of oppressive laws and social mores. Since then, his vision has spread across the world. It is concentrated in a powerful way at Iona.
Fifty years ago, Iona College took a decisive step toward overthrowing restrictive social mores by welcoming its first class of women, a milestone
we celebrate throughout this academic year. Over the past five decades, our campus has been transformed by the presence of women. These graduates have used their education to forge new paths as leaders in business and politics, education and the law, science and the arts, as well as ensuring the nurturing of families and fostering the civic life of so many communities. They harnessed the learning they garnered at Iona to address the challenges of their time.
The challenges our students face today manifest under a different guise than those of 19th century Ireland or 20th century America. Our students face the uncertainty of an economy being overhauled by the digital revolution, the climate crisis, gun violence, and the denigration of religion as a reliable source of value and meaning. On the surface, these challenges are different from those of Br. Rice’s students or the first Iona women. Yet, the uncertainty our students face renders them just as vulnerable as their predecessors.
The work of Iona College, therefore, has never been more important. To prepare our students for the emerging economy and ensure they acquire the freedom to make a difference that only a liberal arts education can provide, we need to continually strengthen our community by carrying forward the values of the Christian Brothers. At the same time,
we will look to the example of Blessed Edmund Rice and our pioneering women to pursue a visionary and innovative path that establishes Iona as a standard-bearer for 21st century education.
I look forward to working with our Board of Trustees, alumni, faculty, staff and students to craft this vision and put it to work for our students.
Seamus Carey, Ph.D.