Prior to the Inauguration Mass and Ceremony, the university hosted a panel of Hibbs’ friends and colleagues: “Bound to Truth and Justice: The Calling of a Catholic University Today.” Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville Daniel Flores, BA ’83 MDiv ’87, Princeton University McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Robert P. George, Holy Cross Priest and University of Notre Dame History Professor Father Bill Miscamble, and Managing Director at the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities at the University of Notre Dame Heather Reynolds all gave their thoughts both on the mission of Catholic universities in general and, more specifically, what they hoped Hibbs might accomplish as the ninth president of UD.
“As we know from Scripture and from every good quest story, ordinary folks pursuing ordinary lives often have extraordinary callings thrust upon them. Such is the ordinary and extraordinary story of the University of Dallas.”
— President Hibbs
George noted that there are three primary virtues that the university must nurture. The first is intellectual humility, the knowledge that we can be wrong, so we need to listen and not be so sure that we’re always right. The second is courage and openness to the possibility that we need to change our own minds. The third is a genuine, sincere, deep love of the truth; we mustn’t love our own opinions more than we love truth.
Flores, as an alumnus (and a friend of Hibbs since their time at UD together in the early 1980s), spoke of the Core curriculum, how we go from Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” to the gunshot in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”: from the universal to the particular.
“This can help us keep real,” he said. “You cannot abstract from human flesh, because the Word became flesh. We return to phantasm to verify truth, return to the universal. These are not competitive views of the world; we must go back and forth. This is the way the liberal arts perceive the impact on the human.”
Miscamble emphasized two essential questions: “Who’s teaching?” and “What is taught?” and the necessity of UD remaining true to its dual missions of Catholicism and the liberal arts. Meanwhile, Reynolds elaborated on her work with underprivileged and economically disadvantaged people and how UD might contribute to such endeavors.The Mass, celebrating the Solemnity of All Saints and officiated by the Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas and UD Chancellor the Most Rev. Edward J. Burns, began at 4 p.m. Hibbs delivered his inauguration address subsequent to the celebration of the Eucharist.
“UD education is about introducing students to the great stories, the great debates, the great texts, the great inquiries to which we are heir; it is about discerning our place here and now in relation to the past and as part of a community that stretches from here to eternity,” said Hibbs. “As we know from Scripture and from every good quest story, ordinary folks pursuing ordinary lives often have extraordinary callings thrust upon them. Such is the ordinary and extraordinary story of the University of Dallas.”
At the dinner subsequent to the inauguration ceremony, it was announced that Hibbs and his wife, Stacey, have endowed a scholarship for first-generation students: the President Thomas S. Hibbs and Dr. Stacey Hibbs First-Generation Scholarship.
“We say that our graduates cultivate a lifelong commitment to the pursuit of truth and justice so as to think and act for their own good and the good of their family, community, country and church,” said Trustee Bridgett Wagner, BA ’81. “As a graduate of the University of Dallas, Tom understands this. He and his wife, Dr. Stacey Hibbs, have dedicated their lives to this pursuit … and their careers to ensuring their work and that of those around them is focused on nourishing the soul.”
“The President Thomas S. Hibbs and Dr. Stacey Hibbs First Generation Scholarship will honor Tom’s own path to college as a first-generation student and make a UD education more affordable for first-generation students to come,” added Wagner.
“May I end by asking a favor of each of you on this Feast of All Saints?” said Hibbs at the end of his address. “I implore you to deepen your prayer life, to ask God to bless this university, its staff, its students, its faculty, its alumni and its benefactors. We also need to pray that we are increasingly aware of the many gifts that have been bestowed on us through this great university, and we need to ask God to make us aware of how he is calling each of us to use our gifts to support and advance the good of this community, a community bound to the love of truth and justice.”