On Tuesday, Nov. 19, several members of the university community, including former students and colleagues of the late Classics Department founder Father Placid L. Csizmazia, O. Cist., gathered to celebrate the $50,000 endowment by an anonymous donor of the Father Placid L. Csizmazia, O. Cist., Memorial Scholarship in Classics, which will benefit classics majors at the University of Dallas.
President Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D., BA ’82 MA ’83, welcomed everyone to the event by remarking upon the long-term relationship between the Cistercian Order and the university: “This is one of those archetypal University of Dallas moments honoring a longtime collaboration since the founding with the Cistercian Order, and honoring one of the great, legendary teachers in it.”
Hibbs discussed the importance of having a tradition of education to hand down to the next generation, so they can take this tradition and decide for themselves how they might want to change it; Hannah Arendt, he explained, talks about this in her book of essays Between Past and Future: “The next generation can do new things. Education must be traditional. And she says that to avoid making choices about what we think is important in handing on to the next generation is simply to abdicate our role as adults and educators with young people. It's in fact … a form of child abandonment. The University of Dallas has always understood this truth about education, that we are making important choices for what we want handed on to the next generation.”
Father Placid, said Hibbs, was one of those educators who engaged faithfully and determinedly in this necessary work, and in honoring and remembering him, we help ensure that the legacy he left will be passed along to future students — that it will be part of a tradition that they, too, inherit.
“Today, we don't have our donor here because our donor wants to remain anonymous,” said Hibbs. “But suffice it to say that this is a donor who has been shaped by a University of Dallas education and wants to help ensure that the past she experienced will be handed on into the future to students at the University of Dallas for generations to come. So we express, as we do always for our donors, enormous gratitude for what they have given us, and what they allow us to continue doing here, so that this remarkable institution and the education that we offer can continue to shape young souls.”
He recalled his own time as a student of Father Placid, who he said tried desperately to teach him Greek.
“What a remarkable teacher and priest he was,” said Hibbs. “He graced every room he was in with a kind and gentle authority. I'm particularly grateful, having profited from Father Placid's teaching and his holiness in our presence, to be able to mark this day and to welcome you all to this great moment in the history of this fine university.”
“I wish we could name the donor and thank her publicly,” said Chair and Associate Professor of Classics David Sweet, Ph.D. “It's a great pleasure and a great honor to be able to celebrate the memory of Father Placid Csizmazia in the way we do today by announcing the formation of this fund that will award scholarships in his name to outstanding classics students of whom I'm glad to say we have had and will have many.”
Sweet, who was the third professor to join the Classics Department, worked with Father Placid for many years. He recalls Father Placid’s propensity for building relationships: ”I could not count all the students he had a profound influence upon and with whom he kept in touch. Year after year, following their careers, their growing families; every year as Christmas approached, the departmental mailbox he had would be full to bursting with cards and letters from his former students, thanking him for his many gifts to them.”
If a student did not show up for class, Father Placid would seek out that student in their residence hall, and without fail, that student would return the next class.
“As a teacher, he was without parallel. From nothing, he made the Classics Department one of the best undergraduate departments in the country,” added Sweet.
“More than being a man dedicated his studies, dedicated to teaching, Father Placid was a man all about relationships,” said Our Lady of Dallas Abbot Peter Verhalen, O. Cist., BA '77 MA '81. “Father Placid was all about not just learning, but also about relationships, relationships that are formed by building institutions, whether it's building the Order in Hungary, to teaching novices underground, to building the Cistercian Prep School. But it was all about the individual and building the relationship and leading that person with whom he's relating into a relationship with God. And so Father Placid in my mind, was not just the student, not just the friend, but he was always the man at prayer.”
“I thank you very much for this scholarship, in his memory, in his name,” added Abbot Peter. “I would hope that not just the University of Dallas, but we monks can learn from this scholarship, be reminded by this scholarship to keep the spirit of Father Placid alive in our own lives. And so thank you very much.”
To give to the Father Placid L. Csizmazia, O. Cist., Memorial Scholarship in Classics, please visit our existing endowed scholarships page. To create your own endowed scholarship, please contact Jason Wu Trujillo, Vice President for University Advancement, at email@example.com or 972-800-0927.