LATROBE, PA – Father Paul R. Taylor, O.S.B., was inaugurated as the 18th president of Saint Vincent College today (Friday, Nov. 22) during a formal Vespers and Inauguration Ceremony in the historic Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica.
Father Paul officially became president on July 1 following the announcement of his appointment by Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., Chancellor, on June 14 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
The inauguration commenced with a formal academic procession that included students, faculty, administrators, alumni, officials and delegates of colleges and universities and other visiting dignitaries.
During the inaugural portion of the ceremony, Mr. J. Christopher Donahue of Federated Investors, Inc., and Chair of the Board of Directors of Saint Vincent College Corporation, addressed the crowd and read the Inaugural Proclamation.
Donahue noted the myriad of contributions Father Paul has made to the Saint Vincent community during his three decades at the College, speaking of his time as executive vice president and his leadership roles in the offices of Admission and Financial Aid, Student Affairs and Institutional Advancement.
Donahue lauded Father Paul for leading the largest comprehensive campaign in the College’s history, the Forward, Always Forward campaign, which has raised more than $100 million for endowment, renovation and construction, student aid, faculty research and program expansion. Donahue also spoke of the numerous community outreach programs in which Father Paul is involved, as well as his efforts to provide educational opportunities for students of color through the Archabbot’s Minority Scholarship Fund and Usher Scholarship for Students of Color Studying the Sciences, as well as the Mize Scholarship for Native Americans and the Students First Fund, established to provide financial aid for students with need.
“Father Paul,” said Donahue, “a faithful Benedictine monk for 31 years, is a living embodiment of what Catholic, higher education means in our time – a competent integration of faith and reason, expressed in practical service for the betterment of our students, our church and our society.
“The Board of Directors is grateful that Father Paul accepted this responsibility,” continued Donahue, “and we celebrate with him today the ceremonial beginning of his service as president of Saint Vincent College.”
Following Donahue’s proclamation, Archabbot Douglas conferred the Presidential Insignia on Father Paul, who announced his acceptance and gave the Presidential Address.
“As an alumnus of Saint Vincent myself,” he said, “it is an honor to be asked to serve with an outstanding faculty and administration in meeting the challenges before us. Together, we will work to support the mission of Saint Vincent College by preparing our students to meet the challenges and opportunities in creating a world that embraces our deepest ethical and spiritual values.
“None should doubt that these are critical times for colleges and universities,” he said. “We face ever-changing needs for our students and alumni. Making higher education affordable and preparing our graduates for successful careers and lives of meaning and service to others are at the top of the list. With the wisdom and collaboration of a faculty and administration committed to addressing these challenges, together we will overcome these obstacles.”
Father Paul then spoke of the history of education, beginning with the ancient philosophers Aristotle, Socrates and Plato, as well as ancient Egypt’s emphasis on learning and research in the sciences, rabbis and scribes studying Scripture, Saint Benedict preserving the wisdom of ancient texts through the Dark Ages and the formation of universities in Bologna, Salamanca and Paris.
“The cultivation of the life of the mind is a noble pursuit,” he said. “It is indeed a fundamental component of human existence, an irresistible calling which the lure of the material world can never fully suppress.”
Mentioning the emergence of technology that enables immediate access to information, Father Paul cautioned that it carries a danger “that the mind of a great liberal arts institution must avoid. We must never confuse information with wisdom, or more data for deeper truth. It is of the highest priority that Saint Vincent College and her students and faculty pursue the life of the mind with in-depth study of specific academic disciplines in the broader context of study across the classical curriculum of the liberal arts and sciences.
“While this academic pursuit is our primary task,” he continued, “if it were the only component of our mission, our vision would be tragically narrow and our lives less rich. We choose to pursue not only the life of the mind, but life itself. A life of knowledge without the awareness of God and without the personal humility that emboldens a student to stand before the Almighty is a house built on sand. A house of knowledge without humility crumbles when the winds of time and culture wage against it.”
Father Paul concluded by speaking of the emphasis that Saint Vincent College places on community built on trust and belonging.
“Our founder Boniface Wimmer said it best in 1854,” he said, “’To all who knock, the door is opened.’ Remember, Wimmer said ‘all.’ Saint Benedict also said it in his holy Rule, Chapter 53. ‘Welcome all persons as Christ himself.’ At Saint Vincent College, when you walk with us, you belong. Our community is strong. In this world of shattered relationships and fractured society, belonging is a treasure. Our Benedictine, Catholic mission prioritizes the sacred nature of the human person and the importance of connectedness of that person to our community.
“Once you have the foundation of belonging, there are no hurdles too high, no obstacles too big, to keep you from success in this world and eternal happiness in the next. This is the heart of the Saint Vincent difference. We all belong.”
The Most Rev. Edward Malesic, J.C.L., Bishop of Greensburg, presided over vespers and made remarks before offering a final blessing.
Kendra Smithbauer, sophomore marketing major from Saint Marys, provided the scriptural reading of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 12:12-13, 26-27, while prayers of petition included intercessions offered in English by Ishmael A. Solomon, C’15, G’17, assistant director of residence and multicultural student life; in Chinese By Jessica Dong, a junior accounting major from Beijing; in Portuguese by John S. Torres, a Saint Vincent Seminary student from Brazil; in Hungarian by Bertalan P. Papp, a sophomore from Budapest enrolled in the Benedictine Leadership Studies program; and in Spanish by Jacqueline S. Guerra, a sophomore criminology, law and society major from Silver Spring, Maryland.
The Saint Vincent College Singers, directed by Thomas Octave, Saint Vincent College music director and accompanied by organist J. Christopher Paridi, provided the music throughout the Vespers and inauguration ceremony.
Dwight Collins Jr., a freshman communication major from Orlando, Florida, provided sign language interpretation for the audience.
Twenty-five colleges and universities were represented by presidents or delegates in the academic procession including (in order of founding year) Washington & Jefferson College, Franklin & Marshall College, Allegheny College, Geneva College, Saint Francis University, Westminster College, Mount Aloysius College, Edinboro University, Chatham University, Grove City College, Duquesne University, Seton Hill University, Aquinas College, Catholic University of America, College of Saint Elizabeth, Notre Dame College, Mercyhurst University, Carlow University, Fairfield University, Franciscan University of Steubenville, The U.S. Naval Academy, The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. Also present were delegates from the Presidents’ Athletic Conference and the Elk County Catholic School System, while more than 110 additional colleges and universities were represented by letters and citations.