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Priest, Lecturer, Journalist, Composer, Playwright

Honorary Doctor of Literature



More than four hundred years ago, on December 19, 1547, the City Council of Messina in Sicily addressed a letter to Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the recently approved Jesuit Order, urging him to establish a college in Messina. "Our request," the letter said, "is that you send five masters to teach theology, the arts, rhetoric, and grammar ... The city will supply them with food, clothing and a residence suitably furnished. Since the citizens of Messina have considered this proposal in council and have given it their unanimous sanction, you may rest assured that we shall accept the new teachers as fathers and brothers, nor shall we in any way be found wanting in fulfilling the promises we have made above." Five months later, on April 5, 1548, the College of Messina opened its doors. Seventy-five years ago a somewhat similar invitation was addressed to the Jesuits of Missouri by the Most Reverend Caspar Henry Borgess, who was at the time Bishop of Detroit; and on April 5, 1877 Bishop Borgess conveyed to the Fathers of the Society of Jesus in fee simple his Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul on East Jefferson at St. Antoine, with the understanding that they would administer the Cathedral as a parish church and would establish a college. The Detroit College was opened on September 4, 1877, with eighty-four students. Five years later there were 228 students, and last September the University of Detroit enrolled 8,084 students. In this its 75th anniversary year it is fitting that the University of Detroit should state again, briefly, what the aims and principles are which have characterized Jesuit schools and universities ever since the founding of the College of Messina in 1548. The first things to be noted is that the foundation of Jesuit education is a vividly real notion of the nature of man, of the student: that he is uniquely endowed by God with an intelligence and a free will; that therefore it is the primary function of education to help him develop and perfect these two endowments; and that this means helping him to acquire good intellectual and moral habits, and to form sound judgments for himself - ethical, aesthetic, intellectual. The final aim is to Christianize, to supernaturalize. But being by charter and by instinct, so to speak, a missionary Order, the Jesuits, whether in the classrooms of great cities or of far-off pagan villages, have always recognized that you must civilize as well as Christianize; that you must bring human beings to the highest possible development of their individual capacities; must bring them to a human activity directed by the judgment of reason, and illumined by the supernatural light of the example and teaching of Christ. They are well aware, however, that this exacting program of training intellect, will and judgment is hard, even distasteful to human nature. And so they put great reliance on their teachers, whose role is to give this systematic training a humanity and a heart. For it is their belief that the dedicated schoolmaster, be he Jesuit or layman, by the persuasiveness of patience, understanding, sympathy and adaptability; by personal influence, guidance, example and teaching, can inspire the student not merely to tolerate but to want and to welcome the sturdy discipline that leads to greatness. Yet it is often difficult for the young student to visualize just what it is hoped he will become. And so from time to time it is proper for the University of Detroit to single out individual men and women whose lives illustrate what is meant by the achievement of an ideal. Tonight on the occasion of its 75th anniversary year, the University has chosen to be especially bountiful not only in the number of those whom it presents for emulation and for honor, but also in the wide diversity of the vocations in which they have made their dreams come true. I present, Very Reverend President, for the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature: Daniel A. Lord of the Society of Jesus: Priest, lecturer, journalist, composer, playwright, inspiring teacher who has made the Wide Land of America his classroom, and the stage the enchanted playground of youth, who last summer in two short weeks beneath the stars taught Detroit to believe in its own destiny as the City of Freedom. Commencement, University of Detroit, June 11, 1952.

University of Detroit

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