When Father Phil Boroughs arrived at Holy Cross to assume the College presidency last January, it was a reunion for the two of us. We had lived together in a small community of twelve Jesuits in Chicago during the 1970s, while we were studying for ordination and the priesthood. Needless to say, I was impressed by his generosity in assuming this new responsibility, and delighted to be living in the same community again. The passing of years, I soon noted, has not deprived him of his gifts of wit and insight.
I presided at the Jesuits’ community Mass on January 9, the day he formally assumed office. In the homily, I borrowed an idea from the beautiful opening sentence of Thomas Merton’s autobiography, THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN: “On the ninth day of January 2012, on the day of the full Wolf moon, at a time of political division and economic uncertainty, when the Society of Jesus was approaching the bicentennial of its universal restoration and the campus of The College of the Holy Cross stood snowless in the 169th year since its founding, the torch of leadership was passed from Michael McFarland to Philip Boroughs.” Then I added, “Of course, Phil, that’s only the first sentence. You will have to write the rest of the book.”
The inauguration last month added a wonderful chapter to the “book.” For me the most impressive moments include the Inauguration Mass on September 14, the Feast of the Holy Cross, with a full church, wonderful music, and an inspiring homily from Fr. Paul Harman. our Vice-President for Mission and Identity. For the inauguration itself, all of us in the long academic procession were surprised and delighted by the hundreds of students, all in red inauguration T-shirts, cheering us as we moved up the hill from the staging area in the Hogan Center to the Hart Center for the ceremony. The old Hart Center was resplendent with a new, enormous purple banner with the College logo, hung behind the stage. The speeches, no doubt, will be re-printed and read. Students in my current seminar on the history of Holy Cross were particularly pleased that Fr. Boroughs used a quote from Andrew Delbanco’s new defense of liberal arts education–COLLEGE: WHAT IT WAS, IS, AND SHOULD BE. That book was the first assigned reading in the seminar, and they felt very au courant when the source of the quote was announced. We Jesuits were also pleased that our head cook, Ken McNickles, read the salutation to the new president on behalf of the College employees. We teased him afterwards that he did a better job than Mayor Petty and should consider running for mayor.
Festivities concluded with a wonderful dinner at Kimball Hall. The weather continuing fair and warm, the social hour was held outdoors in the courtyard. Dinner was a wonderful blend of specialties from the Pacific Northwest and New England, reflecting the origins and present progress of the new president.
When Holy Cross formally opened its doors on November 1, 1843, the Jesuits and Bishop Fenwick enjoyed dinner in the still unfinished Fenwick “and saluted the Founder with a good glass of wine.” The latter gesture was repeated at this dinner, too. The rest of the day was far more elaborate, reflecting the priorities enshrined on the Linden Lane Gate by architect Charles Maginnis–one pillar representing the state, one pillar representing the Church, and a decorative arch carrying the emblem of the Jesuits.
Well done, Commencement Planning Committee, well done.