All Colleges Grow From Small Beginnings

Saint Anselm College, 125 years

On his journey in a canoe up the Merrimack River with his brother, Henry David Thoreau took time to ascend Uncanoonuc Mountain which rose then just as it does now above the village of Goffstown. Atop the mountain, which he regarded as “the best point from which to view the valley of the Merrimack,” Thoreau reflected on the truth and love between human beings that “transcends our earthly life and anticipates Heaven for us.  What is this love,” he asked, “that may come right in the middle of a prosaic Goffstown day?”

Fifty years later Bishop Denis Bradley, the son of Irish immigrant laborers in Manchester, reached out in fraternal love and truth to Abbot Hilary Pfraengle, O.S.B., the new Abbot of St. Mary’s Abbey in Newark, New Jersey. He spoke to the newly elected Abbot about his hopes of building a college for the people of his Diocese — a college that the Jesuit educated Bradley had decided should be founded and run by Benedictines:  “I would say,” the young Bishop wrote to Abbot Hilary, “that we ought not wait until we can begin on a grand scale. All colleges grow from small beginnings.”

Bishop Bradley could not possibly imagine when writing those hopeful and pragmatic words that the college he envisioned would have to be built twice. Indeed, had either man foreseen that a horrible fire would leave their new college a “mass of ruins—four broken brick walls inclosing a vast bed of ashes and charred timbers” before a single student had entered the now absent doors; had either of them fully anticipated the enormous heartache, effort and fortitude it would take to make even a modest start at founding this New Hampshire school, they might well have waited until they could “begin on a grand scale.” And given the crippling economic depression that would arrive in the 1890’s and the sudden death of Bishop Bradley in 1903, it is likely that that day would never have come, and that we would not be gathered in this magnificent chapel here this afternoon.

How fortunate for us and for the thousands of people who have learned and taught and worked and had their lives transformed on this campus for the past century and a quarter that these holy and determined men were spared the gift of clairvoyance. How fortunate as well that like the young Henry Thoreau up on the small mountain west of here, these men had a vision and a devotion to love and truth that transcended the struggles of the present day.

125 years later there is a lesson in our founding to be learned by all of us. “All colleges grow from small beginnings.” So too all good and great things “grow from small beginnings.” All enterprises, endeavors and projects that we undertake originate in something as small as an idea. They grow in to a conversation and then maybe something as mundane as a committee meeting; and then maybe, just maybe, our idea, our hope, our dream grows like Bishop Bradley’s did into something “on a grand scale.”

We gather today in academic pageantry having realized so many big dreams that started small in classrooms, meetings and conversations here at Saint Anselm College.  As we move forward with faith in what we may accomplish in our next 125 years, Saint Anselm is blessed to have extremely dedicated faculty and staff who focus on the burning question posed each and every day “Are we doing our best to serve our students?.  We stand strong as a community bound by our traditions yet poised to march forward with great enthusiasm.  Our collective goal is to educate young men and women in the liberal arts by offering them the highest quality experience during their four years on our magnificent campus.  We can accomplish this only if we continue to invest in the future.

The financial position of the college continues to “grow from a small beginning” and we remain cautiously optimistic about the years ahead. Thanks to the Board of Trustees and the senior administration, the college has witnessed a diversified investment strategy, an increase in annual fundraising, and an increase in the size and quality of the freshman class.  The end result has positioned us for continued fiscal strength. I am pleased to announce that our endowment has grown over 50% in the past two and half years, far outpacing market returns, and today stands at over $125 million.

Our alumni and friends continue to generously support the college in many ways.  During numerous visits this past year I have learned about their passion for this place and the students we serve.  I often communicate to donors how important it is to attract and retain our talented faculty who work both inside and outside the classroom with our students.  We have had tremendous early success during a leadership phase of a capital campaign including closing the books on June 30th with the second most successful fundraising year in the history of the college.  It is in that spirit that I am pleased to announce that through a very generous gift from Joe Jean we will begin to develop an endowed chair in history and government.  It is only the second endowed chair at Saint Anselm College.  Further details will be available soon.

Opening Day 2014: Celebrate The Past, Embrace The Future

Saint Anselm College: 125 yearsThe journey began for Saint Benedict when he walked up the hill in Subiaco, Italy seeking a deeper understanding of our loving God. It was in his spirit that the Benedictine monks walked to the top of this magnificent hilltop to found Saint Anselm College 125 years ago. Today we celebrate the past while embracing the future.

When our community last gathered together in May little did we know that two of our students would be called to their eternal rest so soon. Sarah Liamos died 10 days after receiving her diploma and Kayla Bertolami past away this summer, just four months shy of completing her degree. Let us not forget the joy and hope they brought to our campus community. We must find comfort in knowing that their spirits will guide us as we continue the journey of our founders.

Throughout this anniversary year and beyond we must continue to keep the mission of Saint Anselm College alive. Here are a few ways to accomplish this:

Let us begin all meetings and gatherings with a mission moment – a prayer, quiet reflection, or a reading that will allow us as, Saint Benedict says, to listen with the ear of our heart.

Let us respect one another, work collaboratively and always seek to find common ground.

Let us accept the charge of the 125th Anniversary Committee that our community conduct 125,000 acts of kindness. Good deeds that will pay it forward. Service for others, large or small, that will make this world a better place.

And let us give thanks to the monastic community, whose presence is felt here on the hilltop and beyond. They inspire us each and every day.

Today marks the beginning of our academic year and the beginning of our anniversary year. We walk together with great hope and faith in the future.

As President of Saint Anselm College, it is my pleasure to present this year’s recipient of the Father Bernard Holmes Senior Student Award. The award was made possible through the outstanding generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Davison, longtime friends of the College, who established a scholarship endowment in Father Bernard’s name.

According to the wishes of the donors, the purpose of the award is to encourage students to emulate and to carry into their life’s work those personal qualities of heart and mind that were so evident and so admirable in Father Bernard himself and which enabled him for more than fifty years to be a source of inspiration and wise counsel to generations of the Saint Anselm College community.

Students were nominated by full-time faculty, administrators and members of the monastic community. They received letters of support from their peers, wrote a personal essay and participated in an interview. From the many nominations that were reviewed, the selection committee has recommended one senior student as this year’s award recipient.

He will receive a full tuition scholarship for his senior year. Abbot Mark, the Chancellor of the College, joins me in congratulating an English major, and secondary education minor from Salisbury, Massachusetts, Mr. Cameron Wood.

Welcome, Class of 2018!

Members of the Class of 2018, Parents, Relatives & Friends,

Welcome to Saint Anselm College! Today you have experienced a taste of true Anselmian hospitality. There may still be some bags that have to be unpacked and a poster or two to hang on the walls. But savor this moment for you are now a proud member of the Class of 2018.

Dr. DiSalvo joins in the welcoming festivities for the Class of 2018

Your class holds a special distinction as you enter during the 125th anniversary year of Saint Anselm College. Abbot Hilary, the college's first president, welcomed students in front of this very building, Alumni Hall, a building constructed twice because it had been destroyed by fire. During the construction of this very plaza last year, bricks were found from the original structure. It was through the perseverance of the first monastic community that this building was reconstructed using those very same bricks. The college then opened and a legacy began.

Your place in our history should not be taken lightly. When we gather together on Sunday evening to raise your class banner you will officially be inducted into the Class of 2018. At that time you will receive a class pin as a symbol of your Anselmian heritage. At that moment, the 529 bright women and men before me today will become one family, one class, with one mission: to earn a degree at Saint Anselm College by fulfilling all the necessary requirements, and graduate…ON TIME!

This is not an easy task, in fact it is meant to be a challenge. It requires hard work, time management, work-life balance and, like the first monks to arrive here, perseverance. We will work with you to keep you on track, but ultimately it is YOUR responsibility. And parents, we need your help to insure a successful four year journey. Since we are not allowed to share personal information unless students sign a release, you too must ask the necessary questions. Do you have enough credits to graduate on time? Have you taken the required courses? Will we see you walking down this center aisle in four years? Students, we all want you to succeed. If you hit a stumbling block, and most of you will, we are here to help you. DO NOT WAIT until it is too late.

There are three things I would ask you to keep in mind as you begin your academic studies at Saint Anselm College.

The first is Friends. It is critically important that you make at least three close friends this semester. These are friends you can lean on when the going gets tough and celebrate with during the best of times. Friends you can spend time with eating, meeting and greeting. Friends with whom you may play a sport, do community service projects, participate in theater or politics. Friends that will last a lifetime.

The second is Family. Please remember to call home. Or at least send a text message. This newfound freedom is a luxury. Do not forget that your family is always there for you. Time passes quickly, especially in college. Thank your family for all they have done to help you along the path that has led you here today. You must say three simple words to your parents and loved ones. Three words that we sometimes take for granted. Three words that express your deepest gratitude. I Love You.

Finally, there is Faith. Your faith will be strengthened at Saint Anselm College because our community is rooted in our Benedictine tradition. No matter what your religious denomination may be, find a way to strengthen your own spirituality. Make time to attend liturgies. Participate in retreats or community service. Take time for personal reflection.  Treasure the beauty of this campus. Your future will be shaped in large part by the development of your faith.

I look forward to getting to know each of you during the course of the next four years. The Class of 2018 is beginning a journey at Saint Anselm College during a very significant year in our history. And in just four short years we will gather again at this very place to celebrate your commencement. Today I congratulate you on your arrival. You now have 48 months to figure out what is next!

Class of 2018: Welcome and Congratulations. Be active participants in your collegiate experience. And remember those three simple things to treasure: Friends, Family and Faith. Parents and family members, we will see you during family weekend in October. I wish you Godspeed as you return to a quieter home.

May God Bless the Class of 2018. And may His blessings be upon us all as we embark on these next four years together.