In her inaugural address on Friday afternoon, Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney delivered the hard truth about the challenges facing the university while projecting a positive outlook for the future.
Rooney prioritized Loyola’s need to stop relying on increasing tuition to fund the university, retain African-American and Hispanic students to sustain a diverse campus and follow through with Loyola’s Plan 2020.
Rooney opened her speech with a quote by St. Ignatius of Loyola — “Go set the world on fire” — before acknowledging the many challenges facing higher education, and the unique challenges for a Jesuit university. She said the school still has work to do, but she acknowledged the strides made by past administrators in the past decade.
Rooney made “Monday morning” an important theme of her address. “Monday morning,” to Rooney, is when the first day of Loyola’s future begins — an allusion to the immediate start of her administrative efforts.
Refusing to sugarcoat the facts, Rooney warned of the university’s reliance on continually increasing tuition to maintain funding. While she said Loyola is in “enviable” financial stability, her current projection is that — given the current increasing rates for operating costs — expenses will outweigh revenue before the class of 2020 graduates.
Rooney said the school needs to work on increasing funding from other areas, such as donations from benefactors to the university.
Rooney also reaffirmed that while the school should be proud of its effort to promote diversity, Loyola is still lacking in that area. Retention and graduation rates for African-American and Hispanic students need to be improved significantly, according to Rooney.
Diversity, to Rooney, is Loyola’s duty as a Jesuit university.
“[Diversity is] expected of us by our students and required of us by society,” Rooney said.
Rooney said she hoped the Loyola community can continue to work to ensure that Plan 2020 — the school’s five-year plan to build new programs and address the community’s needs — is a success.
She spoke of the university creating an “innovation fund,” meant to fund the ideas of students and faculty to better the university. She recognized the risk involved, but said she saw it as an opportunity to succeed.
“We will experience wild success and abject failure,” Rooney said.
With 22 members of her family in attendance, Rooney could not contain her gratitude for their support.
“[I’m] truly at a loss to express [my gratitude] … Thank you, from the bottom of my heart,” she said, getting a bit choked up.
Gabbi Kramer, 21, is excited for how Rooney — the first non-Jesuit, lay and female president — will be different from her predecessors.
“I’m really excited to see what [Rooney] does, coming from a different perspective,” the junior history major said.
Senior MaGabriela Perez, 23, said she likes a lot of Rooney’s ideas, but worries it might be too big of a load to tackle.
“She [has] many projects, so I’m just wondering if she’s going to make it [happen] or not,” Perez, an international business major, said.
Rooney reminded the audience that while the change starts “on Monday,” the congregation should pause and be mindful of the present.
“In this moment, let us be grateful,” Rooney said.
Despite not being a Jesuit, Rooney still closed her speech on a hopeful note with a quote by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., a former superior general of the Society of Jesus, on the importance of being good.
“What is difficult is to be good in an evil world,” Rooney quoted. “[But] evil is overcome by good … [and] egoism is overcome by generosity.”