The Catholic University of America

Aug. 25, 2011

President Garvey Tells New Students Virtue is Key to Academic Success

  President John Garvey welcomes new students and their parents to The Catholic University of America at an orientation session Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Edward J. Pryzbyla Center on campus. | View Photo Gallery


Welcoming the Class of 2015 to The Catholic University of America, President John Garvey told this year’s new students that faith and virtue are key to academic success.

“We believe that the work of a university, the search for truth and beauty, is done in the dark if it is not illuminated by the light of faith,” Garvey told new students and their parents who filled the Great Room at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center in one of three orientation sessions on Aug. 25.

“There is no place like this in America,” he said of the nation’s flagship Catholic university which is celebrating its 125th anniversary.

Established in 1887, Catholic University is the only Catholic college in the United States founded by papal decree. But its Catholic identity, Garvey said, is “not just marketing” or “a vestige of our founding” but “integral to who we are.”

The focus on “faith and reason,” he said, contributes “immeasurably to the academic conversation.” Quoting Aristotle, Garvey said, “virtue makes us aim at the right mark.”

Since cultivating virtue is a “collective effort,” he said, communities like Catholic University are critical.

“We acquire virtue by imitation and practice, not just comprehension. It’s more like baseball or telephone manners than geometry.”

To that end, Catholic University does not promote the use of alcohol or other controlled substances or condone violent behavior on campus, he told the students and their parents.

“Temperance matters to us because it is a virtue essential to living a good life – one where we can manage our own desires and subordinate them to more important ends,” he explained.

New students and their parents applaud Garvey at an orientation session. | View Photo Gallery


Also, freshmen are moving into single-sex residence halls this fall as part of a change to Catholic University’s housing policy.

“For us chastity is not a political slogan, a personal choice, or a recommended lifestyle,” Garvey said. “It is a virtue on which Christians build self-understanding, respectful relations, and happy marriages. We want to promote these things.”

Maintaining separate living spaces, he added, “fosters respect between the sexes, and discourages behaviors that undermine it.”

Rick Davis of Seattle, Wash., who attended the talk with his wife, Nancy, and their daughter, incoming freshman and aspiring nurse Bevan Davis, was delighted by Garvey’s focus on cultivating virtue among the young adults.

“I thought it was refreshing!” said the happy father.

Earlier in the day, Garvey and his wife, Jeanne, helped the just-arrived students move into their residence halls on campus.


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