Bro. Bernard Ploeger, SM
Ninth President, Chaminade University
Good Afternoon and a Very warm Aloha.
Members of the Stage Party, Distinguished Guests, students, faculty, staff, Regents, Governors, family, Marianists and friends.
I am greatly honored by and deeply appreciative of the presence of each of you and in today’s celebrations. I am most grateful for all the words of support and affection that you have offered to me and your best wishes for the entire Chaminade ohana.
Thank you very much.
As I prepared these remarks, there were things that gave me pause:
It is from reflecting on her gifts to me and to the Chaminade community that I would like to draw the theme for my remarks. Some of her gifts were, of course, singular to her as a person. One, though, which I would call “creative imagination”, is a work of leadership that I believe we all share.
These thoughts began to take shape as I interviewed for the Presidency. I considered what I thought would be the most difficult questions posed. As it turned out, my top question was not asked – or at least not asked of me – “Bro. Bernie you’ve been here for eight years and for the six years prior as a Regent and close advisor, isn’t it time to get some new ideas into the mix?”
An amazing capacity that we each have is the ability to imagine things being other than they are. Such imaginings are the basis of the delight of works of art, say Alice in Wonderland. But they may be as well a source of energy to realize a goal, say, landing on the moon in a decade. In speaking of “creative” imagination I mean it in the second sense – there is a way in which one cannot achieve a desired future until one has the ability to imagine it.
Imagination is an aptitude that we all share. Over the coming months and years I will be asking you how you imagine Chaminade. While I, too, have imaginings for Chaminade that I will continue to share, I believe that it is equally important for me to solicit your images, how you articulate them and then allow them to be in dialogue with each other. Perhaps most important, is for me to maintain an appropriate level of impatience to address the gap between how we are and how we have imagined ourselves to be.
Through prior work of collective creative imagination, the Chaminade community has undergone a Transformation. I believe that in a real way one can say that for many of our stakeholders working with Chaminade is now a part of their imaginings for the future:
In many ways the highest compliment that Chaminade can be paid is for someone to say “I can’t imagine a future without Chaminade a part of it.”
I’ve spoken of our partners first since for many of you this may be your primary means of knowing Chaminade. Equally important, our Transformation has:
In John’s Gospel, Chapter One we read:
“In the beginning was the Word,
And the Word was with God,
And the Word was God.
All things came into being through him.”
In the Christian tradition, we believe that Jesus as Son of God is the creative Word which animates each of us. From this, Chaminade University’s motto is taken: Life in the Word. In the context of these remarks, Jesus is the creative imagination in which we all share and the love through which we have all been called into being. The great privilege of being an educator is the possibility of participating in students’ realization of their individual creative imagination.
The request that I make of you to fully engage in the work of creative imagination on behalf of Chaminade, or, as our Strategic Plan phrases it “To Live Fully Our Transformation” is a joy-filled invitation. But, though it is a joy, at the same time, it is a difficult challenge.
In one of the most famous passages of the Hebrew Scriptures, (Deut. 30), Moses is presented as encouraging the Israelites “to choose life”: “Today I am giving you a choice. You can choose life and success or death and disaster.” While it may seem that there is no choice – who would not choose life? – we know from reflection on our own journeys that this must be, in fact, a daily choice. To make this choice is to make demanding commitments and persevere in them. Such commitments, fortunately, are also corporate, and we are able to draw strength and support from the members of our community and those who have gone before us such as President Sue. Great works of creative imagination await us, works on behalf of God’s people.
Again, I am very honored by the confidence you have placed in me and all the expressions of affection and support. A special thank you to the Inauguration Committee led by Kitty Wo and Grissel Benetiz-Hodge and all the others who have contributed to the beauty and joy of our celebrations.
By happy coincidence, the Board’s meeting to elect a President was held March 19, the feast of St. Joseph. As you recall, Joseph (along with his namesake, Joseph son of Jacob) was attentive to dreams. As husband and provider for Mary, Joseph has a special place of honor with the Marianists. We see the service of leadership an extension of Joseph’s role in supporting Mary as she brought Jesus into the world.
In this spirit I would like to conclude with a blessing that I ask you to pray for me, the Chaminade community, as well as for one another. “May God bring to completion the good work He has imagined for us.”