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March 2012


St. Ambrose will be recognized as a leading Midwestern university rooted in its diocesan heritage and Catholic Intellectual Tradition. Ambrosians are committed to academic excellence, the liberal arts, social justice and service.

This is the fourth issue of Scene in which we continue to "unpack" our university's vision statement to explore the meaning and significance of each of its elements, so that we may understand this vision more wholly, and thus use it more purposefully to guide us in planning for the future. 

From humble beginnings as an academy created by the first bishop of Davenport, St. Ambrose has always welcomed students of all religious faiths, all ethnic backgrounds and all economic circumstances. 

Fully 130 years after Bishop John McMullen's dream began with a first class of 33 students, St. Ambrose holds firm to its distinction as a diocesan university built upon a foundation of faith, learning and justice. Our institutional identity is so deeply informed by our diocesan heritage and mission of enriching lives, you can see it in the actions of our students, faculty, staff and alumni.

But how does a Catholic, diocesan university like St. Ambrose-now one of only 11 in the country-maintain our diocesan character? How do we grow it? 

Perhaps we should look no further than the new center for the study of Saint Ambrose of Milan. It is an initiative that at its core best represents the Catholic Intellectual Tradition that is alive and flourishing at St. Ambrose today. It is a perfect example of professors and students, alumni and scholars, Catholics and non-Catholics, asking a full range of questions, driven by a passionate commitment to pursue the true definition of what it is to be Ambrosian. Together, they are powerfully uncovering a way to live for the betterment of others. 

Consider the life of Saint Ambrose of Milan: Know him and you will find a man at the very heart of our mission-a person who wrestled with intellectual, spiritual, ethical and social issues while also addressing artistic and physical aspects of life. He was an active leader, dedicated to Milan and to his regional diocese, and a driving force behind imperial events. He was, as Rev. Robert "Bud" Grant, PhD, will tell you, both Roman and Catholic.

 "As a diocesan university," Fr. Grant wrote recently, "St. Ambrose offers a unique charism that distinguishes us from secular, non-Catholic and Catholic colleges administered by a religious order today." 

That is the gift of connectedness to our patron saint, a man who simply wanted the best for the people around him. To celebrate his legacy is to live life as both a person of the world and a person of the Church. Saint Ambrose showed us that it is essential for our faith to influence our work, our service, our politics and our social relationships. It is something not just reserved for Sunday mornings, or whenever it is convenient. Rather, it must be something that changes the way we do everything in our lives, everyday.

In other words, it defines our heritage.

—Ted Stephens III '01, '04

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