Guest column/Teaching strength of character still calling
What’s in a name?
It’s been more than 400 years since Juliet first asked this question of Romeo, but even in 2019 it seems as though we still don’t have a clear answer.
This summer, after a series of changes at the academic and administrative levels, Wheeling Jesuit University was renamed as Wheeling University. Yet, while we may have a new name, Wheeling University continues to embody the same founding values and academic principles that have guided our institution since its inception in 1954.
It all starts with our foundational mission. Despite the absence of an official Jesuit affiliation in our title, Wheeling University remains the only Catholic university in West Virginia. This designation is both a great honor and an important responsibility that we proudly continue. Our name may have changed, but our longstanding values of faith, service and kindness, as well as our commitment to providing a robust education founded in the liberal arts for students of all creeds, have not.
Our roots of service to the people of West Virginia were planted by the founders of our university more than half a century ago. Today, its branches grow strong and wide throughout our community. You can see Wheeling University’s continued dedication to service in many of the programs led by our faculty and staff, and in the good works of our students and alumni.
For example, our clinical associate professor Carrie Abraham oversees a free clinic that provides physical therapy services to the members of our community who cannot afford traditional health care solutions. Or consider assistant professor Jane Neuenschwander’s weekly outreach with our prison community, in which Wheeling University students have the opportunity to share their grace and kindness with our neighbors who need it most.
Likewise, the same founding principles of curiosity, creativity, rigorous scientific inquiry and collaborative self-expression that have inspired generations of our university’s alumni are alive and well throughout our curriculum.
This year, our students are deeply invested in a wide variety of studies ranging from business, education and nursing to criminal justice, psychology and engineering. Yet, 60 years ago, few of these programs were offered at WJU because our region’s academic and employment needs were very different — as they also will be 60 years from now.
While our course offerings will continue to evolve with the needs of America’s work force, our academic core will always strive to deliver the crucial and creative lessons that enable our students to become critical thinkers, clear communicators and creative problem-solvers. Thanks to the practical lessons of our core curriculum and the lessons in faith that are derived from their devotion to service, Wheeling University students are well-prepared for rewarding careers, no matter their field of expertise-and no matter what name our institution operates under.
By now, I hope you’ve come to the same realization that Juliet did centuries ago, which is just one of the many enduring and enriching life lessons that a liberal arts education provides. As Shakespeare knew, it’s not our names that define us, but our character.
At Wheeling University, teaching strength of character will always be our calling.
(Favede is the president of Wheeling Jesuit University.)