10/17/2012 03:21 pm ET Updated Dec 17, 2012

Growth in the Future Requires Having an Appreciation for the Past

Every once in awhile, we have what are termed "eureka" moments. These are moments of exciting insight that seem to happen in a moment and can disappear just as quickly. It is a moment in which you realize or find something very special.

Over the years, I have noticed that tailgating has become a Homecoming tradition on campus -- families, classes and friends gathering to reminisce and indulge in some very tasty food. As I moved from table to table and from alumnus to alumna at the festivities, I had my "eureka" moment. I realized that the history of Benedictine is not a horizontal sequence of events easily captured in a narrative. Rather, its history is a sequence of private snapshots experienced by every person who walked on this campus. I have been the beneficiary, over the years, of literally hundreds of these stories and unique perspectives about this institution.

Traditional approaches to preparing the history of an institution focus on significant events in the life of the institution. On April 1, 1896, with their $6,240 signed deed in hand, the first Benedictine monks had a epiphany that the 104 acres (including cornfields, the Neff farmhouse, all of its furniture, 40 hens and a top buggy) purchased in Lisle, Ill., would transform into something far greater than the sum of its parts. More than a century later, this revelation continues to change lives and the world.

A University's historical events are like road signs that depict the direction one should go. Today Benedictine University and its graduates have not only helped changed for the better their own lives but also the community and the world in which we live.

Though the University has changed dramatically from its humble beginning to now having footholds nationally in Arizona and Illinois, and internationally in Asia, we have a cherished respect for our history and our forefathers, knowing that our current success is best measured against their initial vision.

A University's future success depends on its ability recognize what things from the past must change and what things it must maintain. It's in this recognition we pay homage to those who came before us. The University dedicated its new $2.5 million Neff Welcome Center on October 1 to remember the amazing history of our University, its founders and alumni, and welcome new learners to a tradition of excellence, that reminds us to continually strive to improve ourselves and the world in which we live.