Siena Panel Discusses Recent Inaugural Keynote

anet Gianopoulos Around the Province

LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — Following the recent inauguration of Siena College President Kevin Mullen, OFM, Dr. Tom Dickens, director of the college’s Franciscan Center for Catholic Studies, arranged a faculty and staff follow-up panel discussion on the keynote address which had been delivered by Kenneth Himes, OFM.

On Nov. 2, panel members Kevin Mullen, Dr. Lisa Nevarez, English Department; and Dr. Richard Ognibene, Education Department; discussed Ken’s keynote, especially in the context of how learning is a “feast” of guests that needs to be inclusive of women and men in various fields at the table.

A lively exchange was presented during this interactive event: from the lenses of a president, English literature, education issues, et al, in respect to Francis of Assisi as “a person.” (Ken’s keynote explained that as the distinction of Franciscans, as differentiated from other orders’ traditions)

Looking at “Francis in the classroom” in the early 1970s would bring to mind the way Francis lived his life: as a non-judgmental, responsible teacher. 

After further study, and considering the conceptual framework for Siena College’s recent Middle States review for re-accreditation, it is important to further define Franciscan values, collaborative practice, and academic excellence. The love of all creation is at the heart of a community modeling love, respect, hope, dialogue, and action.

Regarding the Catholic identity, panel discussion participants said that it is important not to ignore religion, within a community of college faculty who are sensitive to be able to fully express who they are and what they believe. Thus, we are open to people of other traditions.

Liberal arts should be transformative, to liberate humankind.

In addition to omitting a fuller representation of women alongside Voltaire and others, the keynote talk put forward the thought that the liberal arts should “enliven the hopes of those who aren’t here.” The keynote stopped short, however, of offering solutions and actions. That will remain the task of the members of the Siena community, as they explore the next steps of beginning again.

Kevin noted  a significant  feature of the inauguration — the affirmation of Catholic principles followed by the bishop referring to the importance of academic freedom. It is a sign of hope, he said, that this occurs in the Diocese of Albany, where Siena College has served for 70 years.

He also noted that Clare of Assisi is an integral part of the Franciscan family, and that scholarship has brought to light much helpful information about Clare for the friars and others. 

Clare brings out the definitiveness of Francis, and she also humanized Francis, as evidenced in Francis’s first-draft rule, and his growth, and the growth of the Franciscan family.

In many fields of study, people at Siena College are learning they can model Franciscan concern and service: be it in liberal arts, science or business.

Both the Oct. 1 keynote address by Kenneth and the inaugural address by Kevin can be read or viewed using the link below. In photo above, Kevin and Kenneth, right, are shown with trustee Robert Cushing at the inauguration.

— Janet Gianopoulos is director of news services at Siena College.