Ten days ago I sent the letter below to the University News at Dallas. I haven't seen it published yet; maybe they had a stack of better stuff coming in. In any event, I thought I'd share my sentiments here.
In May I will again visit the University of Dallas campus to attend graduation. It has been 11 years since that spring morning when I received my Bachelor of Arts degree, concluding an idyllic season of my life. With the passage of time the memories have lost some of their sharpness, and yet the insights, the vision, the thirst for recovering the great ideas of our civilization remain with me, making themselves apparent nearly every day. Far from fading into the darkness, my UD education continues to grow.
This may seem obvious to those currently steeped in the world of ideas that is the UD campus. It is far less obvious when you consider my present circumstances. Since graduating I have moved more times than I care to count, completed two additional degrees, married, settled into a career, started a family, published a book, and purchased a house. Much of my time is spent washing dishes, changing diapers, folding laundry, or drawing pink puppy dogs for the umpteenth time. But somehow, my UD education, time and again, worms its way back into my life.
One day last year my eye fell upon a copy of Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua on the shelf. (My wife had purchased it for a graduate class that never actually used it.) Although I wrote a paper on Newman for one of Dr. Norris's classes, I was too intimidated by Newman to actually read more than a couple pages. More than a decade later, I righted that shortcoming, and Newman did not disappoint: with every page his erudition and firmness of purpose show through, bathed in the light of eloquence, honesty, and joy.
Earlier this year a coworker mentioned that she was taking a class on the history of political thought and was writing on Aristotle's critiques of Plato. Excited conversation followed and the next day two large volumes came with me to the office, so I could read the Republic and Politics literally side by side. Just the other day a fellow dad mentioned Jean Leclercq's understanding of Benedictine education; that evening I pulled down my collection of essays in honor of the late Fr. Louis J. Lekai, O. Cist. and turned to Leclercq's contribution to that volume.
But these examples may be misleading: they suggest that a UD education is something contained in books and resting on a shelf, to be brought down as a curiosity. It is far more than this. To paraphrase Dr. Frank's introduction to my Phil & Eth class, a UD education is a sense of wonder, a quieting of the mind to focus on the things that matter most, and a relentless determination to seek the Truth, heedless of the cost.
Learning that I have a PhD, people often ask where I received it. Though I valued my doctoral studies, and am happy to share about them, I try to gently turn the conversation from that final degree to my UD education, the foundation that supports all my subsequent work. Whatever I have accomplished as a researcher, analyst, and writer comes from the skills I learned at UD. But even more important, UD nurtured within me the habits and virtues needed to be a citizen, a friend, a father, a husband, and a disciple. These are the things that matter most.
One cannot repay the kind of debt I owe to this school, just as one can never repay parents for their love. But I write to thank the amazing faculty, who taught me, and my fellow students, with whom I lived, studied, worked, and prayed, for four fantastic years. You are some of the most incredible people I have yet met. May God, who has so richly blessed us, continue to pour out his grace on this school and keep its spirit ever strong!