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Principal’s Report 2012

Principal David Sylvester strolls through the King’s campus with students Janine Melo and Erika Lange.


The Catholic Intellectual Tradition Contemporary universities worldwide claim a direct connection to medieval institutions that were founded ‘from the heart of the Church’1 and mirror in form and function their precursors. Almost a thousand years later and still recognizable in universities are the disciplinary faculties, the role of professors, and even the types of degrees conferred upon graduating students. Not all universities, however, still celebrate a link to the canon of knowledge commonly described as the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. This rich repository of learning is rooted in writings of classical Greek and Roman thinkers, shaped by Judaic and Islamic wisdom, and characterized by a legion of philosophers, playwrights, theologians, political theorists, activists, and historians, but which includes the likes of Thomas Aquinas and Dorothy Day, the Venerable Bede and Flannery O’Connor. This Catholic Intellectual Tradition is, in reality, a two-thousand year conversation that continues today and seeks to understand the relationship between humanity and the world and that searches for meaning in our lives. It is a tradition that has been at the forefront of the great scientific discoveries in history, but which also explores and tries to answer the transcendent questions humans confront, such as ‘does God exist?’ and ‘what is the nature of good and evil?’ The Catholic Intellectual Tradition is foundational to the course of study at Catholic universities around the globe, and is alive and well here at King’s. Ex corde ecclesiae (ECE) is Latin (from the heart of the Church) and is the title of the Vatican’s Constitution on Catholic Higher Education. 1

Graham Broad, Assistant Professor of History, discusses the recently restored Graduale Romanum with students Emily Robinson, Montana Woodhouse and Philip Palmer in the Eaton Special Collections Room located in the Cardinal Carter Library.

King’s University College was established in 1954 as Christ the King College. Though much has changed over the last six decades, King’s continues to celebrate its founding mission as a Catholic university college open to all and committed to the creation of a vital academic community animated by a Christian love of learning and the pursuit of truth. The College fosters an environment based on open inquiry, Christian values and service to the larger community. Our goal is to be the finest Catholic institution of higher learning in Canada. (King’s, Vision, Values & Learning)


Keeping faith with the past with eyes (and minds) on the future What does it mean to be a Catholic university in this day and age? The Catholic university remains academically significant because it is a place that consciously cultivates an education linking the best of what we have learned in the West in conversation with the Rest (to paraphrase Niall Ferguson) with what is yet to be discovered. Far from antiquated or dated, the wisdom of the great minds of the past can speak to issues of our day and offer an invaluable point of departure for current students and future leaders. In other words, a Catholic university education does indeed look to the past, but its eyes are focused squarely on the future. Moreover, Catholic universities embrace essential principles that position students and faculty to transcend this historical content to take up the big questions of our own day and tomorrow. Let me name just three ingredients that I believe are essential to Catholic university education: TRUTH IN ALL THINGS: The very DNA of an institution like King’s requires it to be more than a place to acquire job skills and training. Ex corde ecclesiae1, says it best, “It is the honour and responsibility of a Catholic university to consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth.” (ECE, 4) All faculty and all students, in all disciplines, are challenged to make this their goal, to seek truth in whatever subject they choose to study. This commitment to seek the truth in all things is why Catholic universities like King’s are unreservedly committed to the principle of academic freedom; it is the cornerstone of the serious questioning that must take place on a university campus. DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON: A Catholic university begins with a foundational understanding that human beings are inherently worth something. This starting point has profound implications for how we approach research questions and the types of programs we offer – at King’s, think Social Work, Childhood and Social Institutions, and Thanatology (Grief & Bereavement), but also Philosophy, Literature, and, yes, Business. This respect for the human person is also behind an institutional commitment to diversity, to accessibility, to social justice, and to building up the common good. It is also why Catholic universities like King’s have been leaders in service learning and outreach programs, which connect the classroom with communities in greatest need. All members of the Catholic university community are continually challenged to build professional and personal relationships based on integrity and respect. 4

One of the greatest qualities of King’s is the nature of this community that has been built over many decades. INTEGRATION OF KNOWLEDGE: Catholic universities around the world are known for their excellent interdisciplinary programs, notably in the humanities and sciences. Such programs are informed by the two principles mentioned above. People are not the sum of their parts, but whole individuals. Truth is not the reserve of any particular subject area, but rather can be discovered through different courses of study. Put these ideas together and you have an education program – Catholic higher education – that breaks down the walls between disciplines in order to achieve a deeper, more holistic understanding. History, psychology, sociology, mathematics, and so on shed light on a subject or problem in their own way. Bring these disciplines into dialogue and together they can inform each other and, ultimately, provide greater knowledge and even wisdom. An educated

woman and man is one that can participate in this wide-

prayer. Ethics should hold a place of pride in every Catholic

ranging conversation, mastering a particular subject, but also appreciating how other scholars approach problems.

university, as it continues to do so here at King’s.

Finally, there is a dimension to a Catholic higher education that we cannot ignore and that makes it arguably the most relevant and appropriate education available today. I don’t need to convince you that we need ethical leaders today, whether in business, politics, education, or in our neighbourhood associations. Catholic universities do not shy away from the proposal that they are called to help shape the character of their students; it is all about the formation of the whole person, after all. This education includes the intellectual, spiritual, physical and moral aspects of the young people who come to campus. It is not a doctrinal exercise where students are told how to behave, but an invitation to reflect upon the ethical and moral implication of actions and ideas, through study, reflection, action, and even

For these reasons, King’s University College is pleased to call itself a Catholic university. We believe that it is our Catholic character that provides us with an inside advantage on educating intelligent, reflective, courageous and compassionate graduates: young women and men who are not only prepared to achieve academically and find meaningful employment, but who are not afraid to take on the difficult challenges offered up by an increasingly complex world.

Dr. David Sylvester principal king’s university college


Catholic Intellectual Tradition  
Catholic Intellectual Tradition