Duquesne president outlines university's commitments

"There will be moments when concerns that are especially Catholic will have to dominate ..."

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The president of Duquesne University on Thursday outlined his school's aspirations in teaching, research and other areas and said the school is an inclusive community that must be mindful of its Catholic traditions.

Charles Dougherty's fall convocation address to more than 500 people inside the school's student union was his 10th as president. He delivered the remarks roughly two weeks into the semester.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Dr. Dougherty joined a chorus critical of a Florida pastor's plan to burn the Muslim holy book, the Quran. The burning was later suspended amid growing pressure from religious groups, government officials and others.

Dr. Dougherty called the planned burning "hateful" and a perversion of the principles of Christianity. "It's very unsettling," he said. "It has echoes of Nazi burning of books."

Dr. Dougherty also told reporters that the school, with an enrollment of approximately 10,400 students, now has raised $104 million toward its $150 million fundraising campaign goal.

In his speech, the president outlined six attributes: the school's efforts toward a community of accountability, concern for others, academic excellence, national standards, spirituality and distinction. His speech in part was an expansion of a recent update to the school's strategic plan that calls for, among other things, greater emphasis on graduate education.

In regard to spirituality, Dr. Dougherty said Duquesne is open to people from many different faiths, as well as those who do not identify with a religion. At the same time, he noted the school's core religious faith as Catholic.

"There will be moments when concerns that are especially Catholic will have to dominate -- in health care coverage, in some hiring, in the curriculum, for example," he said.

"It means that we are institutionally committed to respect for human life and human dignity everywhere."

He talked about striving for programmatic excellence. He made reference to his decision to discontinue men's swimming, golf, wrestling and baseball programs.

"Sometimes when excellence is genuinely impossible, ending a program is the honest answer," he said. "We faced this directly last year in athletics."

Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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