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We Are All Founders

September 2, 2018

Seton Hill University is observing its Centennial this year.   Although the origins of “the Hill” date back to 1885, 1918 was the year that it became a college.   Prior to that there were various educational institutions – an academy, junior college, and conservatories of music and art. There have been many events to celebrate this milestone, including the stories of our founders and their history.   However, at our Fall Workshop to open the current semester, the Provost stated, that although we look back to the Sisters of Charity who began the work here, in a sense we are all founders. We all bring our own gifts and talents to further the mission of the University.

This led me to reflect on my own time here and I wonder if this is something that all of us should do at our institutions. It is so easy for us to become isolated and not see ourselves as part of the bigger picture.   Institutions should not be static, but instead should be evolving.

Sr. Francesca Brownlee, a previous directress of Saint Joseph Academy and the “guiding spirit” and tireless foot soldier in the effort to move Seton Hill from secondary school to college, was named dean of the college in 1919, a position in which she served until 1929. Sr. Francesca is widely believed to be the author of an article in the 1919 Seton Hill Bulletin that contains a directive, which became one of the school’s guiding principles:

“If the management of Seton Hill find a way of doing things that is better than their present method they will replace all of that method or any part of it without scruple, for they are bound by no traditions and they fear nothing but God’s disfavor and the closed mind.” Seton Hill Then and Now (1919)

Rather than just furthering the mission of the library, I should want to help shape the future of the entire university. So far, I have been able to do this in several ways:

  1. When choosing committee service, I try to select areas that are not directly related to my position, but which serve the university as a whole. This helps me to be part of the bigger picture.
  2. When participating in program reviews, I don’t just provide information on library resources, but attend all meetings and contribute to other areas of the review.
  3. In addition to the usual LibGuides for patrons, I have created guides on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Catholic Social Teaching, and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. I have also created a private LibGuide for our Board of Trustees. This is helpful because although we are a Catholic institution, many of our students, faculty, and staff are not Catholic. This helps everyone to understand the foundation of our history and mission.

In a more intentional way, I plan to find other means in the future to continue to be a “Founder.” I think that this will also help me to be a better librarian.

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