As I assume my responsibilities as Siena College's 12th President today, I am very conscious of the significant challenges we face as an institution that educates and inspires students to create a more just, peaceful and humane world. The coronavirus pandemic continues to claim the lives and threaten the livelihoods of people in communities across America and around the world. These disturbing developments visit us at a time when the bonds of political and social cohesion in our country have been weakened in ways not seen since the Civil War. We are a country deeply divided, disillusioned, and angry, wondering if the aspirational promises expressed in our Declaration of Independence will ever be fully realized and whether we truly are a Republic committed to the principle of “liberty and justice for all.”
Franciscans are made for moments like these – we lean into challenges.
I'm deeply grateful for my own Siena College undergraduate experience and I am humbled and incredibly excited to help lead our beloved institution to new heights. During my transition, I have witnessed our community in action; we are already rising to answer this critical call. I firmly believe Siena's best days are ahead – we will not only survive, we will flourish. As we go forward to overcome our current existential threats and help lead our country to higher planes of justice, including racial justice, we take inspiration from the past.
Over 800 years ago, Saint Francis of Assisi made a choice. Born into a wealthy family and high station in life, but in the midst of personal depression, Francis decided to forgo the privileged life of a nobleman to follow the Lord. Early on in his calling, against the advice of many, Francis walked and worked among the lepers, committing himself to their physical and spiritual healing. Francis' life's work was responsive to the needs of his time, but also innovative. Ultimately, he improved the lives of many and made the world a better place. He continues to serve as a sterling example of how one person can make a difference.
Inspired by Saint Francis, we must rise to this moment; summon the courage to face our own formidable challenges and find ways to bring our communities together and heal. At Siena, we must carry forth with unshakeable resolve and clarity of purpose: to educate and mentor high quality graduates, empowered with the Franciscan spirit and prepared to lead in their chosen fields.
Our greatest strength is our people – we embody the mission of Siena College. Working together, as one community, we will reach our God-given potential. I thank Dr. Margaret Madden for her steady leadership over the past year as we carry on the legacy of our 11th President, Br. Ed Coughlin, O.F.M. I look forward to working with Dr. Madden in her new role as Siena’s first Provost and Senior Vice President.
In the years to come, we will take our mission and Franciscan approach to a broader audience and to national prominence. Our country needs this, now more than ever. The world needs more Saints – more Siena Saints. As Francis beckons: Let us begin again.
May the Lord's peace and goodness be with you.
Christopher P. Gibson, Ph.D.
12th President, Siena College