Dear Colleagues, Students, Administrators and Stakeholders at DSPT and GTU,
I am grateful for this chance to bid you farewell. I will be leaving you as of this fall semester after a good twenty years on the DSPT faculty and nearly as long on the GTU Core Doctoral Faculty. I have been asked to serve the next five years as president of the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, the only Catholic University in the German-speaking world. I am looking forward to the new tasks ahead, but it is with regret that I leave behind the many fine colleagues and students and the unique structures and opportunities I have known and been blessed with in Berkeley.
Many great memories remain. There was the chance to try to develop the best of Dominican education and share it with Dominicans and non-Dominicans alike, the chance in particular to engage contemporary problems, concerns, and worries by searching through the history of faith, its theological reflection, its philosophical presuppositions and the successes and failures in the attempts by believers past and present to live and apply it. The writings of St. Thomas Aquinas and of the past and present scholars of his thought provided a very special resource for pursuing this task. There was the constant care and the ongoing life investment of the Western Dominican Province in sponsoring the DSPT. There were the generous members of the staff and faculty who joined the Dominican friars in this common enterprise, together with the school"s many friends, supporters, benefactors, fellows, and board members. And there was the joy of finding each semester new and continuing students, eager and able to look for a future of faith and culture from the memory of suffering and of scholarship.
There was the opportunity to teach with colleagues from throughout the GTU, to know the grace and wisdom of a Tim Lull, a Lew Mudge, a Clare Benedicks Fisher and an Alex Garcia Rivera. There was the chance for a Dominican to teach systematics alongside a Franciscan and a Lutheran, never knowing in advance which majority would form in which session for the discussion of the weekly topic. There was the experience in the CDF of a Jesuit colleague"s bringing to the area meeting a typed bibliography of German literature on Troeltsch to help a Korean Presbyterian get his doctoral proposal approved. There was the invitation by my Jewish colleague to bring my Heidegger class over to her Levinas class, a meeting that surely did not end in fist-fights. There was the chance to team-teach a class at Boalt Hall and argue before tomorrow"s lawyers for the distinction between responsibility and liability. There was the repeated surprise, that shouldn"t have been a surprise any longer, that the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library had just the German articles from 1860 and 1861 that were crucial to my finishing a talk. There was the disappointment, that never really was a disappointment, that Clay Edward Dixon, our acquisitions librarian, was once again faster than I in spotting the must-have new book for the collection. There were times the Dean of Students would call me to tip me off to a doctoral student who needed special attention, or when the Administrative Assistant to the Academic Dean would e-mail me on how better to attend to my own upcoming projects. There was a Ted Peters, who accepted the challenge to an academic debate on ecumenism when I received the Master of Sacred Theology, and there was the give-and-take with the Center for Theology and Natural Science over a prelate"s and a Jesuit priest"s equally controversial statements on evolution. There was the hospitality of the GTU president, dean and staff in hosting the symposium on "Rene Girard and World Religions". And again there were the master"s and doctoral students, several of whom are meanwhile accomplished colleagues, and whose research also taught those who were commissioned to be teaching them.
Then there is that physical setting around the Bay, the natural sacrament of the ocean waters: the peaceful view from Grizzly Peak toward the Farallones, the privilege of attending meetings in the Richard S. Dinner Board Room while gazing out at the Golden Gate. There is the restful view of the City"s high rises when walking out onto the Berkeley pier and the somewhat more anxious view of the numerous Berkeley homes and apartments when walking back. There is the saunter down the hill to the UCB library, the no-doubt deceptive but comfortable sense of self-importance in dining on salmon in the UCB faculty club. And the smells that mix eucalyptus, oak and redwood.
In this physical, cultural, educational and collegial setting, something important has been happening, and I pray that it will continue to do so. I hope that aspects of it will be replicable in Eichstätt. The ability to develop philosophical and theological reflection from out of one"s own proper intellectual and faith traditions, in synchronic and diachronic research, but in the presence of those who do not share the same sources, in a give-and-take with very mixed cultures and faith-traditions, free from homogenization and isolation. This is the institutionalized dialogue of the GTU and its member schools, including the DSPT, for which I am thankful and for which I am hopeful.
Richard Schenk OP, June 2011