Br. Narciso S. Erguiza FSC
Inaugural Speech on his Installation
In preparation for the Upcoming Centennial Celebration
Greetings in St. La Salle!
Taken from the Old Testament prophet Micah: This is what God asks of you, only this --- to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.
I formally begin my stint as President of De La Salle University on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. And although some consider my acceptance of this new mission as some sort of a crucifixion because of the enormous responsibilities that go with it, I assure you that it was nonetheless a death willingly accepted and embraced. By some sheer coincidence, when Immaculate Conception College –La Salle Ozamiz was elevated to university status as La Salle University, my installation was likewise on Sept. 14, 2006 on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
Someone said that death is the mother of life. Jesus points it more succinctly that “unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Unless we let go of our attachments, we cannot be liberated. Unless we go out of our own comfort zones and take on the bitter pill of discipline, we will never be able to grow. Unless we accept the challenges posed by our changing environment, we will never be able to adapt to new situations. This is the lesson of the glorious cross of Jesus: only if we die will we bear fruit. When the appointment to serve as president reached me, I humbly accepted because as a De La Salle Brother I had made a vow to go wherever I am sent and to do what the society obliges me to do for the purpose of giving a human and Christian education to the young, especially the poor. On that day, I faced “death” and allowed the life-giving mission of the Brothers of the Christian Schools to be the focus of my life. Interestingly, I made my perpetual vows right here in this historic Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament 32 years ago.
I come at a time when we celebrate our hundredth year as an educational institution. Reflecting on this has made me realize that this first Lasallian institution in the Philippines has definitely gone a long way since its establishment in 1911. We celebrate long standing tradition of academic excellence; we celebrate our achievements in serving the nation; we celebrate our social transformative contributions to making the Philippines a better place to live in; we celebrate the many lives touched and we further celebrate because these lives have served as exemplars of quality Lasallian education. Truly, we have every reason to celebrate.
I am quite certain that if the pioneering Brothers were alive today, with pride in their hearts, they would be very happy to see the fruits of their labor. Indeed, through the years, countless Lasallians have walked through the hallowed halls of De La Salle University and have left their lasting imprints.
We have been blessed with presidents who have led this institution to where it is now. Let me just enumerate the past leaders who have made their mark in this university. Those of you present who are as old or older than I am will fondly remember their memories, their presence, their contributions. From way back 1911, Brothers Blimond Pierre, Goslin Camille, Asisclus Michael, Albinus Peter, Celba John, D. Joseph, Marcian James, Flannan Paul, Egbert Xavier, Lucian Athanasius, Anthony Ferdinand, Andelino Manuel, Hyacinth Gabriel, Dennis of Mary, Crescentius Richard, Andrew Gonzalez, Rafael Donato, Rolando Dizon, Carmelita Quebengco, and Armin Luistro. Twenty past presidents who have given life to the spirit of St. La Salle in making education a real source of social transformation all embodied in what is now De La Salle University. As Brother Ricky and I have been given the rare opportunity to serve as Chancellor and President, we feel a sense of Lasallian pride and greatness only because we stand on the shoulders of these great men and woman.
The centennial is an opportune moment for us individually and communally not only to relish our achievements and successes but to reflect on the challenges ahead of us. As we look back at the past and celebrate our achievements, we must also ask ourselves how the future looks for De La Salle University.
A question that has been a few times asked of me here at DLSU after my appointment was: How do you intend to lead the university? What kind of a president will you be? To be forthright about it, I said, Honestly, I don’t know. This established institution has been here for a century. I entered De La Salle University, then De La Salle College, in 1967 as a freshman; and it’s been 43 years since; that’s almost half a century. So, if DLSU now is 100 years old as an institution, and if I were to look at this institution as my 100 year old grandfather, how do you manage or lead your grandfather? Kind of difficult but challenging and exciting, isn’t it?
I started with a prayer asking the Lord that as the newly appointed president, He grants me the grace to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with Him. I have tried, sometimes with some success and at times with a lot of difficulty, to use this prayer as some kind of a personal mantric guide in my spiritual and professional life. I ask your indulgence to reflect with me and allow me to jibe these qualities, these predispositions to the threefold functions of a university --- those of teaching/learning, research/faith and extension/service.
To love Tenderly (Teaching). An educational institution’s reason for being are the very students that it serves. Everything that is done in school is done for and in behalf of the students. Teachers encourage and challenged students so that they can bring out the best in them. The teaching and learning engagement that is established between the teacher and the student is one that is characterized by the teacher’s sincere love and concern for the student. A teacher who does not love his/her students will find teaching a laborious task and unfulfilling drudgery and students, likewise, by some kind of disengagement will find it most difficult to learn. We see indicators of learning effectiveness which can only be a reflection of teaching excellence, as shown for example in passing and topnotching Board exams, testing theories to practical applications, getting hired in jobs applied for, using one’s training and competence to serve others and manifesting signs of life-long learning. What in effect, is my hope as president, is for our faculty to realize that they are involved in a ministry that obliges them to bring about the transformation of the human capital. Loving tenderly is not just a predisposition of the heart but more importantly a disposition of the teacher’s will.
I challenge our faculty to engage our students in teaching-learning processes that bring about long enduring transformation.
To walk humbly (Research). Any university worth its salt must be a research university. The major role of a university is one where knowledge is not just transmitted but where new ones are generated, created and challenged. There are many opportunities where this endeavor can almost become part of the university’s culture. Unfortunately, most universities renege on this function because it is difficult, challenging and capital intensive.
To be a researcher is not just a skill, it is a gift. And it is a gift from God: it is the God who is all knowing who shares the gift to you so that you may acquire the skill to discover, you may acquire the skill to get to know, and thereupon, may have the insight to create and generate new knowledge. And upon discovering new knowledge, sometimes, you could almost act like a god. That is why as a predisposition, I like the imagery of the prophet Micah “walking humbly.” Humility should be a trait of a researcher that brings about the attitude that as one gets to discover and get to know, the more one realizes that one does not know. What a humbling experience! To do research is an exercise in faith and humility.
I challenge our faculty to engage themselves and their students to producing and generating new knowledge so that we can help society solve some of its relevant, current, and urgent concerns.
I challenge our partners in industry, government and non-governmental entities to make our university as your research resource to help in bringing about the desired social transformation that our country badly needs.
To Act Justly (Service). The mark of a truly educated Lasallian in the tradition of academic excellence is service. Our efforts at improving the human capital are not meant for our graduates’ personal gain but meant to instill among our graduates that their purpose is to be a “resource for church and nation.” This is what is inculcated in our graduates: they have been given much, they are endowed with a lot of gifts and talents, they have been trained well, they are very good Christians, they are highly competent and qualified --- all these for a purpose --- for them to give back to society what it justly/rightfully deserves.
I challenge our graduates (who eventually will become our alumni/alumnae) to make themselves academically excellent, highly competent and adequately skilled so that they can become useful and contributing members of society desirous to be at the service of others.
That puts rather simplistically what I see are the functions of a university--- teaching, research, extension --- and how we can, together and by association, managelead the university in the years ahead.
We stand on solid foundation set by the ideals of our Founder, St. John Baptist de La Salle and past Brother presidents and assured only by our faith that surely this must be God’s work.
Knowing how difficult and challenging this could be, I ask the Lord that we, Brother Ricky and I, may be graced with the attitude and predisposition of loving tenderly, acting justly and walking humbly with our God.
Live Jesus in our hearts, Forever.