After suffering a massive fire in their rental home just before the first week of classes on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 2, University President Mark R. Nemec, Ph.D. and his family continue to be hopeful despite difficult circumstances.
“The outpouring of support and love from on-and-off campus individuals and families has really solidified that this is an amazing community and we are most grateful and blessed to be here,” said Nemec.
“Fairfield is a remarkable institution with tremendous potential for continued growth,” Nemec continued.
Nemec reflected on the fact that the purpose of higher education is to transform lives.
“With this in mind, Fairfield has so much to build upon,” he stated.
After reflecting on the many advantages of Fairfield, Nemec added that his plans include “building upon this potential by continuing to grow our programs and enrollments, innovating in both our teaching and our delivery methods, becoming more globally focused and creating a state-of-the-art campus footprint are all ways we will lead as the modern Jesuit Catholic institution.”
From his experience as the dean of the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies at the University of Chicago, which was his position before his appointment as president of Fairfield, Nemec has formed some opinions on what an institution of higher learning should do.
“While Fairfield has a tremendous legacy that is foundational to who we are, it is essential that we become an institution that combines this legacy with cutting edge thought,” Nemec said. “Second, in order to create a more diverse student population, with a greater national footprint, it will require us to be strategic and intentional.”
On his goals for the future, Nemec commented, “I will continue to emphasize the importance of always striving for excellence and innovation. Institutions cannot remain complacent, it is important to always be thinking about how Fairfield can continue to grow and evolve, to meet the needs of our students in the years to come.”
Nemec highlighted some of the areas he believes it is important to have the highest quality, including the classroom, athletics, theatre, the arts and all extracurricular programs.
On being the first lay president, Nemec said, “I would be remiss if I did not start by noting that Fr. Fitzpatrick (Fairfield’s staff and faculty Chaplin) has noted that while I am the first layperson I am the ninth Ignatian president. Regardless, our core purpose of forming men and women for others remains the same.”
Nemec explained that higher education is currently going through a major transformation, so “for Fairfield, now was the time to make a change because the institution itself will be going through changes as we seek to continue to serve our community.”
Nemec plans for the University leadership team to still embody the Jesuit traditions and roots.
“To be asked to lead any institution of higher learning is an amazing responsibility,” said Nemec, “but to be asked to lead this institution at this time is phenomenal.”