Creating Great Men
All institutions, public and private, could benefit from a diligent analysis of the Jesuit instructional model. The Jesuits and those who staff Jesuit institutions are well-known for running schools of excellence; this form of excellence goes beyond academic achievement to holistically forming students who are prepared to face the next phase of their lives.
Dr. Susan Abelein, Senior Advisor, Catapult Learning
In 2017, we began a process of determining the focus of a proposed marketing initiative that would communicate to our constituents the “value” of a Jesuit education. In the midst of a chorus of creative and potential tag lines, I began seeing in my mind images of our young men as they walked across the Eastman Theatre stage on the night of graduation. Clad in their white dinner jackets, complemented by crisp red boutonnieres, somehow McQuaid Jesuit men were different, and I wanted to grasp a few words that could capture that image and proclaim it with courage and clarity. For me, “Creating Great Men,” said it best, and thus a new marketing campaign dawned.
But, that was the easy part.
What does “greatness” mean? In claiming this tag line as our own, we were and continually are challenged to define this powerful term. Each of us has our own sense of what being “great” means, and this is especially true in education circles. Is it the highest AP scores? the starting quarterback? the most co-curricular activities? president of the Executive Council? Over the years, we have seen many pushes in education toward greatness that have fallen flat. What does it truly mean to be “great”?
The question for us at McQuaid Jesuit needs to remain, “What does ‘great’ mean from the Jesuit perspective?” Throughout his spiritual journey, Saint Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, came to believe that God interacts directly with the human person. Each dimension of the human person – body, mind and soul – is a place where God can be encountered. God deals with the “whole” person, and so should we!
As an educational philosophy, Saint Ignatius’ spiritual experience translates into a holistic approach to education for which the Jesuits have become known globally since they opened their first school in Messina, Sicily, in 1548. For more than 450 years, Jesuits have been educating the “whole” person, and this tradition has produced more than its share of “great” men.
The holistic model of education has deep roots. Progressive educators such as John Dewey and pioneers such as Maria Montessori embraced a secular approach to holistic education in which each person finds “identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to spiritual values such as compassion and peace.” Dr. Mark Roosevelt, president of Saint John’s College, Annapolis, MD, states it well: “Education should prepare you for all of your life. It should make you a more thoughtful, reflective, self-possessed and authentic citizen, spouse, parent and member of the global economy.”
Jesuit educators approach holistic education from the perspective of faith, and they form whole women and men by embracing goals of “competence, conscience and compassion,” as well as outcomes such as the Grad at Grad’s “open to growth, intellectually competent, religious, loving and committed to doing justice.” Our graduates are “different!”
For more than 60 years, McQuaid Jesuit has been forming great men. Our focus has been and always will be on forming the whole person – body, mind and soul. For Jesuit educators, “great” women and men are “whole” women and men, and their success in college and in life bears that out.
Fr. Reiser assumed the presidency of McQuaid Jesuit July 1, 2014, becoming the school’s 13th president. A native of Buffalo, Fr. Reiser attended Canisius High School and earned his bachelor of science in Accounting from Canisius College. Following his undergraduate studies, he joined the Society of Jesus in 1986. Along with teaching, Fr. Reiser has served many roles throughout his career, including director of Campus Ministry at Canisius High School, director of Vocations for the Society of Jesus in New York City, and president of St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City.