Chaminade University is relevant, innovative and contributing to the betterment of society.
Those are the three pillars of Dr. Lynn Babington’s vision for the institution she now leads.
Babington outlined that future at her inauguration ceremony January 20 at the Richard T. Mamiya Theatre, during which she was formally installed as the university’s 10th president in front of an audience of religious leaders, community dignitaries, and university regents and faculty.
In her inaugural address, Babington made clear that in forging an ambitious and bold path forward, Chaminade — celebrating its 62nd anniversary in 2018 — isn’t seeking to forget its rich heritage or leave behind its Marianist traditions. At the same time, she said, Chaminade must lean into headwinds and make no small plans in an increasingly competitive landscape.
“We are driven by a deep commitment to reach new heights,” she told attendees. “Unified together, we will find ways to not only meet the high expectations we have for ourselves, but exceed those our community and our world have for us. Because if not us, then who?”
Babington started at Chaminade on August 1 after serving as interim president and in other leadership roles at Fairfield University in Connecticut. In her first few months at Chaminade, Babington sought to focus on listening — to all sorts of university stakeholders— about where the institution is, what makes it special, and where it should be headed in the 21st century.
And even as she’s pledged to usher in a new era of innovation, growth and opportunity, Babington has stressed that she intends to only further strengthen Chaminade’s core mission — to serve as a service-oriented institution focused on social justice, building community and preparing tomorrow’s leaders to take on some of the world’s greatest problems.
That commitment to honor the past while looking ahead to the future was on display at the inaugural mass and installation celebration — and the pa’ina festivities that followed, where scores gathered at Chaminade Plaza for an afternoon of food, fellowship, gift giving and hula.
At the inauguration, several symbolic items were presented to Babington, including the university’s presidential medallion, made of kukui nut and suspended on a four-strand Niihau shell lei.
Fr. Thomas J. Fitzpatrick, S.J., staff chaplain of Fairfield University read a poem he wrote asking God to guide Dr. Babington and to let “all our spirits mingle and soar as we reach for truth, wisdom, justice and peace.”
Bro. Ed Brink, Chaminade’s Vice President of Mission and Rector, present a framed blessing from Pope Francis, wishing Dr. Babington a successful tenure as president.
The Marianist Province of the U.S. gave Dr. Babington a depiction of Our Lady of the Pillar, one of only three like it in the world. The other two are housed at Chaminade’s sister schools — the University of Dayton in Ohio and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. Presenting the depiction were Dr. Steven R. Neiheisel, executive director of the Association of Marianist Universities; and the presidents, Dr. Eric F. Spina of University of Dayton and Dr. Thomas M. Mengler of St. Mary’s University.
Also presented to Babington: A royal walking stick with a strong link to Chaminade’s roots.
Brother Dennis Bautista, a Chaminade University alumnus and a professor at St. Mary’s University, told inauguration attendees the walking stick engraved with King David Kalakaua’s name was found in the national archives of the Marianist Province at St. Mary’s.
In fact, it was discovered in the Brother Gabriel Bertram Bellinghausen collection at the archives. Bellinghausen was part of the first group of Marianists to come to Hawaii in 1883, became the first director of then-Saint Louis College (later Saint Louis School and Chaminade), and struck up a friendship with the king, who would attend plays and other events on campus.
“Since walking sticks … had been presented to those entrusted in leadership positions as symbols of authority,” Bautista said, “we felt that it would be appropriate for the king’s walking stick to come full circle — from Brother Bertram to Dr. Lynn Babington and return the royal artifact home to Hawaii.” At the inauguration, the Kalakaua walking stick was ceremonially presented to Babington before it was formally gifted to ‘Iolani Palace for public display.
Before the presentation of gifts, Babington sought to outline her vision for Chaminade.
She said the university must be “excellent and relevant,” underscoring the value of its educational opportunities to current — and prospective — students and the community.
It must also be innovative, seeking out partnerships and looking for opportunities to grow.
And it must always seek to contribute to the common good, to make life better for others.
“Higher education with a higher purpose is the life led here at Chaminade,” she said, in her inaugural address. “Our faculty and students are involved in not only community service but … opportunities to engage with and give back to the community as part of their course work.”
Her words spurred a standing ovation.
And the occasion of her inauguration also inspired poetry — literally.
At the inauguration day’s pa’ina celebrations fronting Sullivan Library, Dr. Allison Paynter stepped up to the microphone to recite a poem she wrote to mark the day called “Hopscotch” that begins like the playground jumping rhyme but then takes listeners on a journey with Babington.
The associate professor of English at Chaminade read, referring to the president:
Now, she feeds her soul
on the aina
embraces a new ohana
commits to living pono
brandishing her own sword
of inspiration on
this mighty hilltop.