Get to know USD’s new President

Sarah Brewington | News Editor

How has the [San Diego] adjustment been, has there been any surprises?  

“Most of the surprises that I have had have been pleasant for me and my family. Our youngest son, Braden, is with us, and he really enjoys the area. My wife Mary, and I have been taking time to enjoy the sites and take in the scenery, it is wonderful to be here.”

How was the Outdoor Adventure trip?

“[The outdoor adventure kayaking trip] was fantastic, I so enjoyed it. In fact in many ways it was thrilling to be on that type of water. Most of the kayaking I have done in the past has been on flat, brackish water, so to be out in the ocean on the large waves, it takes a different set of skills than when you are traveling down on the Chesapeake.”

“And the students […] could not have been better as guides for me. They showed Braden and me a great time. I would do it again in a heartbeat. And I hope I have the opportunity to do so.”

How has the experience been, meeting students and members of the USD community?

“I am trying to think of a different word beyond wonderful. There seems to be a genuine desire to have the president engaged in the community at all levels. The kindness people have shown us is remarkable. It has been an extraordinary experience.”

“We had a reception for the students last week and I was given a bike [by Outdoor Adventures] to ensure that I will do the right thing environmentally.”

“Once I start riding it I will demonstrate my commitment to sustainable initiatives on campus. And I do that right now by walking to work, which has been very enjoyable and something I did not expect. The ability to walk to work has been a healthy and a fun way to meet people, both on my way to work and going home at night. I try to make myself as visible as possible.”

What has been the best part of your job?

“Where I have derived the most pleasure has been meeting the students. We have passionate students who believe they can change the world, in the classroom and outside the classroom. It really gives me hope for the future. Our students are inspiring.”

What is the second best part of your job?

“The second [best] part has been how quickly this has been our home, or feels like home.”

How did you get involved with Twitter and Instagram?

“Our oldest son had suggested it [that I get involved in social media] to me when I was back in Philadelphia. He has been encouraging me for a couple years to do so. And I have been reluctant. As I announced that I was making the move to San Diego, on our vacation this summer he said ‘Dad you really should be on Twitter and Instagram, this is how students and young people communicate.’ I have to say I was afraid to step into social media, because I was not sure if I could keep up with it.”

“I have discovered it is a wonderful way to communicate, and I enjoy it. I do it to show people the great news that is happening on campus and what our community is engaged in.”

What are your plans to connect USD to the Linda Vista community?

“To listen to the needs of the opportunities and allow democratic participation in the community. Linda Vista presents a wonderful opportunity for USD to live out its social justice mission. But we have to be careful to do that in a way that is meaningful for both the organizations that we partner with and the individuals that are benefitting from the services as well as it is mutually beneficial for the community. It is beneficial for all involved, that is what is important.”

“I would like [USD] to be known internationally for what we do locally. We are already known locally for what we do internationally. Faculty and students are deeply engaged locally and I would like to find ways to highlight that work.”  

Will you be sending out a warning email to students about University of California at Santa Barbara this Halloween?

“I will have to consult with my colleagues to see if they feel that a warning is necessary. I will always do what is in the best interest of students. At this point it is not on my agenda.”

“I will ask the advice of my colleagues, or even ask if the students have a tweet they would like me to send.”

A recent USD alumni, Michael Harris, died. What do you say to the USD community?

“Maybe the most painful experiences I have ever had as a president is when we have lost a young vibrant person, who had all the potential in the world, [but] through some tragedy they lost their life.”

“I remember very clearly the first time a friend of mine, my girlfriend’s roommate, died in college. Through that experience [I remember] how lost I felt, losing someone my own age, to a car accident. In times of tragedy we should pull together as a community and support each other. It is very difficult to lose someone you love. I have lost both my parents, [and so has] my wife. We have had friends die, and all of those take a little piece of you. My heart goes out to everyone. We should draw close as a community to support each other in times of tragedy.”

Harris thoughtfully mused over losing his mother.

“Over the years after having lost people that I love and care for, it never is easy. I think I have grown wiser and more compassionate for those who are alive and are around me. I express my love to people freely as I know what it is like to lose someone that you are very close to.”

Harris recalled the loss of students from Widener and his own family members, as he deeply expressed his own grievance to lose a USD student, particularly Michael Harris, the student that passed away before Labor Day.

“That is the worst part of the job. It’s painful.”

As the semester is just beginning, what advice do you have for students?

“Keep your eye on the prize. What is important is that you graduate prepared to be compassionate citizens and responsible members of a democratic society.”

“We are here to receive a world-class education. Take advantage, attend lectures that are outside of your discipline and special events. Take in the full experience of the college. In the long run you will be happy you did so.”