Gratitude, Caring and Daring: Acceptance Speech of the 7th President of Adamson University

Date Posted: December 13, 2023 at 03:56 PM

Fr. Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, CM

This acceptance speech was delivered during the official turnover of the presidency of Adamson University from outgoing president Fr. Marcelo V. Manimtim, CM to the new president, Fr. Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, CM, held December 13, 2023 at the Co Po Ty Hall of the Dr. Carlos Tiu Center for Technology Innovation and Research.

First, I would like to thank the Congregation of the Mission, Philippine Province, and the Board of Trustees of Adamson University, under the leadership of Fr. Peter Solis, C.M. for the trust given to me to lead Adamson University in the following years. If I am given a choice, I would prefer to be just a full-time teacher, theologian and researcher as I have done in the last 20 years. I even told my confreres that I can just teach theology until the end of my life. But as St. Vincent once said: “Ask nothing. Refuse nothing.” He was not referring to food. He said this in the context of pastoral assignments. He means that we are called to serve. Wherever, whenever, however. Day in and day out. In season and out of season.

So, I am here in front of you today. I come to you as a servant mindful of my own limitations. I have not been trained in administration science nor have I run a school of this size. My little experience in this field is administering SVST (Saint Vincent School of Theology) which is the smallest section of this university. So, I have so much to learn from you. Please guide me as I learn the ropes, as they say.

As I start my life of service among you — and for easier recall — let me share with you three things: give thanks, care deeply, dare bravely.

For those who preceded us in the past, we give thanks.

I acknowledge that I stand on the shoulders of giants who came before me. To them and to the past they have molded for us, we give thanks. Our gratitude goes to Fr. Marcelo Manimtim who has stirred our ship in the last eight years. If I go back to my metaphors, he is the last of the giants. Together with him are the past Presidents who are with us today — Fr. Rolando dela Goza and Fr. Jimmy Belita, as well as all leaders of our university, past and present. This includes all of you who are here. All the efforts you have exerted, the structures you have created, the processes you have labored to put in place — all these have brought us to where we are now — No. 5 among the leading HEIs of the country.

As a sign of our gratitude, we vow to promote and foster the double tradition, the two main pillars on which Adamson University stands — the technical education of the Adamson’s and the humanities tradition of the Vincentians. We are recognized and known for the first. Our researches in the engineering and the hard sciences are well acknowledged. We will also try our best to develop the second. A contemporary philosopher, Terry Eagleton, said: “The humanities should constitute the core of any university worth the name.” A technological world without values, beauty or poetry is but an arid desert making us slaves of our own selfishness and victims of our inventions leading to mass destruction, as it is happening now in Ukraine or Gaza.

For those who are with us at present, we show our care: to care deeply.

Years ago, Adamson University carried the tag line “Education with a heart”. From the heart grows a community of care. Care is most necessary in a world beset by violence and war. In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis writes: Care or tenderness is “a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands… it is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women” (FT, 194). Only strong and courageous people can be tender and caring.

I realize that this is not far from the Adamson culture. I was watching these Klasmeyt videos over the social media now. I hear just one common message in all of them: when you say “klasmeyt” there is that feeling of connectedness and care. All throughout these years, people stay in Adamson — not because of its high salaries even if we try our best to live decently — but because here people relate to one another as one big “family” that cares for one another: education with a heart.

Gone are the days when teachers pride themselves as “terror professors” who flunk their students without explaining why. A really good professor is one who teaches science with discipline but also with kindness. A good administrator is one who tells the truth with firmness but also with charity. In concrete, please seek out the students or staff who are left behind or those discriminated against. Be sensitive to those who have mental health issues, or who are living troubled lives. They do not express it but there are many of them among us. In a world of violence which they experience every day, make them feel that Adamson is a space of care, that we care deeply. Please tell them that here they can relax, feel safe, experience respect and grow to be who they would like to be.

Let us also show deep care among us — staff, faculty, administrators, alumni, etc. A smile, a greeting, a wave as you move around the campus are the first noticeable signs when outsiders enter our campus. May our faculty rooms be a place of welcome, our offices open to whoever wants to share or talk, our classrooms spaces of common search for knowledge, not top-down imposition of truth. For a truth imposed from above is not truth; it is terror.

As a start, let me do three things. First, I would like to get to know all of you in person, as in “you”; all of you. But please be patient with me. Medyo mahina ako sa pangalan. Mabilis akong nakakalimot lalong-lalo kapag minsan ko lang nakikita. Hindi naman siguro ako masyadong senior pero sisikapin [kong maalala.]

Second, I would like to visit you in your offices and ask how things are going on there, get to know your projects and the concerns you have in mind. I do not mean just the deans, directors or chairs. I mean the faculty and staff as well, including the maintenance persons and all those who make life easier for us. I am your servant. Please let me know how to serve, so that I can serve well.

Third, we would also take care of Adamson as our “common home”. Despite the cramped urban space where we find ourselves, with the stinking estero as bonus, we will try to create a sustainable and eco-friendly “green campus” breathing with life and joy. We have meager resources but we will use it to make life easier and sustainable for all of us in this place which we call our second home.

For our common future, I challenge you to dare: to dare bravely.

We live in challenging times. Our students learn quite differently than we did decades ago. The world of internet, technology and social media makes a whole lot of difference. ChatGPT — the talk of the town — is the real game changer. I dare you to dream, to dream bravely. I dare you to change and face the future with courage.

We need to prepare our students for life. We need to form them as mature professionals in a new world — a world of advanced technology and global relations, of which they are “natives” and we are mere “migrants”. We need to teach them beyond our old ways and myopic worldviews. Let us then roll up our sleeves, as they say, and start the work. Together, we will adapt and expand our curricula, invent new ones that would fit our times, upskill and reskill our professors and staff, revisit our structures and processes, relate with other universities here and abroad, etc.

But beyond the world of AI technology, we also need to form our students in the world of values, in the love of God and neighbor, especially the excluded and marginalized in our societies. That is the most central point of our vision-mission. Competence is just one; character and charity are its important companions.

When a student graduates from Adamson, we should be able to see someone who is not only educated and skilled but someone who lives a life of honesty and a heart of compassion. We expect to find someone who is willing to defend justice and the rights of the oppressed. We expect to see someone who uses all the capacities as his disposal in order to help those who have been “stranded on the road”, as the “Good Samaritan” story tells us. For in the end, Pope Francis reminds us that there are just two kinds of persons in the world: those who passed by the victim and did not care, and those who stopped and helped. I hope we will use all our university resources to form the second, because if we don’t, we have failed in our mission.

We very well know that degrees, accreditations, publications, board results —even QS academic ranking — all these are not the “be all and end all” of our educational existence. At the center of all our striving is the “person stranded on the roads of life” who, in the vision of St. Vincent, is actually the face of God. All our academic resources should lead towards the formation of competent, responsible and compassionate professionals who have a heart for the poor, for those who have less in life should have more of us. This task looks challenging but we are not alone. Our alumni are here. Many are just waiting to be tapped. Let us reach out to them and bring them back home.

To end, I hope you would permit me to relate a personal story to bring my point out. I was attending at the death bed of my mother years ago. I just came back from my PhD studies in Belgium then. When I came back, she was not yet sick and I was still able to present to her my PhD work. She did not say it but I felt she was happy and was proud of me. A month after, she was diagnosed with a very aggressive kind of cancer and was only given three months to live. On her last days, I was left alone in the hospital room with her because my other siblings were at work. Our conversation dwelt on our neighbors who have no work and could not afford even the basic necessities.

“Where is your book again?” she asked. I told her there is one copy at home.

“Was it a doctorate that you got?” I answered yes.

“So what can your doctorate do to help feed our hungry neighbors?”

That question was the hardest that I got in my professional life, even harder than the technical questions posed to me by my defense panel. Until now, my mother’s question continues to haunt me in every conference that I give, every class that I teach or in every book that I write; and now again, as I start my work in the University. 

Unless our sciences lead to the alleviation [of] the pain and suffering in the world, all these [we do] are actually useless.

So, as I start my work with you, please say a little prayer for me. That I remain constant and faithful.

Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, C.M.
Adamson University