On its historic campus, the St. Gregory’s University community looked forward to a bright and exciting future as Dr. Michael A. Scaperlanda was inaugurated as the University’s 16th president on March 21, 2017.
Well-wishers began the day by gathering at St. Gregory’s Abbey for Mass with The Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, serving as the celebrant, and The Most Rev. Eusebius J. Beltran, Archbishop Emeritus of Oklahoma City, and the Rt. Rev. Lawrence R. Stasyszen, O.S.B., Abbot of St. Gregory’s Abbey and Chancellor of St. Gregory’s University, serving as the concelebrating prelates.
During his homily, Archbishop Coakley honored the legacy of St. Gregory’s Abbey and University throughout Oklahoma’s history, and celebrated the new chapter for the University under President Scaperlanda’s leadership.
“This is holy ground. This is a place of unique importance for the Church in Oklahoma, because it was through the Benedictine’s who first established themselves at Sacred Heart Mission and later relocated to this site, that the Catholic Church first gained a foothold in Indian Territory and spread throughout Oklahoma,” Archbishop Coakley explained. “Those intrepid missionary monks helped establish some of the first Catholic institutions of this territory. They served as evangelists, pastors, educators and witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Coakley extended a prayer for President Scaperlanda and the strengthening of the University’s foundation.
“We pray for Dr. Michael Scaperlanda as he undertakes his ecclesial mission of leading St. Gregory’s University from the heart of the Church. We pray as well for the students, faculty, administration, staff and benefactors who participate in the critically important ministry which contributes so much to the flourishing of both Church and society. May God who has begun this good work bring it to fulfillment,” said Archbishop Coakley.
The Inauguration ceremony followed in the Don and Jenetta Sumner Field House where distinguished guests, alumni, students, faculty, and staff gathered to celebrate the formal installation of President Scaperlanda.
Robert J. Sullivan, member of St. Gregory’s board of directors; John “Rocky” Barrett, Chairman of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation; Melissa McLawhorn Houston, Labor Commissioner for the State of Oklahoma; Jane Gray, St. Gregory’s Alumni from the class of ’74; Dr. Tash Smith, Department Chair for St. Gregory’s Humanities Department and faculty delegate to the board of directors; Emilia “Lilly” Bermudez, St. Gregory’s Dean of Students; and Ruby Arani, St. Gregory’s senior from Midwest City and student government president offered welcoming words, inspiration and wisdom to President Scaperlanda.
“This school year has been a year filled with exciting transformation and growth for us as a student body. We see how great St. Gregory’s University can be, and every day we are seeing that potential being reached by the efforts and determination of President Scaperlanda,” said Arani. “Today is a day of celebration for our community, and we are excited for the future of our beloved school with President Scaperlanda as our leader.”
President Scaperlanda then pledged his fidelity to the mission and values of the University and to the Catholic Church’s teachings as he was presented the presidential medal of the University by Rev. Donald Wolf, chairman of St. Gregory’s board of directors and the Rt. Rev. Lawrence Stasyszen, O.S.B., Abbot of St. Gregory’s Abbey and Chancellor of St. Gregory’s University.
In his keynote address, President Scaperlanda spoke about the importance of a liberal arts education and the formation of the whole person.
“Our professional and pre-professional degrees prepare our students for employment and graduate school upon graduation. The liberal arts foundation, which is reinforced seamlessly throughout our curriculum, develops habits of mind that liberate students from narrow technical training, providing our alumni with great vertical and horizontal job mobility,” said President Scaperlanda. “Our Catholic, Benedictine liberal arts foundation provides our students with a framework for being liberated from the fears and base appetites that control the lives of so many, allowing them to live joy-filled lives in service to others.”
He stated that the ultimate goal of a Catholic education is not to make good citizens, efficient business people, or competent professionals, but to make saints.
“We have an Oklahoma model to guide us in this holy work. Fr. Stanley Rother, who will be beatified in Oklahoma City on September 23, and who is the first American born martyr, exemplifies what we aim for here at St. Gregory’s,” President Scaperlanda explained. “Fr. Stanley Rother loved deeply and with an abiding joy despite difficult circumstances. May he be a model of servant leadership for all of us who work at St. Gregory’s University and for all of our students who will go forth from here spreading the Good News in whatever communities and professions God draws them.”