University of San Diego

Dear USD Campus Community:

In his novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” Charles Dickens opened with the phrase “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” In many ways, this is how I feel as I write this message to our campus community welcoming everyone to the beginning of the fall semester.

The past academic year was a remarkable one for the University of San Diego. We applauded our faculty and staff colleagues who received accolades for their excellence in teaching, research and service within their respective fields. We celebrated the USD Class of 2018 as they commenced into exciting new chapters in their lives. Many began their chosen careers, entered into military service, started volunteer opportunities or enrolled into some of the finest graduate schools across the globe, including USD!

This past year, we also accomplished a major milestone by surpassing the goal for the Leading Change campaign, raising more than $300 million for student scholarships, capital projects and support for university operations. In June, we finished the most successful single year in fundraising in the university’s history. We are grateful for the generosity of our donors—including our own faculty and staff—who reached a record 78 percent participation in the annual fund. Another incredible achievement was enrolling one of the most diverse and academically qualified first-year classes in our history. In other words, the past academic year represented the best of times, and we are thankful for the many blessings we have received.

Simultaneously, we continue to confront many challenges on the journey to achieve our strategic vision. We are confronted with increasing global competition for students, changing national demographics, and the rising costs of providing a quality education. As a leading Catholic university located near an international border, we must remain engaged in the debates over national security and the treatment of refugees, immigrants and families seeking asylum in the United States. In the face of serious issues, like the devastating impact of global climate change on our planet and a lack of civility in society that often doesn’t allow reasoned dialogue, we are called to model the best practices of sustainability and courtesy in public discourse.

Over the summer, we were all shaken by the news in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report about the abuse of children by Catholic clergy and the failure of Church leaders to protect them. The abuse and destruction of innocent lives caused by these reprehensible acts are horrifying and disgraceful. As a Catholic and a university president, I continue to believe in the healing power of grace that faith in God provides. Through that grace, we advocate for both restorative justice and reconciliation. We must also continue to pray for the victims and their families.

It has been said that the university is a place where the Church does its thinking. In that spirit, we must not shy away from our pursuit of the truth, even in the face of difficult dialogs. All members of our campus community are encouraged to engage in these discussions whether it is in a classroom, at a university event, or at one of the public forums to be sponsored by the Diocese of San Diego, including one with Bishop McElroy at USD on November 5. University Ministry has established a web page that features support services for our campus community and opportunities for discussions. Here, you will also find information about a presidential task force that we have established. Throughout the academic year, the task force will monitor the national dialogue on this important topic and collaborate with our national higher education associations and university peers on ways in which we can support those impacted by these injustices and push for full accountability, transparency and reform.

Even in these “worst of” times, I believe USD’s best days lie ahead. We are blessed with so many talented and compassionate people, including many first-year students who I met over OLÉ! Weekend who are excited to begin their college education at USD. We have the people, the resources and the espirit de corps to achieve our vision of setting the standard as an engaged, contemporary Catholic university ready and willing to confront humanity’s urgent challenges.


James T. Harris III, D.Ed.

University of San Diego

Office of the President
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492