By John Garvey, President
The Catholic University of America Magazine, Fall 2012

Each year when we welcome a new crop of students on move-in day, I meet a few moms and dads who are returning to campus after several or many years. Some of them are here to drop off a son or daughter for the second or third time. Others are alumni and recall being dropped off at Orientation by their parents many years ago. When I ask these veteran parents about the experience of returning to Catholic University, one reflection they share is particularly common: “Campus looks more beautiful than ever.”

Historically, beauty has played an impor-tant role in shaping the major structures on campus. Our oldest buildings, Caldwell and McMahon halls, are magnificent. They imbue our campus with a sense of continuity with the past, and serve as a visual reminder of our connection with those who walked their halls long before us. They are majestic, like the quest for knowledge that stands at the heart of our mission as a Catholic university. 

Because our beautiful old structures have so much character and beauty and significance, we channel a lot of resources into maintaining and updating them. For instance, we are in the process of performing a major renovation of Father O’Connell Hall; with the help of donations, we might be able to do the same with Maloney Hall. Across the decades, the University has also tried to harmonize new, modern structures, like the Columbus School of Law and the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, with our older buildings. The idea is to convey a sense of overarching unity on campus. 

While our beautiful buildings provide the central focal points on campus, like the key figures in a Michelangelo fresco, they are only one part of the beauty. Our grounds and natural environment are equally important for creating this sense of visual unity. We use all kinds of shrubs and other plants to create a frame for our buildings, and to highlight their most beautiful features. Our landscaping crew masterfully coordinates the color and texture of our flora, and choreographs the bloom cycles of our trees and flowers so that campus always looks vibrant. When we realized a couple of years back that we had lost a significant number of trees over the past 30 years, we partnered with the Casey Foundation to help restore our tree canopy. During the coming years we hope to restore even more natural beauty to campus by replac-ing some of our parking lots and roadways with grassy quads and walkways. 

As we make further improvements to the buildings and grounds of Catholic University, beauty will continue to play a central role, as it does on many other college and university campuses. But for us, beauty’s role is about more than appearances. We believe that the beauty and harmony we foster on campus is a reflection of the beauty and harmony in God’s creation. The visual balance and unity sought by the planners, architects, and land-scapers who have shaped campus throughout our history also shape our students, fortifying their moral and intellectual formation.