In late May, the Institute marked its 10th anniversary with a gala event that celebrated the many accomplishments the Institute has already achieved and looked forward to future achievements.
With the generous support of the University of Southern California (USC) – the Institute’s host institution – IACS invited more than 200 friends and supporters to enjoy dinner and several exciting and enlightening presentations on the Institute’s history, mission and aspirations.
Hosted by IACS President and founder Fr. James Heft, S.M., the evening offered listeners a chance to delve deep into the purpose and promise of the Institute. Fr. Heft set the stage by explaining how the Institute came to USC and how deeply committed it is to the rejuvenation of Catholic tradition through interreligious dialogue and interdisciplinary studies.
Longtime Institute friend and supporter Dana Gioia, an internationally acclaimed poet, former director of the National Endowment of the Arts and current Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at USC, and member of the Institute Academic Advisory Council, took the stage following Fr. Heft’s welcome and opening remarks, and spoke about the importance of literature, both to the Institute and the world.
“We speak to each other most memorably and most meaningfully through stories,” he explained. “When Jesus spoke to the multitudes, he didn’t ever commit an act of theology. He told stories; he gave poems.”
Gioia also announced the creation of the upcoming “The Catholic Literary Imagination” conference, sponsored by the Institute, which will take place on USC campus in February 2015, and will feature some of the most well known and acclaimed contemporary Catholic authors and poets.
“I think this will be not only a national conference, but a conference of some historical purpose,” he declared.
Elizabeth Garrett, USC’s Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and a member of the Institute Board of Directors, took the stage to talk about the Institute’s importance to USC as a research university that values interdisciplinary research and the fostering of scholarship with consequence.
“The Institute is able to attract world-class scholars from a variety of fields,” she explained. “It has created more than a dozen highly acclaimed research publications, published by the very best academic publishers.”
Dornsife Dean Steve Kay, a strong supporter of the Institute, spoke to the importance of passionate and interdisciplinary research.
“USC’s focus on interdisciplinary research provides the perfect home” for the kind of work the Institute is dedicated to undertaking, he explained to the audience. “The Institute’s mission statements describes the dangers of the fragmentation of knowledge – the idea that overspecialization and lack of creativity and open-mindedness of thought can be the death of new ideas.” He noted that a number of Dornsife faculty members had been able to make “great strides in their research by tapping into the [Institute’s] unique and amazing resources.”
Ken Miller, one of the world’s leading cell biologists and a frequent collaborator with the Institute, spoke on the importance of the Institute’s engagement with areas of scientific study. “I think it’s vital that the Institute continues to engage not just scientists doing cutting edge research, but scientific thinkers from fields such as cosmology, psychology, and philosophy who are trying to understand how these scientific enquiries fit into a larger picture.”
The evening closed with a performance by the Troy Tones, USC’s student a cappella group.
“I was deeply honored and sincerely thrilled with the warm and wonderful support for the Institute and our mission expressed at our celebration,” explains Fr. Heft. “We have had an amazing ten years at USC, and we’re looking forward to many many more fruitful, collaborative and thought-provoking years to come as the Institute continues in our mission to promote and extend, in novel and creative ways, the great intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church.”