When Mission Matters…A Year to Remember

When the Sisters of Mercy founded this institution, they could not have foreseen the great flooding that would occur nearly 80 years later, but the legacy they instilled in our character ensured that we would rise to the challenge.

Never has it been more clear that we live in a time of profound change and increasing complexity — a time when the Mercy values of service and community building, and the necessity of a strong strategic framework, are vital.

It would be overly simplistic to characterize 2008 as “the year of the flood” or for that matter, “the year of global financial fear.” While the flood will forever be a seminal moment in Iowa’s history, the Mount Mercy and Cedar Rapids communities have refused to be defined or defeated by the dirty waters that overtook our community on June 12, 2008. Community members have united to reclaim their homes, businesses, and lives — and have remained resolute in their determination to re-build a greater Cedar Rapids.

During the flood I witnessed Mount Mercy’s core values of justice, gratitude, service and hospitality shine through our collective words and deeds. Our campus community gave of themselves wholeheartedly. Many Mount Mercy students, faculty, staff and alumni were impacted personally by the flooding, and our sympathies go out to each of them as they seek to reclaim a sense of normalcy in their lives. We stand beside them as they find their way back from the devastation and chaos.

Mount Mercy opened its doors to the honorable men and women of the Air and Army National Guard units deployed to help our community and its citizens, law enforcement personnel from surrounding areas and states, and members of the Red Cross. Mount Mercy’s association with the military and support personnel was a powerful example of service in action, and I know that the founders of Mount Mercy College would have been proud of our sincere dedication to service to the common good. When the Sisters of Mercy founded this institution, they could not have foreseen the great flooding that would occur nearly 80 years later, but the legacy they instilled in our character ensured that we would rise to the challenge.

Events of a great magnitude, like the Flood of 2008, remind us why it is important to plan for a variety of scenarios. While a plan — no matter how nimble and comprehensive — cannot predict an event or downturn, it is essential to have a framework in place that illustrates a clear reflection and direction of the organization’s vision, values, and future strategic directions. One of Mount Mercy’s greatest achievements this year was the finalization of The Plan for Mount Mercy University 2008–2012, a living strategic plan that will take Mount Mercy to new heights. Along with our senior leadership team, I look forward to overseeing the implementation of The Plan for Mount Mercy, which calls for our campus community to build upon our vibrant teaching and learning environment; engage student experiences; sustain institutional resources; increase visibility, marketing, and outreach; and to strengthen our focus on our Catholic identity and Mercy mission.

We would be doing ourselves a great disservice to allow the achievements of the 2007–08 academic year to be overshadowed by the flood and its aftermath. This year was one of great progress and promise on “the Hill,” soundly illustrated by our collective commitment to service to the common good. Each day I witness hallmarks of service and volunteerism exhibited by our students, faculty, and staff and I am powerfully reminded that to live, work, and study at Mount Mercy is a calling that incorporates Catherine McAuley’s pledge that “We can never say ‘it is enough.’”

Each of us is called to serve the common good in a uniquely personal way. That unique calling is so well exemplified by our graduates. Two years ago at my inauguration as Mount Mercy’s eighth president, our last surviving alumna of the first graduating class of 1930, Sr. Kathleen Saunders, RSM, honored us with her presence. This August, just shy of her 99th birthday, Sr. Kathleen was received into her greater glory. This marks a pivotal moment in Mount Mercy’s history. With Sr. Kathleen’s passing, a piece of institutional memory passes to institutional history. The challenge of history and change for each generation is to learn from the past. In this case, that challenge was so courageously and beautifully captured in the life of Sr. Kathleen, and all of our graduates who lived out their calling to serve the common good among previous generations. And with that learning comes the responsibility to make the right and bold decisions — such as planning to become Mount Mercy University — as they did before us to live out our mission now and in the future.

Within these pages, I invite you to read about Mount Mercy’s achievements, and to be inspired by the stories, including that of faculty member and our new Dean of Graduate Studies Dr. Melody Graham, whose deep desire to help others see the best in themselves carried her all the way to Africa. Her commitment to serving others fully exemplifies Mount Mercy’s spirit of outreach.

As we move into the 2008–09 academic year, I would like to thank our Board of Trustees for their support of our institution, as well as our many donors listed in the following pages. Your commitment to Mount Mercy College ensures that by working together we will continue to improve upon the educational experience our students receive, as well as impact our community through service and integrity.

Christopher Blake, President