Newly inaugurated President James McCarthy pledged that Suffolk University would use “the transformative power of technology” to prepare students for successful careers and to help rein in costs in a time of “relentless rise in the cost of higher education.”

Academic procession heads to Faneuil Hall.McCarthy spoke before government officials, delegates from the greater academic community and Suffolk University leadership, faculty and staff in historic Faneuil Hall during ceremonies marking his installation as the 106-year-old institution’s ninth president.

He pledged that, as University president, he would oversee a return “to the values that we had when we started. ... to nurture the capacity for growth in each of our students and empower them to be successful.”

In a wide-ranging talk, McCarthy discussed the melding of technology and traditional education, higher education costs, campus building plans, the mutually advantageous relationship between Suffolk University and the city of Boston, and a renewed focus on career readiness, all in the context of the University’s history and a “legacy of believing in the promise of students from all backgrounds–and helping them to develop their potential.”

Technology and education

He discussed plans to introduce this spring a hybrid Statistics course that combines online and face-to-face learning. Noting that the Physics Department already has hybrid courses and lab sections, he said that “this format provides students not only with flexibility but also with the opportunity to learn how to learn online, something that will be a critical tool throughout their academic and professional careers.”Audience gathered  for President McCarthy's inauguration in Great Hall of Faneuil Hall

And the cost of instruction will be lower for hybrid courses, while allowing the University to be “more flexible and efficient.”

The discussion of technology in the classroom was closely tied to the president’s observations about the need to curb costs.

Cost of higher education

“Today, the relentless rise in the cost of higher education, and the student debt that accompanies it, are denying growing numbers of students . . . access to a life-changing education. We will not allow that to happen at Suffolk University,” he said, vowing to be fiscally prudent. He also asked alumni directly to support the University, particularly its scholarship funds.

Focus on careers

Hearkening back to the University’s founding as an evening school that educated working people who wanted to become lawyers, McCarthy discussed a renewed emphasis on career building, not only in Suffolk’s professional schools teaching business and law but also in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Indeed, I believe that these days a liberal arts degree is a cornerstone in the building of a strong career. . . . A liberal arts degree provides that foundation, that analytical ability that allows people to succeed in a world where jobs, careers, and the skills required to be successful in them change almost as often as the weather in New England. We need to prepare our students not just to get started in their careers, but to constantly learn, innovate, and adapt, so that they can be successful throughout their working lives.”

Campus plans

McCarthy announced plans to proceed with planning for a 112,000-square-foot academic building at 20 Somerset St., site of the former Metropolitan District Commission headquarters. The new building will house the classrooms to be relocated from buildings on Temple Street, in the residential area of Beacon Hill.

McCarthy was not alone in discussing education in the context of history during the inauguration ceremonies.

Historical perspective

In a keynote speech, History Department Chair Robert Allison recalled the experiences of the historical figures enshrined in Faneuil Hall to testify about the importance of education.

He noted that, while some portraits depict college graduates, “Peter Faneuil, Henry Knox, Frederick Douglass, and George Washington—had little formal education . . . but they were educated. Washington accumulated one of America’s most formidable libraries, and read every book—on agriculture, law, and military science, but also theology and philosophy, the works of Shakespeare, Robert Burns, and Adam Smith, Don Quixote and Gil Blas, and Thomas Truxton on the Rigging of a Frigate.”

Allison likened the dedicated Suffolk student to some of these historical figures who were determined to learn.

"Past and present, these men and women remind us of education’s profound purpose. … to become informed citizens."

He cited John Adams, who, writing home from Paris, where he was occupied with official duties, lamented that he had no time for cultural pursuits: “I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy.”

Academic ceremony

The inauguration was a celebration of the educational opportunities Adams foresaw for future generations, and more than 70 delegates dressed in full academic regalia, representing the regions academic community, joined with Suffolk University leadership and faculty in a procession from Quincy Market to Faneuil Hall.

The ceremony included remarks and greetings from Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray; House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Suffolk Law School alumnus; Boston Redevelopment Authority Director Peter Meade; and University Massachusetts President Robert Caret, an alumnus of the College of Arts and Sciences; Professor Jane Menken, director of the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder, representing the greater academic community; and Suffolk University faculty, students and staff.