I would like to think that gratitude and the Lasallian virtue of generosity are complementary ideas; forever linked through philosophy and application. Brother Agathon, the fifth Superior General of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (1777-1795), offers us this insight into generosity: “Generosity is a virtue that makes us voluntarily sacrifice our personal interests to those of our neighbor… (p. 85).”1 Gratitude, for the sake of this discussion, can be thought of as a quality of being thankful, as well as a willingness to show appreciation for those graces received through the efforts and sacrifice of others. Both virtues require conscience action and acceptance. For me, gratitude and generosity seem at the center of another great pair of compliments; teaching and learning.
Truth be told, you cannot really separate teaching and learning (at least that is my aspiration). For three decades I have pursued the craft of “teaching”, in what I hope was with a heart of generosity, a desire for students to “learn”, or at least to “see the world in new eyes.” Just as we hope learning will follow teaching, I think gratefulness finds its way to faculty after their work in teaching. At this point in my career, I am grateful for having followed in a noble and hallowed profession, grateful for having spent time thinking, reading, writing, and researching. Most importantly, I am grateful to have walked in association with students.
Recently, I spent time with some of our DBA students at a conference in Davenport, Iowa. We chatted, I saw them attend talks, present work, network with other faculty and students, and explore this unique piece of the world we call “academics”. We also experienced amazing Caribbean food, and had a chance to catch up on life happenings. It is in these moments that I think gratitude and generosity intersect; at inflection points where your life’s work and life’s reward are the same. Some may call these inflection points “flow”, or moments of serendipity. I like to reflect on these times with gratitude, as moments of teaching grace.
1 Brother Agathon, The twelve virtues of a good teacher and circular letter of 10 April 1786 concerning the public contests and competitions carried out at the end of the school year in different houses of his congregation, Landover, Maryland: Christian Brothers Conference, 2000.
Dr. Matt J. Nowakowski
Interim Vice Provost for Faculties and Academic Affairs