Three weeks ago, we launched the website for 100 Days of Dante
. The project honors the seventh centenary of Dante’s death. It expresses—as should everything we undertake—our distinctive academic vocation and University mission. It rallies us around a work of art that Pope Francis praises as “one of the highest expressions of human genius,” one that shows “with poetic beauty the depth of the mystery of God and love.”
Nearly 20,000 people have already viewed the 100 Days of Dante
project launch video, accessing it through the website as well as its Facebook and Twitter feeds. We anticipate greater participation as we extend our publicity to alumni constituencies, as our partner institutions announce sponsorships, and as we engage classical schools that include the Divine Comedy
in their curriculum.
We want many to recognize in 100 Days of Dante
the Christian academic life to which we are committed. More importantly, we want readers around the world to seek an elevated vision of life perfected in Christ, for Dante’s great work points us to this. Indeed, in his Apostolic Letter Candor Lucis Aeternae
, Pope Francis quotes one of his predecessors: The Divine Comedy
“seeks not only to be beautiful and morally elevating poetry, but to effect a radical change, leading men and women from chaos to wisdom, from sin to holiness, from poverty to happiness, from the terrifying contemplation of hell to the beatific contemplation of heaven.”
These qualities—compelling beauty, moral vision, profound wisdom, and practical relevance, all grounded in biblical and theological insight—account for the Divine Comedy
’s enduring power. Readers are drawn to it because it speaks to them.
To be sure, we teach Dante because his work is a high-water mark culturally and intellectually, and a full education must encompass the best which has been thought and said. Yet the Divine Comedy
also bears a special beauty that moves the minds and hearts of every age and generation to long for a freedom and happiness found in God alone. That is, we study this great work not only for its artistic, historical, and cultural merit, or because of fascination with late medieval and early Renaissance literature. We love it because it helps us live well, here and now, in the middle of our personal hopes and dreams, disappointments and struggles, political and social conflicts, and occasional glimpses, through a glass darkly, of the abundant life to which Christ calls us all.
So, when Pope Francis writes that the Divine Comedy
possesses “an almost inexhaustible mine of knowledge, experience and thought in every field of human research,” I say—yes, it’s fabulous to read. When he writes that Dante “does not wish merely to be read, commented on, studied and analyzed,” but for us “to become his companions on the journey,” I say—yes, lead on. When he writes that Dante means “to transform and change us even now, in this present life,” offering “a sure reference point for what we hope to accomplish in our own day,” I say—yes, amen!
If you haven’t visited 100 Days of Dante
, watched the video, and signed up for updates, do so now. Share a good word with others about the project. Then, when September arrives, let’s read and walk together as a glad company of pilgrims bound for glory.
In other news related to the Honors College, please give attention to the following:
• Baylor Proud
recently profiled Walter “Sparky” Matthews
, clinical professor in the Honors Program. A 1992 alumnus with a compelling story of outstanding education and mentoring as a Baylor undergraduate, Sparky’s decorated record as an Air Force doctor shows the lifelong impact of great teachers. Sparky also deserves public thanks for his service to the University this past year, during which he put his medical and public health degrees to use helping address pandemic conditions through the Health Management Team, COVID Dashboard Team, COVID Testing Program Team, and Vaccine Prep Working Group. Thank you, Sparky!
• Join me in welcoming Emily Clark
, who joins us later this month as director of communications. In this new position, Emily will oversee marketing and communication activities for the College, including advertising, media relations, news/story writing, and social media initiatives. Emily returns to her alma mater after several years at East Texas Baptist University, where she served variously as director of presidential communication, director of marketing and communication, and director of alumni relations and advancement communication. We’re happy to have you with us, Emily!
• Congratulations to Benjamin “Jack” Young, our latest graduate to win a major post-baccalaureate fellowship. Jack, an Honors Program student who completed his B.A. in history in May, has been selected as one of 10 Lilly Graduate Fellows
. As part of an impressive cohort of rising scholars seeking terminal degrees in the arts and humanities, Jack will receive funding to support Ph.D. work at the University of Notre Dame as well as mentoring from seasoned scholars who will explore with him the distinctive character of the Christian scholarly vocation. See the media release
for additional details.
• Following pandemic adjustments over the last year, we are now well on our way toward normalization of University operations. With active COVID cases on campus in single digits for the last month, nearly 60% of employees fully vaccinated, and vaccine doses readily available, a full return to on-campus work and regular business hours is expected of all staff members by August 1 or sooner, as coordinated by program directors. In the meantime, thank you for your diligence and professionalism throughout various telework and remote work alternatives undertaken during the past year.
• Move-in Day for the Honors Residential College is set for Wednesday, August 18. As in past years, I hope our faculty and staff will turn out in large numbers to help incoming students as they arrive and settle in for their first semester. Count on hearing more from Autumn Henneke
about service opportunities from greeter to baggage handler. A generously given welcome on Move-in Day is a memorable part of incoming students’ experience. Thank you in advance for your investment in this important gesture of hospitality.
All the best,
Douglas V. Henry | Dean
Honors College | Baylor University
baylor.edu/honorscollege | 254.710.7689