Assumption Honors First President with Rededication of the Fr. Gayraud Living Learning Center
As part of the University’s Founders Week celebration, which celebrates those who established the institution and whose influence continues to form Assumption into the institution it is today, the University rededicated its Living Learning Center (LLC) on campus in honor of its first president, Fr. Isidore Gayraud, A.A.
“We often share with students when they arrive here that they are embarking upon a journey of lifelong learning. Fr. Gayraud lived that ideal,” said Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D., president of Assumption University. “He traveled the world – France, Italy, the United States, and Latin America—in search of knowledge and in pursuit of a mission. He taught, built churches, founded schools, and served as a missionary. Not only did he have an insatiable appetite for learning; he also allowed his life and his work to be shaped by what he learned.”
In 1902, Fr. Gayraud became one of the first Assumptionists to emigrate from Europe to establish a new school on American soil, seeking to provide an education for the French-speaking population of New England. First assigned to a parish in New York City, just two years later Fr. Gayraud was part of a team assigned to establish a secondary school in Worcester. That new school, with humble beginnings and a handful of students living and learning in a triple decker in the Greendale section of Worcester, would eventually evolve into Assumption University.
“One could argue that the first Living/Learning center at Assumption was that triple decker on Fales Street,” added President Cesareo. “The Living Learning Center embodies the life’s work of Fr. Gayraud. It is a place where living and learning converge.”
Assumption’s Living Learning Center is unique, apartment-style residence hall in which students must apply to live. Approximately 143 primarily second-year students, apply as groups to live in this building and participate in an Interest Circle where a faculty member meets regularly with students to have discussions on a themed topic of interest. The building embodies the idea that learning at Assumption takes place both inside and outside of the classroom.
“Here, students live, but also engage in continued discussion about what they have learned on any given day,” explained President Cesareo. “They engage with peers of varied backgrounds and convictions – a critical component of the learning journey here at Assumption. The opportunity for these conversations, provided by the Gayraud Living/Learning Center, enables students to explore issues from different perspectives and fosters greater understanding and mutual respect, so important in our polarized society. In this learning community, students are also able to explore new questions with the help of faculty mentors, pursuing an important goal of an Assumption education, namely, the integration of learning into every aspect of the student’s life. In a setting like this, an Assumption education can truly transform the minds and hearts of students, a manifestation of the University’s mission.”
Throughout his career, Fr. Gayraud held many titles: philosophy professor, teacher of Latin, school founder and administrator, parish priest, and even church-builder. His zeal for lifelong learning and his capacity to integrate his love for philosophy, theology, history, language, and literature in his teaching– subjects that are also the basis of a Catholic liberal education—had a meaningful impact on all whom he encountered.
The Fr. Gayraud Living Learning Center, a building that represents the original commitment of Assumption to integrate academic and student life, is one of the several symbols on campus that remind students of the educational ideals that inspired Assumption’s founders.
“The statue of Assumptionist founder Fr. Emmanuel d’Alzon with students outside of the library that bears his name reminds us to follow his inspiration as students and teachers; the statue of St. Augustine at the entrance to the Tsotsis Family Academic Center, recalling the importance of the intellectual traditions that shaped Augustine, invites us to gather in the D’Amour plaza to continue the kind of conversation so important to him; and the Assumption Prep windows that were hung in the Chapel of the prior campus are a reminder of the enduring spirit of the University and its ability to adapt, endure and thrive,” said President Cesareo.
“It is on an occasion like today’s that we recognize the importance of recalling and reflecting on our past as we look forward to the future,” he added.
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