President Christopher Blake reflects on the value of Mercy 'pillars'

On the eve of Mercy and Mission Week, an occasion celebrated by Mercy schools across the country, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the meaning and value of Mercy. When the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Iowa with a desire to follow in the footsteps of Catherine McAuley and to serve "wherever human needs exist," they focused their energies on seeing to the needs of the sick and the poor and providing education to improve lives. In so doing, they created three pillars of this city: Mercy Hospital, the Catherine McAuley Center and what eventually became Mount Mercy University, now celebrating 85 years of educational service to this community. What they left behind, however, created a value that cannot be measured by institutions alone.

As a Catholic Mercy University and a member of the Conference for Mercy Higher Education, Mount Mercy shares a rich heritage with our partner colleges and universities that enables us to provide a distinctive education. When the Sisters first established Mount Mercy Junior College in 1928, they served a calling to help not only fill needs in the community, but to teach others to do the same. The mission to serve the common good influenced every decision made by this institution as it grew, whether it was establishing community service programs that brought together the heads of local businesses and industry leaders; initiating evening classes that led to our current adult programs designed to help working adult students; transitioning from a Junior College to a four-year college to educate teachers who needed baccalaureate degrees required by the Iowa legislature; or re-designating as a University to serve the diverse needs of traditional, adult and graduate students, now with a range of both Bachelor's and Master's degrees.

Today, Mount Mercy's vibrant programs are steeped in service learning and community outreach. From working with Kids Against Hunger to packaging boxes of food to weaving blankets for babies at local hospitals, our students devote 12,000 hours on average every year to serving Cedar Rapids. Our faculty and staff share a similar drive to address need wherever they find it. Our alumni literally walk a path of advocacy and Mercy every day of their lives. They bring change on a large scale, like Michael Kutcher '08, a national advocate raising awareness of cerebral palsy. They also work locally, like Peggy Detweiler '92 who gives her free time to the Iowana Camp Fire Board.

The value of Mercy then is embodied by the efforts and dedication of all those who come into deep contact with it. As Mercy and Mission week provides our community with unique opportunities to experience — in tangible and authentic ways — a deeper connection with our Mercy mission, and ultimately our mission as a University, we are reminded again that our Mercy heritage is a living, breathing thing capable of bringing exactly the right kind of change to our communities and to our world.

Over 7,000 of our graduates now living and working in eastern Iowa exemplify that value on a daily basis. 

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