[Closing Message: In Celebration of 13 New PhDs at ADDU]
That we have been able to celebrate our thirteen new doctors this afternoon in this elegant manner gives me great pleasure.
We are celebrating doctorates in various disciplines: Clinical Psychology, Educational Management, Political Administration, Mathematics, Engineering, Research Administration, Education, and Philosophy. That is a bonanza for our university and the many disciplines that we are engaged in.
But in this diversity, we also celebrate in the one spirit of the “Ph.D.” or of the “philosophiae Doctor” or the “Doctor Philosophiae.” “Doctor” in Latin refers to a teacher or to “a wise person.” For how can one undertake to be a teacher of others, unless one possesses wisdom? And wisdom needs to be pursued.
The pursuit of wisdom, however, no matter what one’s particular field of specialization may be, is an unending, infinite concern, an ongoing pursuit, entered upon when one has finally realized – often after much personal pain – that no matter what levels of higher learning one may have achieved, one has really not attained enough learning. For truth is always larger than what we grasp with our limited minds, and truth often demands life-realizations of personal integrity and moral rectitude that are not studied in books, but are commanded, lived, attained, and paid for dearly, in wisdom. No matter one’s academic degrees, wisdom is elusive. That is the ironic truth about what we celebrate today: the PhD. We certainly do not celebrate just a piece of paper; nor even just an inadequate increase in monthly compensation that comes with that piece of paper. We celebrate the person wise because in that person’s pursuit of wisdom, he or she has not yet attained wisdom.
Our first reading from the Book of James in this morning’s liturgy may have something to say to us: The person who is wise should be able “to show this by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom” (Ja: 3:13). With the doctorate, one certainly has what many refer to today as “bragging rights.” And especially in the world of academe it is nice to be called Dr. Castrillo rather than just Ms. Castrillo or Dr. Fenecios rather than just Mr. Fenecios On the other hand, the person who is wise, understands his or her imperfection, and lives wisdom in a good life and in humility – endeavoring to live goodness not as an animal nor as a machine, but as a human being, not being haughty in erudition, nor vain in humility, nor arrogant in achievements – but acknowledging the truth that one has not yet attained wisdom but lives to be worthy of this in grace. God knows: there are many pedigreed doctors who fail in wisdom, and many who have not even finished elementary education who are far wiser than many doctors. This is the context in which we celebrate the PhD today.
Originally, the doctorate certified only a high level of scholarship. In the 19th Century however the German Universities began demanding that those who attain the doctoral level shall have contributed to the expansion of knowledge through a unique contribution to research. It is from this requirement that the doctoral dissertations emanated. The requirement of the German Humbolt universities was taken over by the American Yale University, then adopted by the universities of the United Kingdom. It is in this tradition that the PhDs that we recognize in the Philippines require a dissertation, an actual contribution by the scholar to the expansion of knowledge. The reason why I lost a good deal of my hair was because my dissertation was on the concept of “the Future” in the works of Karl Marx, which required an understanding of dialectic in the systematic philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, whose German even for Germans is rather tortuous. There were many times I wanted to give up (and save my hair). I guess, it was wise that I didn’t.
It is in this context that at ADDU we situate our doctors in the rank of Associate Professor where the new expectation, noblesse oblige, is that they continue to teach with authority, as much as possible, within their discipline; already we are contemplating major structural changes in our university that will allow this to actually happen. There is the expectation, furthermore, that they continue what they have already shown they can do in attaining their doctorate, that is, to expand knowledge in their fields through research. This belongs pre-eminently to the nature of a university and is what we refer to as: “doctoral- or PhD-level research.” Here, research is done not only to tell people what other researchers have discovered (secondary research), but to work in a rigorously disciplined manner to discover new truth (primary research), especially that truth that would contribute to the realization of our university vision and mission, e.g., truth about the human person, truth about human society, truth about God, truth about creation, about nature, about the environment, about technology, truth about what is right and what is wrong. We ask of our PhDs who are our senior academicians to be the senior implementors of our mission here at the Ateneo de Davao.
Allow me to end this then with a word of thanks. PhDs are important not merely because of CHED or PAASCU requirements for universities. PhDs are CHED and PAASCU requirements for universities because without them the universities cannot function as they must. My word of thanks to you for undertaking to attain the doctorate, for staying the course despite many near shipwrecks, and for finally achieving the doctorate you once merely dreamed of achieving. Thank you for making the sacrifice, and for today committing yourselves anew to enhanced service as academicians to the university community. Today we honor you with our gratitude, our hopes, and our prayers. As our new PhDs, doctores philosophiae, may your search for wisdom continue in genuine humility, but in your ongoing search, may you help ADDU in magis to better teach the truth, to better discover the truth in a manner relevant for our people, to better serve our communities of humanity in Davao, Mindanao, and the globe.
May all truly be for the greater glory of God!