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Notes on regeneration

10:00 AM  Aug 26th, 2011
by Matthew Dewald

I confess that when I think about regeneration, the subject of one of this issue’s features, my thoughts are not about science so much as science fiction and mythology. I think of poor Prometheus chained to that rock, his liver growing back each night so that an eagle could return to devour it each day. It was his eternal punishment from Zeus for giving fire to us mortals. Some days I think I know how he must’ve felt.

But such thoughts mark one difference between me, an editor, and a scientist like UD’s Panagiotis Tsonis. In the capacity of a newt to regenerate the lens of its eye, he sees the possibility of one day unlocking similar mechanisms in our own mammalian bodies. A fountain of youth may dwell within us all — but here I am thinking in metaphors again.

You can see regeneration as a more purposeful metaphor in this issue’s story on the River Stewards, who are helping put the region back in touch with the five rivers that the city’s founders first settled around. As a community, we turned our collective back on them a century ago, answering a devastating flood with high levees. Today, regional leaders look hopefully at a renewed embrace. Recreation and tourism, economic development, environmental stewardship — they could all flow together in the plans being laid today with the help of our students and their boundless visions of what the future can be.

The rebirth of the river is but one sign of a broader renewal throughout the region, driven in part by a regeneration of the University itself. This fall marks the beginning of the 10th year of Daniel J. Curran’s presidency at UD. As another feature story notes, the University has experienced a remarkable decade by any measure — the academic strength and geographic diversity of incoming classes, physical growth, infrastructure improvements, endowment health, internationalization and more.

It results from careful planning and calculated risk taking, of course, but those are tactics any well-run organization might claim. More than those, the momentum springs from our Marianist vision, our commitment to, in the words of Father Chaminade who founded the Marianists, read the signs of the times and act. The University community has acted boldly and with ingenuity under Dr. Curran’s leadership, positioning the institution for decades to come.

I see the changes daily outside my office windows, which overlook the 50 acres UD purchased from NCR in 2005. Tennis courts have sprung up and soccer practice fields are dramatically improved. Further in the distance, ground has been broken for the new GE Aviation R&D center.

And across Brown Street, life has returned to campus classrooms and the student neighborhoods after a long, hot summer. With the new generation of students, there is also a regeneration of our Marianist commitment to educate for adaptation and change in community.

And maybe that, too, is a little how Prometheus must’ve felt when he handed over the secret of fire.

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