By George P. Matysek Jr.
BALTIMORE — The love and goodwill for Loyola University Maryland’s new president were palpable during Terrence M. Sawyer’s Oct. 12 inauguration as the 25th leader of Baltimore’s Jesuit university.
From the moment Sawyer appeared at the end of a long procession of robed faculty members and other dignitaries inside Reitz Arena, sustained applause from more than 1,800 standing guests washed over him as the beaming New Jersey native gently placed a hand over his heart in appreciation.
More ovations greeted Sawyer throughout the ceremony, with some students even breaking into shouts of “Ter-ry! Ter-ry!”
Sawyer has served in a variety of capacities at the university for more than two decades, most recently as senior vice president. The first lay president in Loyola’s 170-year history, he and his wife, Courtney, now live on Loyola’s Evergreen campus at Armiger House.
At the climax of the ceremony, James D. Forbes, a Loyola trustee and former chairman of the board of trustees, draped a gleaming, chained silver insignia over Sawyer’s shoulders as a symbol of Sawyer’s new office.
Standing beneath green-and-gray drapery that adorned the rafters, the new president then gave his inaugural address — expressing his love for Loyola and outlining his dreams for the school.
“I stand here today with overwhelming gratitude for the faith and trust that has been placed in me,” said Sawyer, a longtime parishioner of Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland.
Sawyer highlighted Loyola’s tradition of Jesuit excellence, which stretches back to a class in 1852 that consisted of just 95 young men and now includes a student body of approximately 3,900 undergraduates of both sexes.
Moving into the future, he said, the Loyola community must continue to develop and sustain rich relationships. The school must be bold and courageous. And leaders must underscore efforts to foster “transformative, ethical and brave leaders,” he said.
“Our nation and our world face pressing issues,” Sawyer declared. “Democracy is threatened. Climate change is destroying lives and communities. Members of our society continue to feel unseen and unvalued. Truth and facts are often elusive, and we struggle to engage in civil discourse.”
Loyola’s Jesuit mission enables the school to “recognize the complexity and systemic challenges faced in so many areas of political, cultural and economic spheres,” he said.
“It teaches our students to have the courage to advocate for the most vulnerable among us,” Sawyer said. “And throughout all of it, we constantly challenge our students to become humble, ethical leaders who can bring positive change to our world.”
Sawyer, who succeeds Jesuit Father Brian Linnane as president, said Loyola embraces the Jesuit practice of seeing God in all things, allowing all relationships to move and change individuals.
During the ceremony, various leaders from the Jesuits, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the city of Baltimore, Loyola University Maryland and others addressed Sawyer.
Some presented gifts, including retired Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore, who gave Sawyer a bust of St. Ignatius of Loyola — founder of the Society of Jesus and patron saint of Baltimore.
During an Oct. 11 Mass of thanksgiving, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori offered congratulations to Sawyer and noted that the words “university” and “Catholic” mean the same thing: “a desire to understand things according to their whole, to explore the deep connections among varied fields of inquiry, a connection we believe comes from the fact that God is the source of all truth.”
“In an age of cultural and intellectual fragmentation, Loyola is poised to render still greater service, both to the Catholic intellectual tradition and to the wider culture,” Archbishop Lori said.
The school can help “us and our contemporaries to integrate faith and reason and … to overcome dead-end, polarizing ideologies of the right and of the left — ideologies that refuse to view reality through a broader lens, the lens of reason illumined by faith,” he said.
The new president has a history of aggressively working to make Loyola a more welcoming place to people of all backgrounds, said Christian McNeill, a 2022 graduate of Loyola from New Jersey who serves on Loyola’s board of trustees.
This year’s freshman class of 1,290 students is not only the largest class in Loyola’s history, but with 39% identifying as students of color, it also is its most diverse.
Sawyer “has been a transformative leader for our university in regard to student development, diversity, equity and inclusion.” McNeill told the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan news outlet.
Claire Perkins, a Loyola senior and president of the student body, added that Sawyer is a friend of everyone on campus and has been very approachable while walking its grounds.
“I’ve noticed students have just brought concerns right up to him, which is incredible,” the Connecticut native said.