Response of Toby Dayrit, 25-Year Service Awardee: 30th University Service Awards

Ateneo de Manila University
30th University Service Awards
3:00pm, Thursday, 22 November 2007
High School Covered Courts

Twenty-five years

Dr. Fabian M. Dayrit

On behalf of my 25-year co-celebrants, I would like to thank the Ateneo community for being such a good home. It’s a common theme among almost all of the previous speakers to emphasize that they wouldn’t have stayed so long if the Ateneo wasn’t a place like home. I would like to add that to make a place of work feel like home really includes three aspects: the administration (our employers), the community (the faculty, staff and our students) and a shared purpose (the Mission).

In many ways, being at the Ateneo has provided a complete, balanced lifestyle – opportunities to shape the lives of people, both young and old, opportunities to grow personally, professionally and spiritually, and opportunities to do things that matter. The Ateneo is a special community with many inspiring and caring people. So, my brief response is really addressed to everyone – the administration and the entire community – and also talks about the Mission that the Ateneo strives for.

Whenever I give exams, I often insert quotations from famous scientists which I think are appropriate to the examination topic which I am giving. I rarely get any responses from the examinees because I guess they are too focused on balancing the equations or performing the calculations. But I think that it’s important for would-be scientists to also think about the wider issues which involve science.

One scientist whom I like to quote is Niels Bohr, one of the most important scientists during the first half of the 20th century. The early 20th century was a remarkable era in the history of science which saw the rise of the theories of quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle, and relativity, among others. Bohr, who proposed one of the early models of atomic structure, was troubled by the rise of so many theories all of which sought to arrive at a better understanding of the nature of matter. He also tried to link these ideas to the question of free will and basic life processes. He expressed his struggle to bring these many disparate theories together saying: "Only wholeness leads to clarity."

In many ways, the start of the 21st century has also brought about so many changes and challenges which we must struggle with, such as environment, health, poverty, etc. All of these involve the complex interplay of science, technology, economics, politics, sociology, religion, culture, ethics, and others.

I think that it is here that the Ateneo must continue to play its key role: to try to find the solutions to the challenges that we face using a holistic approach. When I refer to a “holistic approach”, I mean it on two levels: being holistic in terms of the fields of study and holistic in terms of the unity of academics, practice and Mission. It is the wholeness in the approach that will contribute to the solution.

There is a second quotation from Niels Bohr that I think is most appropriate here:
"They like to do it smartly, but the point is to do it right."

During Bohr’s time, various scientists wanted to try so many tricks – mathematical and experimental – to understand or solve their challenges, and he was wary of such techniques. Today, we too are faced with a similar situation. Some try to look for fancy solutions or shortcuts to solve our old problems, but the point is to do it right.

Twenty-five years is a good time to look back at what one has done, but it is also an opportunity to look forward to things that lie ahead. Obviously we will not be able to finish the great task of doing it right. But it is our dedication to our Mission and our love for the people whom we seek to serve that will hopefully push us to do more. Thus, I would like to close by echoing what Fr. Pedro Arrupe said:
“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”

The decision to dedicate our lives to serving God is what has given wholeness and clarity to our lives and the sense of purpose to do it right.