By Diane G. Smathers
Of the many things I have faith in, higher
education ranks right up
there. I trust students. I
have confidence in facul-
ty. And I place a great
deal of stock in a venerable organization
that springs from the academy: The Honor Soci-
ety of Phi Kappa Phi.
Students continue to impress. They worry
about the environment and are concerned with
the U.S. national debt. They debate immigration law and strive for world peace. They engage in service learning, such as Habitat for
Humanity International, and have made Teach
For America a popular postgraduation choice.
They perform community outreach stateside
and abroad almost as second nature. And they
are very, very smart. So, I am encouraged by
the next generation: by their ability to lead, to
discover, to empathize, and to take action for
the betterment of mankind.
My faith in professors stems from not mere-
ly their training and expertise but also their
passion and willingness to share their knowl-
edge, especially with students. Genuine devo-
tion and commitment drive faculty to spend
hours preparing for a freshman biology class or
overseeing student organizations that meet at
the end of a long day. It’s commendable that
professors contribute to their fields and the
larger world; the many roles faculty assume
also inspires: scholar, teacher, mentor,
advisor, even surrogate parent, plus cam-
pus committee participant.
Finally, I take great pride in the honor
and excellence evidenced in Phi Kappa Phi.
The members represent the best and
brightest across the disciplines, the
country and the planet. And in my 40-plus
years of involvement, I assert that there
is no finer group of volunteers than those cur-
rently leading our Society. We are blessed
with an outstanding board, tireless commit-
tees, plus dedicated staff who have faith in
Phi Kappa Phi, who uphold our motto, “Let
the love of learning rule humanity.” There’s
no better decree of faith than that inside aca-
demia or beyond it.
We can have faith in just about anything.
Faith most often manifests itself in people or religion. There’s a lot to be said for worshipping
higher education and those invested in it.
By Peter Szatmary
‘You must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go n,” the narrator declares to end Samuel Beckett’s
existentialist monologue of a
novel, The Unnamable, from
1953. Indeed. Most of us
struggle on occasion to find our resolve during
crises, tests, and other challenges, from the phys-
ical to the metaphysical.
Seriocomic Beckett stares down and winks at
the unknowable, at fate, however grim. He
trusts, has faith in, intelligence, both outraged
and amused, resigned and determined, when
dealing with a deck considered stacked against
humanity. Ironical Beckett locates power and
consolation in wit. I like that.
I interpret his savvy yet sober will — a sort
of pessimistic optimism or obscure brightness
— generally as faith and specifically as trust. In
ourselves, yes. I add: in someone or something.
This belief placed somewhere plays a prominent role in everyday matters, too, not merely
big events. Take automobiles. We trust that the
driver of a vehicle approaching ours on a two-way street does not harbor a death wish, of
course, and that we can prevent a fatal accident
if the motorist does. The fellow traveler assumes the same faith. We additionally trust our
relatives or friends to pick us up at the airport,
on time, just as they expect us to come through
for them. Each of us understands mutually beneficial considerations.
Virtually every aspect of life, from the mundane to the pivotal, incorporates faith-as-trust.
We naturally must rely on ourselves to do what’s
necessary and to heed our gut. Our dependence
extends outward as well to doctors who treat us
and cooks who feed us, militaries that protect us
and utilities that serve us, pilots who fly us and
entertainers who transport us, laws that equip us
and toys that divert us. We must trust, have faith
in, governments and businesses, educators and
coaches, appliances and sciences — anything
and everything. With few exceptions, we can’t
exist otherwise. Nor can the receptacles of our
faith-as-trust if through their error, neglect or
abuse we withdraw it.
In fact, sometimes we lose faith; sometimes
our trust is violated. Infidelity — not remaining faithful to a partner — decimated my nuclear family when I was a little boy. The psychologist I saw weekly in high school fell
asleep on me, repeatedly. Questionable ethics
arising in a public official’s executive staff so
disillusioned me that I resigned from an administrative position not too long after landing
there straight out of college. One relative committed suicide, another murder, shaking me
and my kin to the core.
We let ourselves down just as others disappoint us. One wonderful component of faith-as-trust is that in both instances some (alas, not all)
poor decisions can be corrected, bad habits addressed, blinkered thinking expanded, broken
promises restored, succumbed-to temptations redirected, and criminal activities deterred. Faith-as-trust encompasses growth, positivity, learning, goodness. The U.S. Constitution contains
amendments. A sincere apology goes a long
way. “New and improved” products aren’t always or only ploys.
We’re linked, then, even amid diverging politics, values, background, and race — not to
mention religion. So whether we’re pious or
spiritual or agnostic or atheist, we possess the
same faith-as-trust: an underlying confidence
as an operating principle across the board,
while allowing for morose and jocose caveats
You put your trust in what type of faith?
My faith in professors stems from not merely
their training and expertise but also their
passion and willingness to share their
knowledge, especially with students.