Penn State Abington has established its own honor society, Civitas Victus Dictio (CVD), to provide high-achieving students with a community of ideas.
Members are assigned readings before each meeting, where they discuss the topic over dinner with faculty. For the inaugural dinner, the 16 students read passages from John Henry Newman's 1852 book, "The Idea of A University," to inform their debate on the purpose of higher education.
The keynote speaker or Lar Fellow, Leonard Mustazza, said Newman endorsed the notion of the university as a conduit to explore ideas and meet diverse groups of people.
"You are intellectual explorers," Mustazza, distinguished professor of English and American Studies at Abington, told the CVD members.
Newman suggested that higher education should connect branches of knowledge so we can complete, correct, and balance each other, Mustazza said. One can then think, reason, analyze, and make good judgments in daily life and not just at work.
"And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance — dance with curiosity and intellect,"
-- Leonard Mustazza, distinguished professor of English and American studies
Abington student and CVD member Nateshia Wanamaker agreed.
"School is not a means to an end, it's an experience in itself," she said.
Mustazza epitomizes the belief that higher education develops a well-rounded person. His broad research and teaching interests include writers John Milton and Kurt Vonnegut, singer Frank Sinatra, and popular culture. Mustazza also served as an administrator at Abington.
Mustazza closed the evening with comments that mixed philosophy with popular music, demonstrating the balance he —and Newman — believe is crucial to developing the whole person.
"Life isn't about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself," Mustazza intoned before invoking the country/pop song "I Hope You Dance."
"And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance — dance with curiosity and intellect," he laughed.
The Latin words Civitas Victus Dictio translate broadly as community, nourishment and word with each concept representing one of the society's three areas of pursuit.
CVD faculty leadership select a Lar Fellow, or keynote speaker, for each of the three yearly meetings. Lar is an ancient Roman deity thought to protect and influence those attending family dinners and events. The Lares Building at Abington, where CVD meets, is the named for the plural form of the word.