Honoring Ninoy and Cory Aquino
Yesterday, August 20, Fr Jose Ramon T. Villarin, President of the Ateneo de Manila University, announced that the Board of Trustees of the university, in a meeting held last August 2, approved a proposal to rename the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG), of which I am Dean, to honor the memory of Benigno S Aquino Jr and Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.
The rationale for this decision to rename the school is the record of public service and the example of heroic leadership that Ninoy and Cory Aquino provide for all Filipinos. The university is especially motivated by its desire for all its students, especially those enrolled in ASoG, to have models of effective and ethical public servants they can aspire to and emulate.
The idea of renaming the school to honor the Aquinos goes way back to 2007. I had just taken over the school when I realized that the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino was around the corner. I explored it with a few colleagues then and realized the timing was not right. For the next 8 years, I continued to develop the idea and waited for the right timing to push it forward. It helped that an alumnus of the university sent a proposal with a similar idea to Fr Villarin in 2012.
When Fr Villarin asked my advice on that proposal, I decided that it was time to move the idea forward. Dr Antonette Palma Angeles, Vice President for Professional Schools, and Atty Jaime Hofileña, Vice-President for Social Development, and I, with inputs from the ASoG management team, finalized the proposal and submitted it to Fr Villarin and the Board of Trustees for approval.
Heroic and servant leadership
Leadership exercised by all is not just about the giving of good orders – though this will be expected of those placed in positions of authority.
In looking at the history of how the Jesuits spread across the world, leaving lasting impacts on the societies they visited, former JP Morgan executive (and former Jesuit seminarian) Chris Lowney in his book Heroic Leadership argues that practically every Jesuit exercised leadership, or at least was encouraged to do so.
These heroic leaders were bold and daring, ready at a moment’s notice to sail forth to far locations, for God and for the salvation of human souls anywhere, anytime. These heroic leaders knew themselves: what they were capable of, what their weaknesses were, their place in the world, and their deeply-felt mission to make that world a better place, for God and for fellow men.
To quote Lowney: “Genuine leadership – focuses on the possible, the future. Love-driven leaders seek out and honor the potential in self and others. Heroic leaders seek to shape the future rather that passively endure whatever unfolds. And ingenuity-driven leaders uncover ways to turn human potential into achievement and a vision of the future into a reality.”
Heroic and servant leadership – this is what the country needs. This is also the heart of ASoG. From its founding, we have been a graduate school of leadership and public service, with a mission of forming a cadre of ethical and effective leaders for the country. We teach our students to always strive to do the right things and do them the right way. These two values – moral integrity and effectiveness – come together in sacrifice for the common good and for the country.
Heroic and servant leadership also describes best how Ninoy and Cory Aquino lived, led, and served our country. Their deaths did not end their legacy but in fact cemented their contributions.
Fr Villarin pointed out that it is particularly appropriate to make this decision to rename ASoG to honor the Aquinos in August when we commemorate the death anniversaries of these icons of good governance. Additionally, it would be fitting also to announce this decision on the eve of the 31st anniversary of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino.
For the university, renaming the school to honor the Aquinos includes a commitment to remember the martial law period of oppression and injustice. As recently reaffirmed by Fr Villarin, “we have not forgotten the darkness of those years of dictatorship and that we will not compromise on our principles in forming those who would lead this nation."
Speaking through Maria Elena Aquino-Cruz, eldest daughter of Ninoy and Cory Aquino and sister of President Benigno S Aquino III, the family has welcomed this decision of the Ateneo de Manila University to honor their parents. The Aquino sisters and the President appreciate this decision, especially since the family did not ask for it and the university is doing this out of its own initiative.
The actual renaming of the school will take place in time for the August anniversaries of the Aquinos in 2015 and to coincide with the commencement exercises of the school next year. We will however have a modest event in September 2014 to initiate the renaming process. This will include consultations with stakeholders and branding experts to determine the final name of the school.
Among the names being considered: Ateneo de Manila University Benigno S Aquino Jr and Corazon C Aquino School of Government, with an alias of Ateneo Aquino School of Government (AASG). All of you are welcome and will be invited to participate in this process of branding and deciding the final name.
We will also launch a scholarship and endowment fund campaign, using the renaming of the school as the anchor. ASoG is at a turning point at which we can leverage our achievements thus far so as to catapult it to a next stage of growth and influence. From 10-15 graduates and a student population of less than 100 when I took over on 2006, we now are graduating 70-150 MPM graduates (the latter if we include our joint program with the Development Academy of the Philippines) and a student population of 800 students (which includes the DAP MRD students).
We also have a growing PHD Leadership program with 20 students, two of who will graduate next year. We hope this scholarship and research endowment campaign that would provide the school with the resources for its stability and expected growth.
Finally, in making this decision and choosing to announce this now, the Board of Trustees, the university officials, and the administrators of ASoG, are conscious that the Aquino name is a live name in Philippine politics.
We are perfectly aware that the current president is the son of the Aquinos we are honoring and that other Aquino relatives are also in politics or could join politics. We emphasize that this is not about them but about Ninoy and Cory Aquino whose records of heroic, ethical, and effective leadership rise above partisan lines. We believe that our stakeholders and the general public would be able to see through the ongoing political noise and recognize this. – Rappler.com