University’s 26th president touts plans for boosting enrollment in inaugural address

Dr. Donald B. Taylor was officially installed as Detroit Mercy’s 26th president last week with an inaugural address that promised a “quantum leap” forward as the university looks to play a more prominent role in Detroit and the surrounding region.

Taylor’s inauguration took place March 24 in Calihan Hall with a number of university dignitaries and members of Detroit City Council present. His speech at the ceremony – his first official one since taking over as president last year – covered a number of opportunities for the university to grow and improve.

“It’s been my experience that every institution has inflection points where you have the opportunity to make a quantum leap forward,” Taylor said. “Detroit Mercy has everything it needs to take that quantum leap and we all have a role to play.”

Taylor talked about ways UDM can bolster its healthcare programs to fill the need for doctors and nurses; improve enrollment by attracting more first-generation students; diversifying UDM’s campuses with more students of color from within the city; and improving partnerships with local high schools.

Included in that vision for greater outreach, Taylor wants to make UDM the Catholic-Jesuit destination for university-bound students in the Midwest. He announced plans for a rebranding campaign that he hopes will help contribute to those plans.

“We’re on the cusp of going from really, really good to becoming great,” Taylor said. “My vision is for Detroit Mercy to be the premier entrepreneurial, innovative, community-engaged Catholic university in the Midwest. We must serve as a model for what the post-pandemic university can be.”

Taylor reaffirmed the Detroit Mercy mission throughout his speech and cited the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, Catherine McAuley, twice in emphasis of his vision for UDM and its students: “We can never say it is enough.”

He hopes that his time in the presidential suite will bring about greater outreach to the community as part of the university’s mission of championing the underserved.

Taylor plans to implement new programs, including the “Titan Guarantee,” which would promise that each four-year student leaves UDM with an internship, clinical or other real-world capstone that would prepare them for a job. He spoke of potential micro-certifications that he hopes can be utilized by future nontraditional students, like those who are not coming to college directly after high school or those who may

have families of their own. “When you meet people where they are, when you show them a path forward and how to access it, you create hope,” he said.

“There is not a more transformative energy in the world than hope. It’s our job to bring hope to the community that we live in and that we serve.”

Before his speech, the ceremony began with a procession into the hall with an orchestral accompaniment over the speakers.

Once seated, Detroit Mercy’s chorus performed the National Anthem.

Current undergraduate students Aasiyah Khan and Jacob Yasso delivered the invocation.

Khan delivered a message with a citation from the Quran, while Yasso concluded his message with the Trinitarian formula in connection to the university’s Catholic background.

Taylor was also presented with multiple gifts.

He received a tree in honor of both his new position and the University’s 126th year; this will be planted near Holden Hall.

Various student representatives from the McNichols, Riverfront and Corktown campuses donated furniture and artwork in Taylor’s name to a dedicated space in the recently-renovated Student Union. A plaque with this information will be placed nearby.

The Rev. Daniel McDonald and Sister Patricia Flynn gave the missioning.

They spoke of the Jesuit tradition and its calls to action, charging Taylor with the duty of contributing to them. In connection to that duty, they spoke of Christ as a man “who came to serve and not be served.” Former President Antoine Garibaldi passed the university’s mace to Taylor, citing its symbolic importance to the Jesuit mission and the city of Detroit.

A medallion bearing the university’s crest was blessed and a prayer for guidance and discernment of God’s word was given before it was donned by Taylor.

His official presidential consecration emphasized the support that Taylor has from the Detroit Mercy community.

He ended his speech with a call to action for alumni and current students, echoing UDM’s marketing slogan that “the world needs Titans,” especially now.

“I’m excited,” Taylor said. “Because we have so many more opportunities than we do challenges.”