Holy Names University president William Hynes on promoting the common good through education

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William Hynes, was recently inaugurated as the 17th president of Holy Names University in Oakland, a former women-only college that focuses on how students can make a social impact in addition to their chosen education field. Hynes’ fourth book, “Principles of Entrepreneurship,” is due out this year.


What did it mean to you to be named president?

It’s meant a great deal to me. In a real sense, it’s both coming home and finding your family. Coming home because my family and I lived here for 10 years when I was vice president of St. Mary’s [College]. As for finding one’s family, I have fought for academic excellence and diversity for all of my professional life from being a grad student to civil rights and Dr. Martin Luther King.


What was it like at the inauguration?

Having an inauguration six to seven months after intense time to get to know the community and their hopes and fears is a vastly different thing. It was a joyous occasion. You can tell a lot about the place that we started with the Oakland Interfaith Gospels Choir — 10 minutes in and the place was rocking.


What is the university’s mission?

Our little logo, it is about liberating the spirit since 1868. I think that the sisters coming here and the men in the ’70s and very, very diverse population, our mission is to reach the fullness of each human being and to promote the common good.


What are your goals for the university?

The Hippocratic Oath — do no harm. The first public goal is to tell the story of the university. We have been here
143 years and still not everybody knows our name. We’re not [the bar] Cheers. People do not know where we are. I want to make it so that the university has greater visibility. We also are starting to plan for a comprehensive campaign that goes beyond capital. I want to put a greater emphasis on endowments, which can go a long way to ensuring the future of a university and students. We have a strong commitment to social justice.


What philosophy do you bring to the position?

I believe with Anne Frank that everyone is at heart good and our challenge is to find that good and come together as one with good people to actuate our fullest potential and to put it into service to our sisters and brothers in the community.


Who or what has been your biggest influence?

My father has been the strongest influence on me. He told me when I was 5 years old, “William, everyone has a story and if you learn that story and respect that story, you will have a friend for life.”
What is your advice to others?

I encourage others to be contemplative and take action. That is, to have a source and base from which they get a spiritual base and empowers them outward to work for social justice and at the end of the day come back to their source of contemplation to be renewed and go back out for the next day.

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