The need for liberal arts

Developing a moral compass helps steer our path

Tim Kochis, Arts ’68, lives the Marquette mission of excellence, faith, leadership and service by trying to ensure that his actions benefit others. He served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971, including a tour of duty in Vietnam, where he received a Purple Heart. He and his wife, Penelope Wong, engage in substantial philanthropy, including sponsoring a Marquette scholarship fund. A 2017 alumni awards winner for his career in personal finance, Kochis spoke about the importance of the liberal arts in the following acceptance speech for distinguished alumnus of the year award.

I’m grateful to Marquette and to the Klingler School of Arts and Sciences for the opportunity to stand before you, very nearly 50 years after receiving my bachelor of arts degree in 1968.

Today, an education in the liberal arts is under some threat as our society, rightly, focuses attention on practical educational disciplines and promotes a greater emphasis on science, engineering, technology, and math.

These are, of course, essential fundamentals of a robust, free, and broadly distributed social welfare.

But those disciplines are not sufficient in my view. They provide the engine of advancement for us all, but they cannot be the steering wheel.

The sciences and math are, appropriately, values-neutral. In contrast, an education in the liberal arts is all about developing a moral compass through a strong understanding of the human condition and an acceptance of ambiguity and an appreciation for differing perspectives.

Instead of a quest for precision, the measure of success in the Humanities is an awareness of the unavoidable uncertainty in human affairs and developing a sense of values that permits us to navigate our way through that uncertainty.

So, I am happy to accept this honor in celebration of the lasting importance of education in the Humanities.

And I am very pleased to accept this, not for myself, but on behalf of all students of the Humanities, past, present, and future.

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