Strathmore University has a unique history stretching from pre-independent Kenya, when different communities were segregated. Inspired by St. Josemaría’s message of working together towards the same aim, despite differences in opinion, tastes and backgrounds, Strathmore started as the first multi-racial A-Level college in the country in 1961.
Every year since 2016, we celebrate our history and heritage through the annual campus-wide event, during which we immerse ourselves deeply into the teachings of St. Josemaría. To mark the occasion, the University usually holds a series of events involving students, staff, faculty, trustees, alumni, and friends. The circumstances of the year 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic make it impossible for us to celebrate on campus; this, however, does not deter us from commemorating our Founder in the online space. The few activities of Founder’s Week will be held online and will be an opportunity for us to keep our hope alive as we celebrate the founder of Strathmore University.
2020 Theme: Don’t Just Survive, Thrive
Does adversity or crisis make us better or worse? The theme of our Founder’s Week this year is “Don’t Just Survive, Thrive.” In March 2020, Pope Francis, in response to the global devastation of the pandemic, wrote, “Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice it in people’s gestures, their glances give them away.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has created a sense of loss, helplessness and despair for many families, businesses, organisations, nations and the world. Yet, through it all, the Strathmore University family, from students and staff to parents, has worked tirelessly and with determination to facilitate the continuation of teaching, studies, and research.
St Josemaría, the Founder of Strathmore University, faced many situations of great adversity in his life. For instance, during the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939), he endured the constant threat of danger and tense uncertainty. It was a dark period, when Christians, especially priests and members of religious congregations, were at constant risk of losing their lives. Thousands of them were executed. Our Founder, already a priest, was forced to hide and dodge militia members searching for him.
In 1937, from April to August, he and five of his companions took refuge, together with more than a hundred other people, within the Honduran Consulate in Madrid. They lived in confinement, all six of them sharing a tiny room previously used to store coal. They slept on thin mattresses spread out at night on the floor. Since only one bathroom was available for all the refugees, they had to wait in line to use it. The two meals provided each day, at midday and in the evening, barely reached subsistence level due to food shortages then.
These and other adverse moments in his life did not halt his response to his calling as a priest, nor did they not deter him from spreading the message that God had entrusted him; that all people are called to be holy in ordinary life. As he insisted, all of the world’s “crises are the crises of saints.” Thanks to his trust in God, and resilience, he not only survived the darkest moments, but thrived through them, and helped many other people do so as well. Thanks to him, the Strathmore project began, barely two decades after the Spanish Civil War ended.
Looking back on his experiences, we can only take our present challenges as an opportunity to encourage each other, to be hopeful, to apply our best efforts in whatever we do, so that together, the Strathmore University family will, following in the footsteps of the Founder, emerge stronger at the end of the pandemic than it was at the beginning.
Over the course of this year’s Founder’s Week, we will try to learn more from our Founder’s teachings, to put in words and images our experiences through the pandemic so far, to share messages of hope and optimism, and to develop ideas to catalyse our continued thriving.