Tuesday, April 26, 2011

John W. Smithson - interim SJU president

The end of an era, I'm afraid. The first non-Jesuit president in our history. I hope Fr. Lannon wasn't the last of the long black line, listed below.

This situation is not peculiar to St. Joe's as this article, Fewer Jesuit priests this Easter, but more people learning Jesuit ideals, from last week's Washington Post indicates.

As a Jesuit educated laymen -- it isn't the same as having a man who dedicated his whole life to the Society. As Fr. Martin succintly puts it; "“It’s like running a program in Italian studies with someone born in Italy, who has their PhD in Italian from an Italian school, versus someone born here who studied here,” he said. “As immersed as someone can get, they’re not living it the same way a Jesuit is. There’s something qualitatively different.”


Dear Alumni, Parents and Friends,

I am pleased to announce that at a special meeting on Tuesday evening, April 19, the Board voted to appoint John W. Smithson ’68, M.B.A. ’82 as Saint Joseph’s University’s Interim President. Members of the Board unanimously agreed that Mr. Smithson meets the expectations and aspirations of the campus community for this interim leadership role which were clearly articulated through the many e-mails sent to Trustees and the Open Forums that Board members held with students, faculty, the Jesuit community, administrators and staff, and alumni.

The Board heard the University community’s desire for a strong leader who will engage all constituencies within the community. It was made very clear that members of the University community desire an individual who will maintain the momentum established by Fathers Rashford and Lannon. The Board, along with those expressing their thoughts via the forums and e-mail, were united in their belief that an Interim President needed to demonstrate strength in four areas:

1. Commitment to Ignatian mission and values;
2. Commitment to and capable of, maintaining and building momentum in academic life, student life, fund raising, and fiduciary stewardship;
3. Sensitivity to student and faculty needs, and commitment to maintaining a visible and accessible leadership profile for the SJU community; and
4. Proficiency in Saint Joseph’s administrative affairs.

There was consensus across the community that we appoint an individual familiar with Saint Joseph’s and who has demonstrated a commitment to its Catholic, Jesuit mission. The Board concluded that the University needed an individual who did not require a learning curve and could be effective from day one. As a result, the Board agreed that an internal candidate was best able to act as a steward of the University’s legacy during this interim period.

As you know, Mr. Smithson served as a University Trustee from 1999-2007 and Board Chair from 2003-2007. He has been serving as the Senior Vice President at the University since February 2010. As a result of his deep engagement with Saint Joseph’s, John possesses a deep and holistic understanding of the University’s mission and history, its short-term needs and its long-term goals. He understands its current operational strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, John has a demonstrated respect for and understanding of student and faculty needs.

Mr. Smithson was recruited back to Saint Joseph’s as a result of Fr. Lannon’s and the Board’s desire to strengthen University leadership and enable the President to focus more time externally. Previously, he held the position of Senior Vice President at Towers Watson Reinsurance and, he was also the CEO and President of PMA Capital Corporation.

Under Mr. Smithson’s leadership as Board Chair, Saint Joseph’s achieved some remarkable successes, beginning with the appointment of Fr. Lannon as its 26th President. The University also experienced the establishment of the Brian C. Duperreault ’69 Chair for Risk Management and Insurance, the addition of the residence halls on City Avenue now known as Rashford and Lannon Halls, the revitalization of the City Avenue Special Services District (CASSD), the establishment of the Catholic Bioethics Institute and the Pedro Arrupe Center for Business Ethics, the signing of the agreement to purchase the Merion Campus from the Episcopal Academy and the highest ranking from US News & World Report, to name just a few.

Mr. Smithson will assume the position of Interim President of Saint Joseph’s University on May 18, 2011.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who took the time to attend an Open Forum regarding the search and selection process for the Interim President of Saint Joseph's University. I appreciate your interest and concern. It is very clear that each and every one of you is passionate about Saint Joseph’s and wants what is best for our community. I know that the other Trustees who attended the sessions found it very beneficial to hear first-hand what is of most importance to you.

Concurrently, the Presidential Search Committee is continuing the search process, focusing initially on potential Jesuit candidates who are qualified and available, to be considered as the full-time successor to Fr. Lannon.

As the Board Chair, despite this period of transition, I am both pleased by and confident in the excellent situation which Saint Joseph’s is in today. There are a number of strategic initiatives in place, including Academic Affairs, Student Life, Athletics, Development, Enrollment Management, Information Technology and Marketing. Under the guidance of the Board of Trustees and the interim leadership of John Smithson, these key initiatives will continue to move forward as we continue to make every effort to provide our students with the highest quality Saint Joseph’s education.

Please join me in wishing Mr. Smithson well as he assumes the interim leadership of the University, and in offering him your support during this time of transition at Saint Joseph’s.


Paul J. Hondros ’70

Saint Joseph's University, 5600 City Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19131

Rev. Felix Barbelin, S.J. 1851 1856

Rev. James Ryder, S.J. 1856 1857

Rev. James A. Ward, S.J. 1857 1860

Rev. Felix Barbelin, S.J. 1860 1868

Rev. Burchard Villiger, S.J. 1868 1893

Rev. Patrick J. Dooley, S.J. 1893 1896

Rev. William F. Clark, S.J. 1896 1900

Rev. Cornelius Gillespie, S.J. 1900 1907

Rev. Denis T. O'Sullivan, S.J. 1907 1908

Rev. Cornelius Gillespie, S.J. 1908 1909

\Rev. Charles W. Lyons, S.J. 1909 1914

Rev. J. Charles Davey, S.J. 1914 1917

Rev. Redmond J. Walsh, S.J. 1917 1920

Rev. Patrick F. O'Gorman, S.J. 1920 1921

Rev. Albert G. Brown, S.J. 1921 1927

Rev. William T. Tallon, S.J. 1927 1933

Rev. Thomas J. Higgins, S.J. 1933 1939

Rev. Thomas J. Love, S.J. 1939 1944

Rev. John L. Long, S.J. 1944 1950

Rev. Edward G. Jacklin, S.J. 1950 1956

Rev. J. Joseph Bluett, S.J. 1956 1962

Rev. William F. Maloney, S.J. 1962 1968

Rev. Terrence Toland, S.J. 1968 1976

Rev. Donald I. MacLean, S.J. 1976 1986

Rev. Nicholas S. Rashford, S.J. 1986 2003

Rev. Timothy R. Lannon, S.J. 2003 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fr Currie to speak at SJU Commencement

Father Currie, who will give the commencement address at the graduate, doctoral and College of Professional and Liberal Studies ceremony, has served as president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities since 1997. In his career in Jesuit higher education, he has served in various leadership positions, including president of Wheeling Jesuit and Xavier universities, special assistant to the president of Georgetown University and rector of the Jesuit Community and adjunct faculty at Saint Joseph’s University. Throughout, he has interwoven a deep commitment to community and poor and marginalized populations worldwide.

In 1989, he traveled to Vietnam to arrange cooperative programs between Georgetown and Vietnamese universities. Later that year, following the assassination of Jesuit priests in El Salvador, he traveled to that country numerous times as special assistant to Georgetown’s president to coordinate the university’s response to the tragedy. Following the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005, he coordinated a rapid response by Jesuit colleges and universities to admit more than 1,600 students from Loyola University New Orleans and other affected institutions.

A Philadelphia native, he has studied at Fordham University, Boston College and Woodstock College, gaining graduate degrees in philosophy and theology, and at the Catholic University of America where he earned a doctorate in physical chemistry before pursuing postdoctoral research at Cambridge University the Canadian National Research Council and the National Bureau of Standards in Washington.

Charlie Currie, SJ with Joe Lacey, SJ at the Memorial Mass last
year for John Deeney, SJ of the Jamshedpur Jesuit Province.
Both of Father's brothers are Jesuits as well, Joe was at Fordham and is now at Wernersville, and Rob is in Nicaragua. Father looks to be trying to escape our conversation here -- as most smart people do when chatting with 44 ;-)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sr. Mary Scullion, RSM -- the Laetare Medal

Three word answer for a close to perfect imitation of Christ: SISTER MARY SCULLION, RSM.

She is the real deal. While the recently departed head of Philadelphia's Housing Authority, Carl Greene, drew a $300,000 salary, lived in a million dollar condominium, and wasted the tax payer's money on parties and attorney fees (and 20 leather trimmed Tumi carry-on duffel for PHA hacks - at $796 apiece ) -- this lady, this living saint, does far more for far less.

While coaching in North Philadelphia I took two of my players to a pre-season Eagles game and then dropped them off at their apartment at 23rd and Norris Streets. After they got in I saw this lady walking across the street and yelled "Sr. Mary." We chatted and she asked me what I was doing there. She knew both the boys as they lived in Rowan Homes -- a place she built for former homeless people. And she lived directly across the street.

Congrats Sr. Mary and Joan Dawson McConnon. I couldn't think of more deserving recipients! I'm sure your buddy Jon Bon Jovi will be there for the award ;-)

From the website Whispers in the Loggia, on April 3rd, by Rocco Palma.

Keeping its 130-year tradition on this Fourth Sunday of Lent, the University of Notre Dame announced this morning that the co-founders of the River City’s pioneering Project H.O.M.E. -- Religious Sister of Mercy Mary Scullion (above) and Joan Dawson McConnon -- are 2011’s joint recipients of American Catholicism’s most prestigious and venerable award, the Laetare Medal.

Founded in 1989, Project H.O.M.E. (“Housing. Opportunities for Employment. Medical Care. Education.”) has been credited with cutting Philadelphia’s homeless population in half. Its efforts based around a program that invites the homeless to come in from the streets to access the education and empowerment tools to find work, stability and a place to call their own, the empire of service created by this year’s Laetare laureates has grown from a start-up in an abandoned building with 12 men looking for help to providing nearly 500 affordable housing units for its current clients, countless more gone on to owning homes, multiple businesses to employ and train those who've come in search of the step up, and a multi-million-dollar North Philadelphia technology center where underprivileged youth spend six days a week learning the computer skills they'll need in today's workplace.

According to its figures, some 95 percent of Project H.O.M.E. alums "stay off the streets for good," and attempts to imitate the model have popped up around the country.

Along the way, with McConnon -- an accountant who left the corporate world behind after volunteering in a church hospice -- quietly overseeing the operations side of the work, the fierce, formidable religious known from City Hall and national newsrooms to shelters simply as “Sister Mary” would go on to become Philadelphia’s most credible and prominent moral authority, her passionate, unvarnished conviction winning an army of followers ranging from the longtime Republican (then Democratic) Senator Arlen Specter and the new owners of NBC to the musician Jon Bon Jovi, who's dubbed the "nun who spits and swears" his "mentor" in undertaking his own considerable efforts at service. Further underscoring the point, while sisters engaged in social ministry usually find their cheering section on one side of the political aisle, such are Scullion’s devotees across all sorts of divides that, when the Philadelphia Housing Authority was recently placed under Federal oversight amid allegations of mismanagement and settled sexual-harassment claims against its now-former executive director, the city’s leading conservative commentator took to prime-time TV brandishing a “big idea”: send in Sister Mary to whip the beleaguered agency back into shape.

Twenty-five years after opening her first shelter -- a home for mentally-ill women -- as her own housing goes, Scullion now lives in a one-bedroom apartment at Project H.O.M.E.'s recently-built residence for mothers who’ve come in from the streets with their kids. Prior to that, she kept her room at a former convent which the apostolate converted into a residence for 25 male addicts in various stages of recovery.

Dubbed “the nun who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer” by NBC Nightly News -- and, by others, the modern successor to her hometown’s own St Katharine Drexel, or even "Joan of Arc" -- Sr Mary has thrice made TIME magazine’s list of the world’s “100 Most Influential People,” tapped alongside such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Palin, President Obama, the topmost leaders of Britain, France and Germany, China’s presidential heir apparent, the founder of Amazon and the Evangelical mega-pastor Rick Warren... not to mention B16 himself.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Vinny O'Keefe on Pedro Arrupe

A brilliant blog by Fr. Jim McDermott, SJ about the life of Father-General Pedro Arrupe, SJ, as told in interviews with his closest asistant and former Vicar General Fr. Vincent O'Keefe, SJ.

A great idea to get these stories on tape before they are lost forever. Way to go Fr. McDermott! Below please find his preface, and one video. Simply click Vinny O'Keefe on Pedro Arrupe to enjoy the entire series.

Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.
28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus

Anyone who ever meets Fr. Vinny O'Keefe, even for just a few minutes, walks away feeling they've made a new friend. He's just that kind of guy -- warm, solicitious, funny, the sort of person that makes you feel like you're the only person in the whole world when you're talking to him.

For 18 years, Vinny worked at the Jesuit Curia in Rome as one of Fr. Pedro Arrupe's general assistants. Vinny was the only assistant of Arrupe to stay with him from the beginning of his term as Superior General of the Society of Jesus until its end. And when Arrupe had his stroke, it was Vinny that the Society turned to to serve as Vicar General, until Pope John Paul II appointed his own man.

There's no one living that knows Arrupe like Vinny did, and certainly no one who had the sort of seat Vinny had as the Pope intervened in the Jesuits' governance and the Society went through one of its most challenging and uncertain periods.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Pedro Arrupe's death. To hear the stories of him is to come to know a modern, happy saint. And to watch Vinny O'Keefe tell them is to meet one of our living saints.

(NOTE ON THESE VIDEOS: These short videos are arranged in a specific order, with the one directly below this note being the first, and so on down the line. Of course you're free to pick and choose, but especially when it comes to the set of 9 on the Papal Intervention, the story flows in a rather specific order.

As you reach the end of a page of videos, click the link on the bottom right hand side -- "Older Posts" -- to get to the next set.)

Vinny O'Keefe, SJ; Go to the World