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


  1. The President's salary check will now be cashed for real.

  2. Good point -- the Jesuit community just lost $115K.

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