Catholic University Elects 14th President
March 17, 1998
he Rev. David M. O'Connell, 42, an associate vice president and dean at St. John's University in Jamaica, N.Y., has been elected as the 14th president of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Ordained as a Vincentian priest in 1982, O'Connell, is a Philadelphia native and Catholic University alumnus. The appointment is effective Sept. 1.
The announcement was made in Washington Tuesday by Cardinal Bernard Law, archbishop of Boston and chairman of Catholic University's 42-member Board of Trustees.
He praised O'Connell as a proven leader dedicated to the mission of the Catholic Church in higher education. "Under his leadership, The Catholic University of America will be well poised for entering into the new millennium."
Law expressed his gratitude to Patrick Ellis, 69, a de La Salle Christian brother, who has been president for six years and announced last year he would step down from the presidency in August. "CUA has been effectively served by our presidents," Law said.
Noted for effective administrative and fiscal management skills, O'Connell has a distinguished record of leadership in higher education and in the Catholic Church. Since 1991, he has served as academic dean and dean of the faculty at St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It is the largest academic unit at St. John's, which is the nation's largest Catholic university. He simultaneously served as an associate vice president of St. John's for the past three years, while holding an interim post as academic vice president at Niagara University in Lewiston, N.Y., for a year.
Earlier in his career he held academic positions at Mary Immaculate Seminary in Northampton, Pa., and Archbishop Wood High School in Warminister, Pa. An expert in the field of canon law, O'Connell holds doctoral and licentiate degrees in canon law from Catholic University, the nation's only university with the ecclesiastical faculty that grants canonical degrees in the field.
O'Connell has served as a tribunal judge for canon law cases in the dioceses of Scranton, Harrisburg and Birmingham. He is the author of numerous articles, including 19 published in the Encyclopedia of the Vatican and the Papacy. He served as co-host and commentator for CBS-TV during Pope John Paul II's 1995 visit to the United States.
In addition to two Catholic University degrees awarded in 1990 and 1987, O'Connell received master's degrees in divinity and theology from Mary Immaculate Seminary in 1983 and 1981 and a bachelor's in philosophy from Niagara University in 1978.
O'Connell was chosen from a field of almost 100 nominees and applicants. The search committee, headed by Bishop Robert J. Banks of Green Bay, Wis., a Catholic University trustee, consisted of trustees, regents, alumni, students and faculty.
Ellis completes his six years as president of Catholic University with a number of accomplishments. He made funds available to enhance the campus computing infrastructure and completed the fiber-optic wiring for a high-speed computer network; fundraising for a $33 million law school building; enhanced outreach to the Washington, D.C., community by offering additional minority scholarships; upgraded landscaping and created gardens on the 144-acre campus; completed plans for a campus museum to house some 8,000 art pieces; and provided leadership in Catholic and secular higher education and educational associations.
A one-of-a-kind academic center, Catholic University is the national university of the Catholic Church and the nation's only university established by the U.S. Catholic Church bishops. Founded in 1887 as a graduate and research institution, the university has offered undergraduate programs since 1904. The campus today has approximately 6,200 students from all states and more than 100 countries enrolled in 10 schools: religious studies, philosophy, law, arts and sciences, engineering, social service, nursing, music, library and information science, and architecture and planning.
The Reverend David M. O'Connell, C.MT
Statements of Participants
BERNARD CARDINAL LAW Archbishop of Boston and chairman, Board of Trustees The Catholic University of America
It is my privilege to announce that the fourteenth President of The Catholic University of America will be the Reverend David M. O'Connell, C.M. He will assume his new responsibility on September 1, 1998. The Chancellor of the University, His Eminence, James Cardinal Hickey, the other members of the Board of Trustees and I have been most gratified by the search process. Chaired by Bishop Robert J. Banks, the Search Committee worked from a list of almost one hundred nominees and applicants. The interview of three finalists by the Board has resulted in our choice.
Father O'Connell, C.M., brings to his new role an impressive record in university administration, a proven dedication to the mission of the Church in higher education, the Vincentian charism of service to the poor, his familiarity with CUA as an alumnus and his youth. Under his leadership, The Catholic University of America will be well poised for entering into the new millennium.
CUA has been effectively served by our presidents. I note with special gratitude the leadership of our current President, Brother Patrick Ellis, F.S.C. Father O'Connell will receive full cooperation from him to assure a smooth transition. The University is indebted to the Brothers of the Christian Schools for our current president. On behalf of the Board of trustees, I thank the Congregation of the Mission for allowing one of their own to serve the University. I am happy to introduce the Reverend David M. O'Connell, C.M., the fourteenth President of The Catholic University of America.
His Eminence JAMES CARDINAL HICKEY Archbishop of Washington and Chancellor of The Catholic University of America
I offer my warmest congratulations and prayers to Father David O'Connell, C.M. on his appointment as President of The Catholic University of America.
Father O'Connell brings to his new responsibilities qualities of mind and heart that have prepared him to lead the University into a new century and a new millennium. A member of the Congregation for the Mission (Vincentians), he is a truly dedicated priest, who has spent much of his life in the work of Catholic education. He has taught in a high school, in a seminary and at the university level. In recent years, he has served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of St. John's University. In that capacity, he has demonstrated great competence in academic administration and a deep grasp of the authentic nature of Catholic education as expressed in Ex Corde Ecclesiae. As an alumnus of The Catholic University of America, he brings to the presidency deep love for his alma mater and a desire to devote his great talents and youthful energy to its development and growth. His competency, enthusiasm, leadership skills and priestly joy will serve the University well in the years ahead.
I so wish I could be on hand for the formal announcement of Father O'Connell's election, but I am obliged to be in Rome for a long standing commitment. I look forward to working closely with Father O'Connell in the years ahead and I pray that the Lord will bless and sustain him in the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
Statement of The Reverend David M. O'Connell, C.M. on the occasion of his appointment as Fourteenth President of The Catholic University of America
I am deeply humbled and profoundly grateful to the Holy See and to the Board of Trustees of The Catholic University of America for their confidence and for the responsibility with which they have entrusted me. I embrace this opportunity to return to the alma mater with joy and enthusiasm.
A compelling and effective vision for the University - for any institution that one is asked to lead - cannot be developed at a distance or in isolation from those whose lives and futures it touches. Such a vision requires a great deal of attentive listening with ears and eyes. At the same time, however, a Catholic institution of higher learning is rooted in a value system and commitment that both informs and transcends its curricular activities. Pope John Paul II's apostolic constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae,, presents that value system and commitment in a clear and unambiguous manner. Its appearance at the beginning of this decade has provided a working framework for Catholic higher education in the year 2000 and beyond.
The Catholic University of America has a privileged role and a leadership responsibility for modeling that commitment on a national level. It will be my responsibility, working in close collaboration with the American bishops and the whole CUA community, to call our University to its reason for being.
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