On the afternoon of Oct. 19, the Mercyhurst community received surprising news. President Michael T. Victor announced in an email to all university staff, faculty and students that he plans to retire on June 1, 2021.
President Victor is currently in his sixth year as the 12th president of the university. He assumed the position in August 2015. Prior to accepting this role, he spent nine years as the president of Lake Erie College.
Victor has long been a part of the Mercyhurst community. Before serving as president of Lake Erie College, he was the Dean of Mercyhurst’s Walker School of Business.
President Victor’s decision comes in the midst of a uniquely challenging year for Mercyhurst, as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant changes in the classroom and beyond.
“To have survived our internal issues, the potholed landscape of higher ed and COVID-19 clearly demonstrates the strength and spirit of our Laker community,” said Victor.
In his message to the Laker community, President Victor expressed pride in the university’s response to the pandemic.
“Not only did we survive, but we advanced and today are solidly entrenched in what can only be considered an enviable position,” Victor said.
Under President Victor’s leadership, Mercyhurst has come quite far in the past five years. President Victor led a restructuring of Mercyhurst’s business model, ensuring institutional effectiveness through data-based solutions and focus on big-picture goals.
Additionally, Mercyhurst has expanded into the fields of cybersecurity and data science under Victor’s tenure, with majors in these fields attracting over one hundred students.
The changes to Mercyhurst under President Victor are also physically visible across campus. Victor oversaw the construction of Ryan Hall, the creation of the MCPc Cyber Education Center, the opening of the Roost and renovations of Grotto Commons and the Hammermill Library.
That said, vice president for Student Life, Laura Zirkle, Ph.D., thinks that Victor’s greatest legacy goes beyond the concrete changes to campus that have occurred during his tenure.
“He had a clear vision of what Mercyhurst should look like and feel like and what a student experience on campus should be,” Zirkle said. “His greatest legacy will be the culture he created on campus.”
Zirkle adds that Victor created that culture through his actions, such as by requiring undergraduate students to live on campus to foster a more vibrant student life and through the institution of traditions like Hurst Day and the ringing of the Sister Damien Spirit Bell to celebrate athletic victories. Victor also enjoyed organizing the playing of the alma mater at 2:00 p.m. and the decorating of campus at Christmas.
Zirkle spoke highly of President Victor’s revitalization of Mercyhurst. “He took the campus to this really great sunny place,” Zirkle said. “We kind of came out of a hard time when President Victor came in, and he just brought this sense of joy back that I really appreciate. It is the feeling of what Mercyhurst is that he revitalized again. That energy and that happiness and kind of joy is what he set in motion with his return.”
And though President Victor is departing, Zirkle expects that legacy to linger on.
“Our identity and our legacies are stronger than any single person or administration,” Zirkle said of Mercyhurst.
President Victor will remain in office for the remainder of the academic year, with his retirement taking effect on June 1. Mercyhurst’s board will take the lead in the search for a new president.