1969 was a year that saw fundamental change for America, and indeed, Mercyhurst University. Once Mercyhurst became co-educational, men started to play a larger and larger role on this campus and in the administration of Mercyhurst. Since then, some extraordinary men have served Mercyhurst, including our interim president, Joe NeCastro. In the past few weeks, it has been an absolute pleasure getting to know Mr. NeCastro, who is so personable and intentional about his goals for Mercyhurst. I am glad that Mercyhurst has him during this time of change, and a part of me wishes we could keep him in the president’s office forever. However, our search does continue for our next leader.
In my opinion, it’s high time that it was a woman. Since Sr. Carolyn Herrmann led Mercyhurst in the 1960s, we have only had male presidents. This is a strange juxtaposition given that the Sisters of Mercy always held positions of power until that point, and indeed, were always women. I want to be clear that the men who have led Mercyhurst have been great leaders, and without them we would certainly not be where we are as an institution today. However, I am hoping for a woman who can bring a true connection between the leadership and the student body to Mercyhurst. Sr. Carolyn Herrmann was a great president because she was not afraid to push the envelope and share the views of students of her time. She was a truly progressive leader who dug in with students and invested in social movements of the time, like race relations and civil rights in America. Her most famous quote, “each new decade brings with it a need for a specific type of progress involving radical change” speaks to me each time I hear it. Being a student in the midst of a pandemic, the Black Lives Matter Movement, increased Asian-targeted hate crime, global warming and the overall social change in our world makes me think of Sr. Carolyn and the Sisters before her. These women were radical in all they did. As more and more of the Sisters age and pass on, we need a president who will emulate them. Regardless of gender, I hope we can find someone who connects with the mission of Mercyhurst and understands its vision. I hope the new president can make connections with students and the issues of the day that matter to young people. As Mercyhurst commits to a renewed and ongoing focus on equity, inclusion and antiracism, this is more important than ever.
I hope our new president can reflect our Catholic values and emphasis on Catholic social teaching. As the Sisters age, the president has a vital role to play in helping their legacy to live on. I’d love to see a Catholic in the role, but the president need not be Catholic if they can just respect and value our Catholic views. I hope they can reflect the diversity and richness of Mercyhurst’s faculty, staff and student body. Mercyhurst is all about the people, and the new president will be the face of them.I hope that the new president brings the energy and zeal of those who came before them, and is ready to reinvigorate Mercyhurst with ideas, plans and change that students, staff and alumni can all get behind. They might even be an alum themselves.I hope they keep our connections with Ireland strong and continue to foster the beautiful relationship that the cultures of Mercyhurst and Ireland share. I hope they can love and be accepted by the Mercyhurst community the way I have been. We are ready to be compassionately hospitable to the person who takes this role. Most of all, I hope the new president is ready for a challenge. I think Mercyhurst is stronger than ever, but like the rest of the world, adjusting to the new normal in our post-pandemic societies, the next few years for Mercyhurst are critical. Mercyhurst is such a loved place, with so many alumni, staff and students who care so deeply about it. We are lucky to be getting a new president to lead us, but whoever it will be is lucky to be here, too. Whoever understands how special Mercyhurst is, and who wants to foster and nurture that, will be an exemplary next president.