By Danny Whirlow
Dr. Jeff Mallory has always been a Bearcat, but before he received his doctorate in education or played professional basketball in Spain, he was a young student-athlete trying to find his way around Saint Vincent’s campus. His 7-foot frame could be found dining with his peers, practicing with the basketball team and attending class in Alfred Hall. Reflecting on that time, he said, “I vividly recall professors and coaches who challenged me in many ways. Perhaps it was during these times that I was uncomfortable at times and a bit uncertain. Especially now, I realize that such moments were a catalyst for my transformational experience at SVC.”
Upon graduating with the class of 2006, Dr. Mallory continued to challenge himself. His on-court achievements at Saint Vincent earned him a tryout with the Toronto Raptors basketball team, a “humbling” and “exciting” experience. While no spot in the NBA materialized, he went on to play professionally in Spain with the Cajasur Cordoba Basketball Club. After two seasons in Europe, Dr. Mallory made his first return to Saint Vincent. He served as the assistant/associate men’s basketball coach from 2009-12, as well as the director of campus and multicultural and student life from 2010-14.
Now, after a four-year stint at Duquesne University as the assistant vice president for diversity, inclusion and student advancement, Dr. Mallory has returned again to Saint Vincent. He serves as the executive vice president, a position previously held by current-president Father Paul Taylor. Though he accepts the challenge of following Father Paul, Dr. Mallory hopes “to continue to model the leadership that is required for SVC community to not only advance, but to ultimately thrive.” He intends to build “strong relationships” that are “filled with trust, respect, and a steadfast appreciation for those who make SVC a special community.”
To establish these relationships, Dr. Mallory steps out of his office to stand side by side with students. On freshman move-in day, he could be seen speaking with Orientation Committee members. “I believe you need to be present, visible and engaged. In doing so, I hope our students see how much we as leadership care, are concerned for them, and want to ensure they are valued during their time here.”
Such relationships will prove crucial in maintaining the community as students return amidst the COVID – 19 pandemic and nationwide racial unrest. Acknowledging the difficulty of balancing students’ safety and autonomy in a global health crisis, Mallory said, “I think a critical piece of the balance is communication and expectations. Another critical piece is the dependency on our students to not only keep themselves safe, but to be mindful of the greater good of the community.”
Dr. Mallory also praised the college for taking a more active approach to discussing social unrest, specifically with the “Let’s Talk and Listen” summer series. “The series made a clear statement that SVC welcomed such a conversation and also pointed to the ability for the campus community to address such a moment without any reservations. I clearly think it should signal the strength of our community.” He also referenced future small group discussions and presentations on topics like diversity and inclusion.
Despite the tense atmosphere, Dr. Mallory is hopeful students will make the best out of the current situation. His advice: “Take the time to get to know others in our community. I would also encourage yourself to think deeply during this time. For students, this is one of the most special times of your life - enjoy the moments that are provided to you but don't forget to laugh, smile and simply enjoy your time as a Bearcat!”