By Jonathan Meilaender
There’s a new monk in charge. Fr. Paul Taylor, O.S.B., officially took the reins from Br. Norman Hipps, O.S.B. this past summer and became the 18th president of Saint Vincent since the college was incorporated by the state of Pennsylvania in 1870.
Taylor hopes to continue Norman’s nine-year legacy by building on Saint Vincent’s strengths, such as high job placement and generous financial aid. In particular, he wants to make sure these strengths are better articulated to prospective students.
“We want to focus on articulating how we currently prepare students for careers because we have a great track record — 99% of those students surveyed after graduation say that they are either working in the field that they studied for or going to graduate school,” he said.
This focus, however, is not by any means intended to distract from Saint Vincent’s broader mission of educating students for life.
“I’m confident in the academics that we provide, I’m confident in the faculty who provide those academics,” Taylor said. “I think we have strong programs and I think our core curriculum is a selling point because it provides a well-rounded education, a broad education, and it provides the student with the ability to be an even stronger life-long learner.”
While one may think that better articulating SVC’s benefits might be especially important given that this year’s freshman class is one of the smallest in recent years, Taylor thinks there is not any cause for concern.
He explained that the drop is mostly a matter of demographics, caused by a diminishing pool of high school students in Pennsylvania as a whole, though. This fact will make it necessary to broaden recruiting efforts.
Taylor hopes to increase both racial and geographic diversity.
“We’ll have some growing populations from other states, hopefully,” Taylor said. “Very soon, students of color will be in the majority in the United States. So, for us to continue to be welcoming to all students is important."
Since all seems to be running smoothly, students likely won’t see any major changes under the new administration, Taylor said – but there may be some small innovations.
For instance, he has thought about renaming the Student Activity Center, formerly Alcuin Hall.
“It doesn’t have a patron,” Taylor stated. “I was thinking about having a Benedictine Saint, for instance. So, I’ve solicited ideas for it. We haven’t really moved on it, but I thought it would be nice to have its own name."
Taylor attended Saint Vincent and graduated in 1987, subsequently joining the monastery. He graduated from the seminary in 1991 and went on to study mathematics at Duke University and higher education administration at Boston College.
Taylor held numerous positions at Saint Vincent, in departments ranging from admissions, financial aid, and advancement. He was most recently the executive vice president of the college, a position from which he oversaw Saint Vincent’s ongoing $100 million “Forward, Always Forward” fundraising campaign.
Taylor has also volunteered as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Catholic chaplain for 17 seasons.
“I’m with them during training camp here — if they have any needs spiritually. [We] have mass occasionally for members of the organization [and] anybody who would want to come. During the season, they like to have a mass before each game for home games, so I will try to be there for most of those,” he said.