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SVC History: Our Recent Presidents

By Irina Rusanova

Throughout its lengthy history, SVC has had its fair share of presidents who have contributed varying accomplishment to the college.

2002 Inauguration of Jim Will at Saint Vincent College

The first 14 presidents, beginning with Boniface Wimmer in 1871, were all Benedictines. It wasn’t until 2000 that Saint Vincent had its first lay president in its entire history through James F. Will, who served until 2006.

SVC Public Relations wrote that “under his leadership, Saint Vincent College made major progress in every aspect of its operation, most notably in academics, student life, financial management and institutional advancement.”

Thanks to Will’s efforts, “a reorganization of 20 separate academic departments into four distinct schools was completed. […] A new undergraduate degree program was added in bioinformatics and master’s degree programs were initiated in business and in education.

More than $40 million in campus improvements were implemented [as well as] a $75 million comprehensive capital campaign,” according to Public Relations.

Will further took part in initiating other educational centers (such as the Loe China Studies Center) and aided in increasing student enrollment, faculty counts, and number of available graduate programs in business and education.

In 2017, a hall in the Sis and Herman Dupre Science Pavilion was dedicated to the former President and was titled the James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall. Will also received Saint Vincent College’s Projektenmacher Award in 2017 for his tireless, visionary efforts as president.

Jim Towey became the 16th President of Saint Vincent College following his position as director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under US President George W. Bush.

Throughout Towey’s presidency, controversies took place, with 32 faculty signing a confidential letter characterizing the president’s leadership as destructive, which was delivered to the college’s board of directors in 2008, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Towey admitted to making “rookie mistakes” by moving too fast and having poor communication with faculty, but said his premature end to his presidency had “zero” to do with criticisms and was rather due to completing his goals sooner than expected, as reported by the Post Gazette.

Jim Towey getting Inaugurated as the second President of Ave Maria University

“During his tenure, enrollment grew from 1,768 students to 1,984, and total funding commitments increased from $16.5 million to $23.6 million. Among successes cited by the college was its largest-ever project, the $30 million Sis and Herman Dupre Science Pavilion,” the Post Gazette reported.

Towey is currently serving as the second president of Ave Maria University.

Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., was the 17th President of Saint Vincent College, having served from 2010 until 2019.

According to Public Relations, Board Chairman Chris Donahue praised Hipps’ service and contributions to advancing the college’s mission and reputation.

“What has impressed me about Br. Norman’s presidency is that it has never been about enhancing himself, but always about putting the success of our students first,” Donahue said.

As the Archabbot recounted in his letter of gratitude addressed to Hipps, Hipps’s greatest accomplishments included the “completion of the James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall, […] introduction of new programs, […] establishment of a program for students to earn a BSN in nursing through a partnership with Carlow University, [contribution to] a greater diversity of students, […] establishment of the Projektenmacher Award, […] major expansion of the Dale P. Latimer Library, [and] expansion of the collaborative efforts between Saint Vincent College and other educational institutions.”

Hipps also oversaw the Forward, Always Forward campaign to strengthen the college’s endowment and provide students with more scholarship (as well as academic program) options.

Br. Norman’s Inauguration ceremony at Saint Vincent College

Last but not least is the current president, Fr. Paul Taylor, O.S.B., who began his service effective July 1, 2019. Taylor previously served as the vice president of Saint Vincent College for seven years and also played a major role in implementing the Forward, Always Forward campaign. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette wrote that Taylor “plans to prioritize financial aid and career preparation for students.”

The president will address plans for the future of SVC at his upcoming inauguration on Friday, Nov. 22, where he will be officially proclaimed the 18th President of Saint Vincent College. The day will include vespers, an inaugural ceremony held at 4:00 p.m. in the Saint Vincent Basilica followed by an Inaugural Reception at 5:30 p.m. in the Carey Gymnasium, both of which will be available to ticket holders.

The inauguration ceremony serves to formally accept an individual as president with an inaugural proclamation and the conferring of a presidential insignia. According to PR Newswire, the ceremony also allows the new president to announce his acceptance of the position and to give a presidential address.

The inauguration process announces the “ceremonial beginning of [an individual’s] service as President of Saint Vincent College,” as Chris Donahue stated at the time of Br. Norman Hipps’ inauguration in 2010. During Hipps’ Inauguration, an academic procession took place, comprised of presidents and delegates who represented thirty-three colleges and universities.


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