By Felix Rivera and Chaz Muth
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Officials at The Catholic University of America in Washington announced June 15 that John H. Garvey, dean of the Boston College Law School, will be the 15th president of the school.
The announcement at a campus news conference came after a national search and Vatican approval of his selection for the post, which is required for a pontifical university.
Garvey, 61, will succeed outgoing president Vincentian Father David O’Connell, who has been named coadjutor bishop of Trenton, N.J., by Pope Benedict XVI. Garvey will be the third lay president to lead the university, which was established by the U.S. bishops and opened for classes in 1889.
Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, chair of the university’s board of trustees and head of the search committee, said the choice between a layperson and a member of the clergy to lead the university wasn’t a dilemma.
Archbishop Vigneron said the search committee focused on selecting a president among the 200-plus applicants who could best advance the message of the school, one that harmoniously merged academia and religion.
“We have to complement the light of wisdom with the light of faith,” he said.
Though clergy were among the candidates, the two finalists were laymen.
“Our goal was to choose the best candidate for the position and I believe that is what we did,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Even though he is not a churchman, he is a man of the church.”
The archbishop added that Garvey is expected to continue the mission Bishop-designate O’Connell began 12 years ago to strengthen the Catholic identity of the school.
“The work done by faculty in cooperation with students will eventually lead to an increased Catholic identity,” Garvey said.
The new president said that a faculty committed to achieving intellectual excellence and faith is necessary to promote identity.
Bishop-designate O’Connell, the second-longest serving president of the only university founded by the U.S. bishops, told Catholic News Service in a May interview that he regarded the enriched Catholic identity of the school to be the crowning achievement of his tenure.
Garvey hopes to build on that tradition, stating that it was one of his motivations in applying for the job. “If I can approach the level of my predecessor, I will consider myself happy,” he said at the news conference.
Though he is up to the challenge of continuing to enhance the school’s Catholic identity, he said that he hopes to find ways to give faculty the resources they need to get their voices heard in forums held around the country in their respective fields.
He also would like to make school more affordable in an effort to bring in more people of the faith who might otherwise choose a different religious university.
Garvey criticized religiously founded universities around the country that have not remained true to their roots. He believes that Catholic colleges and universities have a different future and will play a key role in promoting faith-based scholarship and research, which will force Catholic University to play on a larger stage — both in academics and religion — than normal.
In response to changing times, Garvey also said Catholic University should look to a larger audience than before.
“The church in the United States is increasingly becoming more Latino,” he said. “This will provide an opportunity for schools.”
Garvey has been dean of Jesuit-run Boston College’s Law School since 1999. He served as an assistant to the solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan and also has been a law professor at the University of Kentucky and at the Catholic-run University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
He is a married father of five children, all of whom have a collective 92 years of Catholic education, and a 1974 graduate of Harvard Law School.
Garvey begins his new job as president in July. Bishop-designate O’Connell, whose episcopal ordination is to take place July 30 at St. Mary of the Assumption in Trenton, is expected to briefly work with him to make for a smooth transition.
“I will be giving an invitation for all students to consider the range of human knowledge in light of their faith and beliefs,” Garvey said,” something that only Catholic University can offer.”
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