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Letter from Fr. Donald Harrington to St. John's University

Letter from Fr. Donald Harrington to St. John's University

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Letter from Fr. Donald Harrington to St. John's University community
Letter from Fr. Donald Harrington to St. John's University community

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Published by: National Catholic Reporter on May 03, 2013
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05/14/2014

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Dear University Community:I write to inform you that I have today advised the University’s Board of Trustees of myintention to retire as President of St. John’s, effective July 31, 2013.This month marks the 40th anniversary of my ordination as a Vincentian priest. As I lookback on my priesthood, I am struck by the fact that I have spent 29 of those years as auniversity president, 5 at Niagara University and then 24 here at St. John’s. The challenges,
satisfaction
, and responsibilities of this position have always been considerable for me; what wehave been able to accomplish together, as a University community, has given this workmeaning and value. And the spirit of collegiality and collaboration that is the hallmark of St.John’s has made our progress possible. Nonetheless, for quite a while, I have been thinkingabout when would be the best time to relinquish the leadership role to younger, perhapsmore energetic, individuals. The urgings of many members of the Board of Trustees andothers persuaded me to remain longer than I had originally planned. But the difficulties for everyone during the past year have convinced me, after much prayer and reflection, that thetime to leave the presidency has now come.I do this with the firm conviction that the vision I held for this institution has largely beenfulfilled. The University has, indeed, been transformed into a “new” St. John’s, withenhanced facilities, expanded academic initiatives, and an increasing global presence. Thetransition to residence life for what had been, for 129 years, an exclusively commuter institution has been achieved. Construction or renovation of more than twenty buildings onboth the Queens and Staten Island campuses, including not only residence halls but other major academic and recreational facilities, has enriched the collegiate experience of allstudents. New academic programs, many of them designed to provide preparation for emerging professional opportunities, have been launched; distance learning has beensuccessfully implemented; and the core curriculum was revised. Acquisition of theManhattan campus, with its distinguished School of Risk Management, and the Oakdalefacility, which has become a vibrant center for graduate study, has increased the University’spresence and stature within the New York Metropolitan area. The campus in Rome and thestudy abroad site in Paris, along with faculty leadership in internationalizing the curriculum,have enhanced the University’s ability to prepare students for the 21st century.For me, programs and projects to deepen and strengthen our mission as a Catholic andVincentian university have had special significance. St. Thomas More Church, opened in2005, stands as the physical and spiritual center of the Queens campus. The creation of theMission Office and development of a broad array of formation programs, including theVincentian Institute for Social Action (VISA) and the Ozanam Scholars program, have allserved to embed our Catholic and Vincentian mission—with its concern for faith-basedvalues, social justice, and service to the poor—ever deeper into the fabric of the institution.The pervasiveness of academic service learning, University sponsorship of Bread and Life,and establishment of the Institute for Catholic Schools have helped St. John’s to expand itsmission within the broader community.
May 3, 2013

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