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BY Tim Drake
On Friday, Father David O’Connell, president of The Catholic University of America, announced that he will be stepping down as president in August 2010.
Father O’Connell has been president at CUA for 12 years. At age 42, Father O’Connell was elected 14th president of CUA in March 1998. He is currently the school’s second-longest-serving president.
“That I have had the privilege of serving as the 14th president of The Catholic University of America is an experience that I shall treasure as long as I live,” said Father O’Connell. “As I reflect upon my tenure and service at the helm of the national university of the Catholic Church in our country, I feel a profound sense of gratitude for what we are and have become and what we do — thanks to the dedication, commitment and hard work of so many people here — and for the many lives we have touched in so many ways over the years.”
According to a press release about his decision, during his presidency, the university has witnessed record growth in enrollments, fundraising and endowment, the construction of a university center and three new residence halls; the addition of a fitness center; major renovations in a score of campus buildings; the introduction of multiple smart classrooms and wireless technology; and transformative improvements in the campus landscape and athletic fields. Father O’Connell was responsible for the creation and implementation of the first two university-wide strategic plans in CUA’s history. Under his leadership, CUA has distinguished itself in environmental stewardship, in 2002 becoming the first university in the Washington area to purchase a portion of its electricity through wind power. In addition, under his tenure, the university, which already had the largest campus, in acreage, among all Washington institutions of higher education, purchased 49 acres of new property on the west side of campus, increasing CUA’s size by more than a third.
Father O’Connell said that, without a doubt, the highlight of his academic career was hosting Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the U.S. in April 2008.
Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit has chosen to chair the search process himself, assisted by fellow trustee Paul Chiapparone of Palm Beach, Fla., as vice chair. The board hopes to have a new president in place by Sept. 1, 2010.
Father O’Connell has indicated that he is considering several opportunities for the future but has made no specific commitments at this time.