Jesuit school in Syracuse to appoint laywoman as president, a first

Linda LeMura, provost of Le Moyne College, will be appointed the first lay, female president to a U.S. Jesuit college or university. Photo courtesy of Le Moyne College

Linda LeMura, provost of Le Moyne College, will be appointed the first lay, female president to a U.S. Jesuit college or university. Photo courtesy of Le Moyne College


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (RNS) Le Moyne College appears poised to make history by appointing the first laywoman to head a U.S. Jesuit college or university. Linda LeMura, Le Moyne’s provost since 2009, is expected to be named the college’s 14th president. College officials would not confirm her appointment, saying that a board of trustees vote is expected soon. But a March 24 email to college faculty indicates LeMura’s appointment is all but final. The promotion comes amid a significant decline in the number of Jesuit priests available to head the Catholic order’s colleges and a growing need for lay people to take on leadership positions in church institutions. Women religious have led Jesuit colleges in at least two previous instances, but LeMura would be the first woman who is not a vowed sister to take the reins as president of a Jesuit school. The development was something LeMura herself anticipated last year, in a September 2013 story in Today’s CNY Woman. “The (church) hierarchy is predominantly male,” LeMura was quoted as saying in the Syracuse-based magazine. “The Jesuits, however, tend to be a little bit more progressive in their approach in terms of education and in leadership roles. I think if anyone is going to break the ceiling in terms of the Catholic hierarchy, I suspect that a Jesuit institution will be stepping up to the plate very soon.” St. Ignatius of Loyola, founded the Jesuits, an all-male order that is formally known as the Society of Jesus, in 1540. The first lay president at a U.S. Jesuit university was appointed in 2001, when John J. DeGioia was named president of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Naming a lay woman is the next logical step and more such appointments are likely, Jesuit leaders said. “The really central thing is (LeMura) is an excellent administrator who knows that school well and that she is very knowledgeable about and committed to the Jesuit system and the Jesuit spiritual tradition,” said the Rev. Michael Sheeran, a Jesuit who is president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
A view of LeMoyne College in the fall. Grewen Hall, with the dome, is at the left. The Jesuit college opened in 1946 in Syracuse, N.Y. Photo courtesy of Le Moyne College

A view of Le Moyne College in the fall. Grewen Hall, with the dome, is at the left. The Jesuit college opened in 1946 in Syracuse, N.Y. Photo courtesy of Le Moyne College


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

LeMura will succeed Fred Pestello, who is leaving Le Moyne after six years to become the first permanent lay president of another Jesuit school, Saint Louis University. Marquette University, a Jesuit school in Milwaukee, on March 26 named University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Chancellor Michael Lovell its first lay president. LeMura’s appointment would bring to nine the number of lay presidents at the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States. Eighteen are led by Jesuits. Sister Maureen Fay, a Dominican, was president of the University of Detroit Mercy in Detroit from 1990 to 2004. Sister Francis Marie Thrailkill, an Ursuline, served as interim president at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. She was succeeded by a Jesuit. LeMura, 53, became the highest-ranking woman at Le Moyne when she was named interim provost in 2007. She is a native of Syracuse, a city of about 144,000 at the center of New York state. She graduated from a Syracuse Catholic high school and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and education from Niagara University, a Catholic school near Buffalo, N.Y. She returned to her hometown, where she earned a master’s degree and doctorate in applied physiology from Syracuse University. The Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, the superior general, or worldwide leader of the Jesuits, said in October 2013 that the leaders in Jesuit higher education must prepare for more lay presidents as the number of Jesuits declines. The number of Jesuits in the United States has dropped from 6,616 in 1973 to 2,547 in 2013. When Le Moyne opened in 1946, seven Jesuits (six priests and one brother) served the student body of 250. Two years later, 18 Jesuits were at Le Moyne. In 1993, there were 22 Jesuits at Le Moyne. Today, 17 Jesuits live on campus. The college enrolls 3,300 students, including 2,400 full-time undergraduates and more than 400 graduate students. Le Moyne takes its name from the Rev. Simon Le Moyne, a French Jesuit missionary who traveled to what is now Syracuse in the 1650s and ministered among the Haudenosaunee, a Native American tribe. In the last decade, Le Moyne has worked to raise its profile. Its men’s lacrosse team has won five national championships, most recently in 2013. The Arrupe Program in Christian Social Ethics for Business, formerly at the defunct Woodstock Theological Center, moved in the fall to Le Moyne. The Rev. Howard Gray, a Jesuit, assistant to Georgetown’s president, said a fundamental Jesuit philosophy calls for supporting the full development of all people, no matter their gender. Pope Francis, who is a Jesuit, reinforces that by stressing the Second Vatican Council’s emphasis on the role of the laity, Gray said. “The clerical class has sometimes resisted that,” Gray said. “Pope Francis is really calling attention to the fact there is a distinction between a heritage and an obsession. It’s meant to be adapted and modified. This is one of those changes.”

15 Responses to “Jesuit school in Syracuse to appoint laywoman as president, a first”

  1. nick batt

    So we see what the Jesuits “progressive” approach gets them; declining membership. Newer orders that aren’t obsessed with being part of the cultural elite are booming. There was a time when Jesuit education meant academic excellence and devotion to the Chair of Peter. Now it’s a lacrosse team and re-enforcing their Feminist street cred. Sad.

  2. Denis Eble

    I understand that the Chair of Peter is in disrepair and thus was discarded by the Jesuits.

  3. nick batt

    I’m sure that’s the Jesuit’s view.

  4. Michele Joseph

    http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/9-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-chair-of-st.-peter
    Thought I would post this here.
    Hadn’t heard of the chair of St. Peter, and it’s too good not to share.
    Absolutely amazing.

    • Patrick

      Interesting link, Michele.
      The “original” chair pictured is much more beautiful than the current one.
      Presumably they get the Pope up there in a
      front-end loader.

  5. Patrick

    “Newer orders that aren’t obsessed with being part of the cultural elite are booming.”

    What orders are they, Nick?
    I don’t deny, or dispute, it – I just don’t know.

    Also depends on what we mean by “The Cultural Elite, ” I suppose. No idea what it is, myself.

  6. nick batt

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/05/21/booming-traditional-relgious-orders/
    This link focuses on nuns but others cover priests too.
    The cultural elite is typified by the upper west side of Manhattan where they can’t imagine how you could be pro-life and where they support gun control for others but live with armed security

    • Patrick

      What happens on the Upper East Side, NIck?

      Does all of America’s “Cultural Elite” have armed security guards?
      Does Toledo’s “cultural Elite” have them?
      And don’t try telling me Toledo doesn’t have a “Cultural Elite!”
      …Or what are you, then?

  7. Denis Eble

    Patrick- I think Nick often uses phrases he hears on Fox without actually understanding them. Thus the reference to “the cultural elite.”

    Regarding Petra, aka Rocky, and his chair, I think that, without a thick cushion, Peter’s rump might get terribly sore if he were to sit on that chair for a long time. Maybe Mrs. Petra crouched him a nice, soft pillow to use during official church sessions.

    This reference to Peter’s wife reminds me that Peter was the first Pope to have a wife and presumably children. I wonder if the kids ever climbed onto the chair, donning robes, and “played Pope?” Lots of Catholic kids during the 40’s and 50’s “played priest.” Necco wafers or squashed white bread cut out by a juice glass imitated communion. Great fun. My sister should have been excommunicated for playing the role of priest! Luckily no one snitched on her.

    Ah, great fun! Now, what was this thread all about? Oh, yes, a WOMAN serving as president of a Catholic college!!! Imagine THAT!

    • Patrick

      It has long been my suspicion, Denis – that no men should not be allowed to be Catholic priests.
      Women only. They have far more of the needed qualities, decency, sense, humility, etc.

      Anyway, look at the utter bollox men have made of what should be quite a serious, if part-time, job, – over the centuries.

      Alas, not many “Romans” seem to be of like mind.
      Funny Old World, innit?

  8. nick batt

    While the upper east is similarly upscale, I would think that the west side with Lincoln Center and Columbia University is more artsy schmartsy.
    The armed security is not universal in Toledo but their are plenty of limos and “drivers”. Plenty of secured parking with real security and private connections to offices; most notably Government Center and the Courts. Of course, the 2 secluded private aviation facilities subsidized by government for the business community are part of this too..

    • Patrick

      Yes, Nick, a little bit more American-style slaughter – at Fort Hood yet again.
      Lucky old Fort Hood!

      …But what’s the point of giving everybody over the age of seven guns, if they can’t use them to kill one another?
      Pointless.
      Do you personally have any opinions on America’s ongoing idolatry of guns?
      …I’d be interested.
      Don’t care for them myself, but then I’m English.
      …We use words to kill.

  9. nick batt

    I’m not sure I’d call our fascination with guns idolatry, but it is a noteworthy aspect of American culture. I think we like guns for the same reason we like big fast cars. We see ourselves as independent. Cars and guns play to that self image. Nonetheless, I would note that the research by John Lott shows that the common ownership of guns prevent violence rather than provoke it. while the US gun homicide rate is above England and Wales, it’s lower than many others according to The Guardian.

  10. Denis Eble

    John Richard Lott Jr. is an American economist, political commentator, and gun rights advocate. Lott is and at the American Enterprise Institute conservative think tank. He is currently a Fox News opinion contributor.

  11. Patrick

    “I would note that the research by John Lott shows that the common ownership of guns prevent violence rather than provoke it. “

    Well, that’s a new one on me. I think it highly unlikely, however.
    I suspect Mr. Lott has a paid agenda. But then, the more guns Americans have, the better for all of us, I suppose. Keep us all “safe.”

    Strange, as I detest cars nearly as much as I do guns. But not quite.

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