March 2020 Letter from President Michael J. Graham, S.J.
March 2, 2020
Dear Xavier Nation,
It’s time. Or rather, it will be soon. After a great deal of careful thought, lots of discussion and more than a little prayer, I’ve determined that I will retire from the presidency of Xavier University effective June 30, 2021.
As you might expect, this decision has been brewing for some time. I began discussing it several years ago with Barb Howard, then Chair of our Board of Trustees, and subsequently with the Executive Committee and with my Jesuit superiors, both here and in Chicago. Together, we finalized the date nearly two years ago.
Why now, 2021? In brief, because we will wrap up both the Together For Others capital campaign and our important 10-year accreditation review by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in spring 2021. But there is a larger answer as well. Simply put, Xavier University has never been stronger than it is now, in any number of ways: stronger financially, stronger in terms of the quality of its faculty and staff, stronger in terms of its enrollment efforts, stronger in terms of its organizational effectiveness, stronger in the high regard of our alumni and friends (the best metric of which is our capital campaign’s success), stronger in terms of its reputation as a citizen of our local community, stronger in many other ways besides.
It is often said that a University’s future begins in its governing board and ours is a strong one indeed. I would stack up our individual Board members one by one against any board I know anywhere. But it’s how they operate together that truly sets them apart. Over the last number of years, the Board has evolved in an ever more strategic and impactful direction by reviewing and improving its processes and ways of proceeding.
And I can say the same things about the senior leadership team with which I’ve been privileged to work these last several years. In my view, they are the strongest individuals who have ever led the University from within their respective areas of responsibility and expertise. But it is as a team that these Direct Reports truly shine, and I am grateful to each one of them more than I can say, not only for what they do on behalf of Xavier University, but for how they do what they do for Xavier University together.
One of the most important accomplishments of the University in recent years has been how powerfully embedded into our institutional fabric Xavier’s Jesuit mission and identity has become and how it has transformed our culture. Whether Xavier’s next President is a Jesuit priest or not, the University’s appropriation of who we are called to be at our deepest level guarantees that this spirit will remain bright going forward.
To sum up then. Why now, 2021? Here’s why. I will step down in 2021 because it is in the best interest of Xavier University for me to do so. And because the University has never been stronger than it is now, it has therefore never been better prepared to attract a visionary and capable leader.
And so, from the why now to the what next. As I mentioned, I had been thinking about the timing for this decision for several years and, with the Executive Committee of the Board, locked in the date about two years ago. Last spring, the Board appointed the core members of the Presidential Search Committee: Barb Howard (its Chair), Walter Deye, S.J., and Damon Jones, XU97.
The most important thing for me to do beginning July 1, 2021 will be to disappear and give my successor the elbow room that Fr. Jim Hoff on January 1, 2001 gave me when I stepped into the role. In other words, a sabbatical. Subsequent to that sabbatical, I hope to serve the University in some suitable emeritus role, which would need (of course) to be worked out with my successor. I’d also like to combine that role with far more pastoral work as a Jesuit priest than my day job now permits. My Provincial Superior in Chicago concurs with this overall plan, by the way – but he also cautions me that Fr. General in Rome may have other plans. We will see!
As some of you know, I always tell the incoming class when I welcome them on Move-In Day that there are more good people at Xavier University than there is time to get to know them. I thank you one and all for what you do daily to remind me of that central XU fact. Just as it has been a privilege to serve you as Xavier’s president for these last many years, so it will be a pleasure to continue serving you in that capacity in the months remaining to me to do so.
Now and always, friends: Let’s go X!
Michael J. Graham, S.J.