By Roz Liston
St. John’s board of trustees said the Rev. Joseph Levesque, the former president of Niagara University, has been elected interim president of the nation’s second-largest Catholic University to replace the Rev. Donald Harrington, who announced his retirement in May.
Levesque, the former chairman of St. John’s board, will take over the position Aug. 1.
During his tenure as head of Niagara University, nearly $100 million was invested in new construction under Levesque’s master plan for the 160-acre institution located near Niagara Falls, N.Y.
A Vincentian priest, Levesque earned a doctorate in theology at the Catholic University of America and returned to Niagara, where he had been a lecturer in the religious studies department. After serving as dean at Niagara, he became president of St. Joseph’s Seminary, then moved on to be the provisional superior in the Vincentian Community and assumed the presidency of Niagara in 1990.
“We are confident of a seamless transition as Father Harrington steps down as president at the end of this month and know that over the coming academic year Father Levesque will continue to build on his outstanding record of accomplishment,” the board said.
The trustees also said they will be conducting a national search over the next few months to fill the position of president permanently.
Harrington made the surprise announcement that he was retiring in early May after two New York Magazine articles accused him of accepting gifts and taking vacations arranged by an influential fund-raiser for the school who committed suicide during her trial on charges of stealing more than $1 million from St. John’s.
At the time he was lauded by the board, which said “the tenure of Father Harrington as president has been a period of unrivaled growth, expansion and achievement for our university.”
The board said Tuesday it is “in the process of completing its internal investigation and will update the university community concerning that matter later this summer.”