Reverend Brian J. Shanley, O.P., Ph.D., formally became the 18th president of St. John’s University during an investiture ceremony held Friday, September 24, on the Jamaica campus, after assuming the new role on Feb. 1.
Fr. Shanley, an ordained member of the Dominican Order of Preachers, was the 12th and longest-serving president in the history of Providence College. He was unanimously elected by the board of directors at St. John’s following a national search.
During his investiture address, Fr. Shanley drew parallels between the Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominicans, to which he belongs, and the Congregation of the Mission, known also as the Vincentians, who founded St. John’s.
“I have come to realize there is a lot more to the Vincentians that I wasn’t seeing because I too assimilated them into a model of which I was most familiar: my own order,” Fr. Shanley said. “I needed to explore what is new, different and challenging about the Vincentian community to understand why God led me here to St. John’s.”
He explained that at the heart of the Vincentian Charism is loving service to the poor.
“The greatest way to lift a person out of poverty is a college degree, and that must remain at the center of who we are as a university,” Fr. Shanley said adding that at the heart of the work done by St. John’s is the study and exploration of the systemic structures that produce exclusion, marginalization and injustice.
He wants to emulate St. Vincent de Paul’s talent for collaboration and organization.
“These are virtues we need at St. John’s,” Fr. Shanley said. “For us to flourish, we need to emulate Vincent’s genius for collaboration and for drawing out the talents of others, especially our alumni. We need to do a better job with engaging our alumni in the mission of our university.”
Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio Ph.D, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, noted that a spirit of ecumenism now permeated St. John’s University, as a Dominican priest has been called to lead a Vincentian university.
“The diversity of this university and the surrounding area is something of which we can be proud,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “Because we see that people of great diversity can live in peace with each other, and this university is a microcosm of that diversity.”
Fr. Shanley’s friend and successor as president at Providence College, Rev. Kenneth R. Secord, O.P., gave the ceremony’s benediction, noting that the two had been close friends for more than 35 years.
“That allowed me to be a firsthand witness to the many decisions he made, all of which bore the imprint of his leadership style, a style characterized by wisdom, collaboration, kindness, compassion and strength,” Rev. Secord said. “This strong leadership, along with his extraordinary vision, defined his presidency and made him so successful. We are a better and stronger institution because of him.”
Founded in 1870, St. John’s is a Catholic and Vincentian university that prepares students for ethical leadership in today’s global society. Students come from 45 states and 121 countries.
Former SJU basketball star Tarik Turner, who serves on the board of trustees, noted that Fr. Shanley is a great sports fan with a deep commitment to student success.
“He has an excellent track record of uplifting student enrollment and academic achievement, He’s someone who can inspire as a leader, friend and confidante,” Turner said. “A term we use in athletics is ‘high motor,’ someone with high energy, who can engage with people, whether it’s students, alumni, faculty or potential donors. Fr. Shanley has hit the ground running and demonstrated collaborative leadership.”