By Liam McGurl
Featured image: Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., and Board of Trustees Chair Robert Daugherty
[Photo courtesy of Liam McGurl]
The fourth longest serving president in St. Bonaventure University history, Sister Margaret Carney, O.S.F., announced Tuesday that she will be stepping down from her position after the 2016 spring semester.
The Bonaventure community was first notified of Carney’s decision early Tuesday morning through an SBU News email. Discussing her 12-year presidency, her discernment over proper timing for departure and plans for the future, Carney explained the thought process surrounding this decision.
“…I felt it important that I directly communicate with you and make clear my reasons for its timing,” Carney said in the official announcement.
Carney went on to share that she wanted to make sure that her departure, and inevitable replacement, would permit a “deliberate, thoughtful and engaged process.”
In a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, both Carney and Board of Trustees Chair, Robert Daugherty, elaborated on this point—discussing their hopes and concerns moving forward.
Carney entered the conference room with a smile on her face and started her speech discussing successor expectations.
“It was time to really prepare the way for a transition for a president who can, for a multiple number of years, lead the university as we complete a new strategic plan [which is due to the Board of Trustees in June], also lead the university into, probably, the new fundraising efforts that plan will require of us and also to provide sufficient time for a really thoughtful survey of our current needs,” Carney said.
After her short speech, Carney opened the floor to attendee questions—many of which surrounded her past accomplishments. Carney made it clear she viewed improvements as “our accomplishments,” referring to the Bonaventure community at large.
“When people ask me about my accomplishments, I often feel like the pharaoh who comes in and puts the last stone in the pyramid that the slaves have been building for a hundred years,” Carney said. “I don’t think of them as my accomplishments. I think of them as our accomplishments.”
Carney went on to tell that the some of the largest attainments she has seen during her presidency are Bonaventure’s Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accreditation for business and education, as well as the constant recruitment of talented faculty.
Despite Carney’s humble outlook, Daugherty and attendees praised the twentieth university president.
“Twenty-seven thousand alumni, the 33 board members that we have [and] the people in this community deeply love, respect, and have tremendous pride in what Sr. Margaret has been able to do in taking this from a very dark hour when she first took over her office…” Daugherty, who drove five hours to attend the conference, said. “I think we have to celebrate. We have to celebrate a tremendous reign.”
Carney also discussed her love for the Bonaventure community, with a surprising response when asked about leaving behind all of the relationships she has built: “Don’t even start.”
In keeping with her Franciscan tradition of serving the other, Carney provided words of encouragement, taking the focus off of herself and putting it on those she has worked alongside and even God.
“God never asks you to do something without giving you the ability to do it,” Carney said, as she ended the conference.
While Carney said she is looking forward to undergoing some personal projects—which include organizing her library, writing more often and becoming more of a “geek” when it comes to her understanding of technology—the university will begin actively searching for a twenty-first president.
“We’ve got a great example of what it looks like when it’s right,” Daugherty said. “We do not intend to not take advantage of that and make sure we find the right person. We’re prepared for what could take 12 to 18 months. We’re prepared, perhaps, for an interim president if we need to but more importantly we’ll stay really true to the values that we think will make this next president as successful as this last one.”