By Jason Klaiber and Bryce Spadafora
[Image courtesy of sbu.edu]
Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., will step down from her position as St. Bonaventure’s president on July 31, leaving behind a 12-year record of influence spanning not only this campus but also the surrounding western New York region.
Carney, 74, assumed her role as the 20th president of St. Bonaventure in 2004, following the university’s 2003 men’s basketball team scandal, which revolved around former president Robert Wickensheiser’s permission for an ineligible transfer student to receive playing time.
Prior to her appointment, Carney served as dean and director of the Franciscan Institute, the university’s center of research and publication related to the Franciscan tradition.
“Sr. Margaret assumed the presidency of the university at a time when the integrity of the university and its values was being questioned and scrutinized,” said Brother Edward F. Coughlin, the president of Siena College. “I think she led the university exceptionally well through those difficult days and was able to restore confidence in the character of the institution.”
According to Coughlin, Carney’s presidency also began at a time of financial downturn in western New York, growing popularity in online education and a decline in the number of traditional college-age students.
Coughlin served as vice president for mission at Bonaventure from 2005 until 2014. In 2014 Coughlin took over as interim president of Siena College before being appointed as president. Carney delivered the introduction to Coughlin’s inaugural address in Oct. 2015.
“Sr. Margaret has worked hard to lead the university in addressing and responding to those challenges,” said Coughlin. “In the words of Francis of Assisi, she has ‘served with great humility.’ Following the example of Clare of Assisi, she has ‘walked courageously’ on the path she was asked to follow in the presidency. The community owes her a great deal of gratitude for all that she has done.”
During her time as president, Carney also worked closely with Cynthia Zane, Ed.D., the president of Hilbert College.
“I can’t imagine, as a new president at a Catholic and Franciscan college, having a better colleague or mentor than Sr. Margaret,” said Zane. “Over the past 10 years, she has become my friend, confidant and Steelers fan partner.”
St. Bonaventure and Hilbert College have been part of a 20-year partnership, with Bonaventure offering graduate programs at its Buffalo Center on Hilbert’s campus.
“For over twenty years, Hilbert College and St. Bonaventure have shared a robust partnership built on a vision for Catholic Franciscan Higher Education in Western New York established by Sister Margaret and my predecessors. We look forward to our ongoing collaboration with our colleagues at St. Bonaventure.” said Zane.
In 2016, Hilbert College and St. Bonaventure will offer Bachelor of Science degrees in cybersecurity. The two schools will be part of only three colleges in Western New York to offer degrees in cybersecurity to undergraduates.
Carney’s work in providing new academic programs isn’t just limited to the cybersecurity program. Carney has launched eight academic programs during her presidency. Among them are the sports studies program, the strategic communications & digital media program and the integrated marketing communications program.
Carney also established the Franciscan Health Care Professions program. The program allows for St. Bonaventure sophomores to apply early admission to medical schools.
In 2009 the 150th Anniversary Campaign, overseen by Carney, brought in more than $95 million from 20,553 donors. The university used the money to increase scholarships, faculty and staff research and academic and extracurricular programs.
As president, Carney oversaw the construction of the William F. Walsh Science Center, the William E. and Ann L. Swan Business Center and the Tom and Michelle Marra Athletic Fields Complex.
“She’s done a great job,” said John Hurley, the president of Canisius College. “She was a calming influence. I regard her as a great colleague in higher education.”
Carney had spent several decades involved in religious life prior to her tenure at Bonaventure. In 1959, she became a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God, a congregation of religious women centered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
From 1963 to 1980, Carney taught elementary and secondary school. Through the years, she also lectured in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
From 1972 to 1978, she served as the Associate to the Vicar for Religious in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
In 1984, Carney earned a Master of Theology from Duquesne University, which honored her with membership to the Century Club—the highest recognition granted to its alumni.
In 1985, she completed a degree in Franciscan studies from the Franciscan Institute’s masters program.
She received a doctorate at the Pontificia Universitá Antonianum in 1988, becoming the first woman to do so in the Roman university’s then-half-century history.
In addition to nine universities granting her with honorary doctorates, Business First of Buffalo for Women of Influence presented her with their Lifetime Achievement Award.
“She’s very forward,” said Sr. Marcella Marie Garus, the president of Villa Maria College. “I found her to be a very charismatic leader. [Her] retirement is well deserved. I wish her well.”