ALLEGANY, N.Y. — St. Bonaventure University has announced that F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, the school’s vice president for Franciscan mission, has been named interim director of the Franciscan Institute and dean of the School of Franciscan Studies at SBU.
Edward, well known in the field of education/formation for religious orders, was director of the institute and dean of the school from 1991 to 1996. He succeeds Fr. Michael Cusato, OFM, who stepped down on Jan. 31, positions he held since 2004. Fr. Michael, regarded as one of the foremost scholars of medieval Franciscan history, plans to relocate to St. Louis, where his province, Sacred Heart, is based. He will continue to pursue his scholarship.
After leaving SBU in 1996, Ed served as secretary of the Province until returning to SBU as vice president for Franciscan mission in 2005. He began as an adjunct professor in the master’s degree program in 1985, and has taught regularly during the summer sessions.
The 1970 graduate of SBU and Buffalo, N.Y., native, is a member of HNP’s Provincial Council and vice president of the Franciscan Mission. He is a leader in the Secretariat for the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition, a project of the English-speaking Conference, and has lectured and collaborated with faculty at Franciscan-sponsored colleges and universities. In November 2010, he presented a one-week program at the Franciscan College of Rome (The Antonianum) for English-speaking students.
He is the editor of “Works of St. Bonaventure X: Writings on the Spiritual Life” (Franciscan Institute, 2006). A Franciscan Institute planning advisory committee will be formed, including SBU administrators, faculty and other Franciscan experts, to discuss development of the research, teaching and publications that will be done by the institute and the School of Franciscan Studies. Ed will coordinate the work of the committee, in consultation with faculty and the SBU board of trustees.
SBU president Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, praised Michael for his work at the institute.
“Michael Cusato has served the Institute and School of Franciscan Studies with great dedication,” she said. “He has restored and enhanced the international reputation and scholarly associations upon which the Institute was founded. His ability to identify the importance of various scholarly initiatives and to promote and execute them has widened the circle of the Institute’s academic influence to a marvelous degree. His own reputation as a historian of exceptional talent has also grown during his tenure.”
Largely credited with the institute’s worldwide recognition as a research center, in the past few years the Franciscan Institute has faced financial challenges, mostly attributed to declining Franciscan vocations. Last year, the college was forced to suspend new enrollments in the master of arts program.
At SBU through the Summer
Named a University Distinguished Professor, Fr. Michael will remain on campus through the summer, teaching two courses in the School of Franciscan Studies. He will leave for Tangaza College in Nairobi, Kenya, Africa, on Feb. 1, 2012, to give a series of workshops.
“I am very proud of what our faculty and staff at the institute have been able to accomplish over these past six and-a-half years,” said Fr. Michael. “At the same time, these are challenging times for us, especially with the diminishment of religious vocations — our natural audience for the teaching program. I realize that this time of transition for the institute calls for new ideas and energies that can outline a new pathway and vision moving forward.”
During his tenure, Fr. Michael cultivated collegial relationships with institutes and faculty members, particularly in Italy, France, and Germany, and organized major conferences attended by scholars from around the world.