ALLEGANY, N.Y. — Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, was bid farewell and thank you this month with awards, speeches, humor, and music as she approached the conclusion of her presidency of St. Bonaventure University. She is retiring in July after 12 years leading the Franciscan university in Western New York.
At a dinner on June 10, SBU trustees and cabinet members along with friends of the president and the university recognized Sr. Margaret for not only her service and her commitment, but her energy and her kindness.
“It was a night of heartfelt tributes for Sr. Margaret from colleagues and friends,” said Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM. “A special presentation from the General Minister of the Franciscan Order was presented by John O’Connor, OFM, who highlighted Sr. Margaret’s many contributions to the Franciscan intellectual tradition.”
“The atmosphere at the dinner was a combination of important statements made to bid me farewell, fun-filled moments of music and good natured ‘roasting,’ and the presentation of some very unexpected gifts,” said Sr. Margaret, the 20th president of St. Bonaventure.
Kevin, a member of the SBU Board of Trustees since 2014, gave Sr. Margaret the HNP Francis Medal in recognition of her accomplishments and of her Franciscan spirit.
Sr. Margaret said she “was touched by the presentation of the Medal on behalf of the Province by Fr. Kevin. While I have been working closely with the Province for many years — going back to my time as dean of the Franciscan Institute — his words confirmed the depth of relationship that has developed.”
Recognition of Talents
John O’Connor, executive assistant to the General Minister for development and fundraising, representing Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, presented Sr. Margaret with a plaque from the Order in “recognition of a lifetime spent in service to others, principally as an educator and leader within the Franciscan community, and for her significant contributions to the Franciscan family and the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition.” John served as a member of SBU’s Board of Trustees for roughly 28 years.
The families of Francis Letro and Cindy Abbott-Letro, Erick and Marianne Laine, and Toni Litzinger and Jerry Moriarity presented Sr. Margaret with a commissioned portrait of herself. In addition, Sr. Margaret received a parting gift from the trustees to insure that she takes some vacation time, said Thomas Missel, SBU’s interim vice president of university relations.
“All in all, it was a fun night for a most deserving person who will be missed by the community she served so well,” said Kevin.
That weekend, on a request from trustee chair emeritus Jack McGinley, SBU ’65, whose family foundation donated $2.5 million to build SBU’s new ministry center, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to add Sr. Margaret’s name to the building. “I was deeply moved by Jack’s gesture and I will be as proud as can be to have my name connected with this wonderful Pittsburgh family,” she said. The McGinley-Carney Center for Franciscan Ministry is scheduled to open in 2017.
Sr. Margaret, who has worked at the university for nearly 20 years, said, “Serving as president was an opportunity to form young men and women in the spirit of Francis and Clare — and in the intellectual framework that has its roots in St. Bonaventure himself. I have given many years to the work of helping women and men live their Franciscan call as religious. This work allowed me to widen that commitment and to have the happiness of seeing our graduates really embrace a way of being in the world that owes its origins to our Franciscan Order.”
“Some of her popularity is due to a combination of a high level of energy, basic kindness, and an incredible attention to detail in dealing with people,” said Thomas Conway, OFM, a member of the SBU Board of Trustees since 2011.
Dominic Monti, OFM, who served as Bonaventure’s interim president from 2003 to 2004 with Sr. Margaret as the senior vice president for Franciscan a mission, said he will miss her “total dedication and tireless energy.” Her best qualities, he said, include “her ability to relate to a wide variety of people and to ‘get a read’ on situations quickly. Also, I admire her ability to speak with great poise and eloquence at ‘the drop of a hat.’”
Siena College president F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, a Bonaventure alumnus who, as SBU’s vice president for Franciscan mission, worked with Sr. Margaret until 2014, looked back at her accomplishments and talents. “I had the pleasure of working on many projects with Sr. Margaret before I began to recruit her as a potential faculty member at the Franciscan Institute,” he said.
“In 1980, she and Fr. Thaddeus Horgan, SA, were elected the English-speaking representatives to the international working group that revised the Third Order Rule of 1927. The International Work Group worked through numerous cultural and linguistic challenges to develop the Rule that was approved in 1982. It was an historical achievement that guided the renewal of the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order Regular. It is a work that will shape their life and ministry for decades to come. In the work group and the consultation process through which the Rule was embraced by the International TOR/SFO Franciscan family, Margaret established herself as the scholar, presenter, facilitator, leader and ‘sister,’ whose love and commitment inspired so many and endeared herself to the family as one who lived the vision.”
Energetic and Effective Leadership
“At St. Bonaventure University, Margaret worked tirelessly to lead the community in articulating a vision for the university, to address its challenges and ‘serve as a sister’ who dedicated her tremendous energies to working for the good of the university,” Ed said. “In the process, she made numerous contributions to the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities as well as the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities as an articulate spokesperson and board member.”
“Sr. Margaret was a great colleague when I served as president of Siena,” said Kevin. “She regularly reached out to me and always offered her assistance. We were involved in several professional organizations together and I can attest that she had the respect and admiration of college & university presidents throughout the United States.”
Thomas Conway said, “Sr. Margaret did a great job of raising the profile of the university. During her tenure as president, she was active as a very public leader and as a speaker. Consequently, many people had a first-time exposure to Franciscan thought and charism through her. She very effectively enriched our collective understanding of the value of a Franciscan education.”
“It is always fun to watch how popular she is,” he added. “She would win over very unusual combinations of people. She can converse easily with first-rate scholars, wealthy donors, 18-year-old students, and the housekeeping staff.”
SBU’s celebration included a presentation by Thomas Buttafaro, Board of Trustees staff secretary, as well as a skit called “Sister Act” performed by members of the board of trustees and the singing of Irish songs led by Kevin Mullen. Buttafaro has served as Sr. Margaret’s assistant for 10 years.
“The evening was a lot of fun,” said John. “The celebration concluded with a very moving expression of gratitude by Sister Margaret for the opportunity to serve the university for so many years, and comments by the chair of the board, Robert Daugherty.”
Sr. Margaret, who was inaugurated president in October 2004, will leave her position on July 30 when an interim president, Dr. Andrew Roth — former president of Notre Dame College near Cleveland, Ohio — will assume leadership of the university. After undergoing medical treatment this summer and fall for cancer, a diagnosis she announced in February, she plans to travel and see family.
“The year ahead was planned as a sabbatical dedicated to refreshing my Franciscan studies work, traveling as part of that task, and having time to spend with family and my religious community — without always having an eye on the clock and my foot on the gas pedal,” said Sr. Margaret, who has been honored by a variety of people and organizations since announcing her plans to retire. One was a medal from Pope Francis.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “Sr. Margaret Carney Bids Adieu to St. Bonaventure University” – June 5, 2016 Olean Times Herald
- “Sr. Margaret Honored by Sen. Young with ‘Woman of Distinction’ Honor” — May 11, 2016, SBU.edu
- “St. Bonaventure’s Sr. Margaret Carney Reveals Cancer Diagnosis” — Feb. 24, 2016, Buffalo News
- “SBU President to Retire” – Jan. 22, 2016, HNP Today
- “University Invites Region to Celebrate Sr. Margaret Carney’s 12 Years as President” — April 27, 2016, SBU.edu