Mount St. Mary Inaugurates First Franciscan President: Kevin Mackin

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

NEWBURGH, N.Y. — Following a brief sabbatical after 11 years as president of Siena College, Kevin Mackin, OFM, was inaugurated Oct. 17 as the fifth president of Mount Saint Mary College, the school’s first Franciscan leader.

Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, delivered the invocation, offering blessings to Kevin and the community.

The MSMC presidential medallion given to Kevin was blessed by the Most Rev. Dominick Lagonegro, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York, who spoke of the Dominicans and the Franciscans “joining together.”

“Here we are uniting people who have hope for the future, and people who want to make a difference in the world,” he said. “Fr Kevin, you’ve been installed as the fifth president. We look to you to bring enthusiasm and to help us build.”

The bishop of Albany, the Most Rev. Howard Hubbard, offered a benediction at the ceremony, which was centered around the theme, “Celebrating Tradition, Creating Opportunities,” amid a backdrop on the scenic Hudson River campus.

The ceremony was “a celebration of all who have served and studied here,” wrote Kevin in a reflection in the inaugural program. “I praise the accomplishments of the many people – presidents, students, faculty, staff, trustees, parents, friends – who have built the Mount’s vibrant presence and reputation.”

Preceded by a morning liturgy, the inauguration was traditional in nature, including a student processional; faculty, religious, and delegates from Siena and other schools; greetings, music, and speeches.

The Dominican Tradition
Several speakers recognized that Kevin is the first Franciscan president of the college, founded 50 years ago by Dominican sisters, who provided all but two of its five presidents.

Sr. Patricia Sullivan, OP, professor of mathematics, said, “We look forward to this new era of Dominican and Franciscan collaboration.”

Kevin described the importance of the four pillars of Dominican life -– study, prayer, community, and service — and spoke of his love and respect for education.  

“Our goal is to educate persons, not to simply issue degrees,” said Kevin, adding that this semester, “MSMC welcomed the largest class in the college’s history.”

He said that  Catholic education seeks to evolve in its broadest purpose “those habits of heart and skills of the mind that will enable people to live a normal life, have a successful career and be good citizens.”

“We owe much to the tradition of Catholic education which began to flourish in the 13th century during the time of St. Dominic de Guzman,” Kevin said. “It is a tradition worth celebrating, because it celebrates the worth of each student, each professor, each mentor, each human life.”

The Dominicans have been present on this site since the 1880s, Kevin said, when four Dominican sisters from Manhattan purchased land in 1883 and opened a school to serve students from St. Mary’s Church. After several modifications and developments, the Mount became a four-year liberal arts college in 1959.  MSMC granted its first bachelor’s degree in 1962.

Years of Higher Education
Kevin succeeded Sr. Ann Sakak, OP, who retired in June after 31 years as president. James Cotter,  MSMC’s most senior professor, described Kevin as a person “who imparts knowledge, shows kindness, and displays integrity and intelligence.”

“Kevin has great energy and a passion for education and knowledge,” he said.

Kevin began his higher education career at Siena during the 1970s as a professor of religious studies and chair of the Department of Religious Studies. In 1982, he was appointed president-rector of Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, N.Y. During his tenure, he chaired the seminary department of the National Educational Association in Washington, D.C. In 1988, he was named director of the Province’s St. Anthony’s Guild, and in 1996, he  was named president of Siena College.

Kevin, who received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Bonaventure University and an S.T.D from the Catholic University of America, has served on a variety of national diocesan, Franciscan and educational committees, including re-accreditation teams, and papal visitation teams. He is a member of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the organization that accredits more than 500 colleges and universities. He also served on the board of directors of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. He chaired the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Council of Presidents.

Eileen Casey-Leck, chair of the MSMC presidential search committee, said Kevin is a “recognized leader, both regionally and nationally.”

He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the State of New York Legislative Resolution on Honor by Sen. Joseph Bruno, Senate majority leader, the Department of the Army’s Commander’s Award for Public Service (2007), the Marketer Executive Citizen Award of Eastern New York (2006), and the Dr. James M. Bell Humanitarian Award (2003).

Inaugural Week a Festive Fall Celebration
Among those who attended the inauguration on the campus, located about halfway between Manhattan and Albany,were Kevin’s classmates, friars from the Provincial Office, faculty and administrators from Siena College, and various friends and relatives. They came from as far away as St. Petersburg, Fla.  Siena president Kevin Mullen, OFM, and Keneth Paulli, OFM, a member of Siena’s administration, marched in their academic garb.

Julian Davies, OFM, a philosophy professor at Siena, said the inauguration was “a delightful event” in which Kevin showed “his usual enthusiasm”  Julian remarked on Kevin’s red robe and hat.

During inauguration week, several special events took place on campus, including Kevin’s participation in Olympic-like games, shown in the photo. Hundreds of students also engaged in other games, from carrying eggs on spoons to leapfrogging, said Janet Gianopoulos, Kevin’s assistant for community relations, who recently moved to the Mount from her public relations position at Siena.  Also part of the recent excitement, she said, was a bonfire held the night after the inauguration.

“Close to 400 students attended,” said Gianopoulos, adding that several members of the college’s board of trustees who met that day commented on the impressive number of students who attended the Friday ceremony.

The inauguration ceremony represented “the great opportunity for grafting of the longstanding Dominican and Franciscan traditions,” said Kevin Tortorelli, OFM, who taught at Siena while Kevin was there.

inauguration3A Brief History of the Dominican
The Dominican community in Newburgh grew from the 20th century movement in the Catholic Church to serve the poor and immigrant populations by founding schools, colleges, and hospitals, according to the inauguration program.

The program stated that MSMC “embraces the 800-year-old Dominican educational tradition, characterized by the pursuit of truth, and remains committed to the value of a liberal arts education.” St. Dominic called this fourfold pattern of life “holy preaching.”

St. Dominic was born Dominic de Guzman in 1170 in Caleruega, Spain. He studied in Palencia and was ordained a priest when he was about 25. In 1206, with the help of a group of women who lived in community, he founded the first Dominican house, a convent in Prouille, France, “the cradle of the Dominicans,” according to the program. In 1216, Pope Honorius III approved the establishment of Dominic’s Order of Preachers, or Dominicans. Dominic sent his preachers to the great universities of the time: Oxford, Paris and Bologna. He wanted them to be educated so their preaching and teaching would be informed.

Following in the philosophy of both Saints Dominic and Francis, Kevin will be doing what he enjoys: collborating with the community and mentoring young people about both education and service.

The photo above shows Kevin with Sr. Sakak, who served MSMC until June 2008. Click the photo to see a montage with 14 scenes of inauguration festivities.

—  Jocelyn Thomas is communications director for Holy Name Province.