ALLEGANY, N.Y. — St. Bonaventure University and Holy Name Province made official their historic relationship last month by signing the first-ever memorandum of understanding.
“At a time when many institutions of higher learning are relinquishing their Catholic identity or relationship with the original sponsoring religious congregations, the agreement is both historic and significant,” said F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, SBU’s vice president for Franciscan mission.
The document specifies the mutual desire of the university, founded in 1858, and the Province, founded in 1901, to advance the educational mission of the university in a manner that respects and preserves its Catholic-Franciscan character, according to a St. Bonaventure news release. While the relationship between the two has endured for more than 150 years, it was never formalized.
Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, was one of three who signed the memo of understanding on March 23. The others were SBU president Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, and John McGinley Jr., chair of the SBU Board of Trustees.
“I’m pleased to have been a part of the committee that drafted the sponsorship statement and to have been on campus to sign it with Sr. Margaret and Jack McGinley,” said John. “While the agreement reflects the ongoing relationship of the Province and the university, I believe it is important to put into writing what we, out of a sense of mutual trust, have taken for granted for so many years.”
History of Collaboration
Edward, a 1970 graduate of SBU, said, “In 1974, the relationship of the Province to both St. Bonaventure University and Siena College was significantly changed when both became legally independent corporations in New York State with a strong and continuing relationship with Holy Name Province. As the SBU bylaws at that time indicated, the university intended to maintain is historic relationship with the Province.”
The new document is titled “Continuing the Legacy,” he said. “The document attempted to specify some of the mutual commitments of the Province and the university trustees that have been formally operative for many years,” Ed added. “There are currently four friars on the SBU board, one of whom is a friar from another province. The document specifies that the trustees are committed to having 10 percent of the board (three to five members) be friars or professed Franciscan religious. The agreement also provides for the ongoing review of those commitments on a regular basis on the part of both the Province and the trustees.”
“This formalizes what has always been our understanding,” said Sr. Margaret, president of St. Bonaventure since 2004. “It is a commitment by the university board of trustees and the Holy Name Province to continue that relationship.”
Building Blessings and Groundbreakings
Also on March 23, university and Provincial leaders participated in a ceremony to rename an addition to the Friedsam Memorial Library that holds the rare-book collection of the Franciscan Institute. The collection has been described by the National Endowment for the Humanities as a “unique national asset of great value to American humanistic scholarship.”
The addition, which opened in 2008, is now known as Holy Name Library for the Franciscan Institute. The board of trustees voted in September to name the addition in recognition of the longstanding support by Holy Name Province of the scholarship and service of the Franciscan Institute.
John O’Connor, who blessed the addition, commented: “An important part of our tradition as Franciscans is the intellectual tradition, so it is important that we come together today to celebrate the blessing of this library, which in so many ways stands for the excellence that is the education endeavor that Franciscans have been about for over 800 years.”
Before the blessing, university trustees broke ground for SBU’s new business center, which is expected to open late next year.
Among the friars at the March 23 events were Thomas Conway, OFM, and Frank Sevola, OFM, members of the SBU board of trustees; John C. Coughlin, OFM, Daniel Riley, OFM, and Robert Struzynski, OFM, of Mt. Irenaeus; and Francis Di Spigno, OFM, David Haack, OFM, James Vacco, OFM, and Allen Weber, OFM, of the university.
Holy Name Province is in the process of formalizing a memo of understanding with Siena, founded by the friars in 1937 near Albany, N.Y.
“I look forward to working with Kevin Mullen, OFM, president, and Bob Cushing, chair of the Board of Siena College, to craft a similar sponsorship document,” said John. “Discussions toward achieving that objective have already begun.”
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.