LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — Using a phrase from St. Francis of Assisi as its theme, A Time to Begin Again, Siena College officially began the tenure of Kevin Mullen, OFM, as 10th president with an inauguration ceremony on Oct. 1. Approximately 2,500 people attended the event in the Alumni Recreation Center on the campus of the 70-year-old college.
Students, administrators, faculty members, relatives, friars, civic officials and representatives from more than 55 colleges celebrated the 1975 Siena alumnus, who said that Siena has had a profound influence on his life.
“It was here that I spent four very happy years as an undergraduate, and it was here that I was introduced to the liberal arts tradition in higher education and acquired my life-long avocation — the study of history,” Kevin said.
“It was here that the call to the Franciscan way of life was strengthened and it was from here, shortly after graduation, that I entered the Order of Friars Minor. I feel happy and privileged to be able to use the skills that were first honed here so many years ago on behalf of my alma mater.”
“I stand here today as one lucky man,” he said at the morning inauguration.
Emphasizing that one of the most important ministries of Holy Name Province is education, Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, said, “We are honored and blessed to have you in this role. We know you will continue to bring high standards and shared values to Siena.”
“We look forward with confidence to your leadership,” John said, after mentioning that he has the privilege of representing about 300 friars.”
Congratulations Given by Many
In a setting filled with Siena green and Franciscan brown, greetings were given by people representing several constituencies – the community, boards of trustees and associate trustees, faculty, students, and alumni.
New York Gov. Eliott Spitzer, in a greeting read by master of ceremonies Linda Richardson, acknowledged the tradition of the Franciscans and the leadership skills of Fr. Kevin. Richardson is Siena’s vice president of academic affairs.
Keynote speaker was Kenneth Himes, OFM, Siena class of 1971, chair of Boston College’s Department of Theology. He was introduced by Brian Bellanger, OFM, guardian of the St. Bernardine of Siena Friary, who described both Kenneth’s “well-deserved reputation as a dynamic teacher” and his role as “Siena’s first overnight security guard.”
After some initial lighthearted remarks by presenters who reminisced fondly about their connections to Kevin, Kenneth described aspects of education and Franciscanism to a hushed and attentive audience.
He expounded on each of the words in the statement: ”Siena is a liberal arts college in Catholic and Franciscan traditions.”
For example, he said, “Siena is an institution that takes seriously the task of engaging the Catholic intellectual tradition. We must not ignore the religious dimension of human experience, either at the personal or social levels.”
Kenneth also explained that “to be Franciscan, in its simplest terms, is to allow oneself to be influenced by the person Francis Bernardone. To place oneself under the tutelage of Francis and allow his reading of the Gospel of Christ to be a touchstone for one’s life is to be Franciscan.”
All of the terms are important, he said.
“Those who cherish traditions do so because they have hope for the future,” he said, emphasizing the need to think critically. “We study traditions not to mimic them but to find our own voices. Siena’s mission is affected by history.”
“Since Kevin Mullen is the 10th president of Siena, it is obvious that the school has a history,” he said. “To be a Franciscan is to be a brother or sister to all of creation,” said Ken, noting that the inauguration took place just three days before the feast of St. Francis.
The complete text of Kenneth’s address can be found on the link below.
“Education at Siena College celebrates the values of Francis and Clare,” Kevin said in his address.
“Franciscan tradition challenges us to respect all of creation,” he said, adding, “we are champions of an intellectual tradition.”
“Francis was very successful at delivering his message; he was genuine,” Kevin said.
Bishop Howard Hubbard, of the Diocese of Albany said, “Fr. Kevin, today we salute you on this auspicious occasion and we thank you for saying ‘yes.’ ”
Bishop Hubbard also joked: “When Kevin Mackin announced his decision to step down, everyone knew it would take a big person to fill his shoes. Kevin Mullen does this not just physically but intellectually and spiritually.”
Kevin Mackin, OFM, who held the position of president from 1996 until May of this year, is now on a sabbatical
Songs and Gatherings Celebrate Occasion
Music at the inauguration was provided by the Tri-City Brass and the New York Catholic State Chorale, which included in its performance an Irish piece, “Come to the Hills,” in honor of Kevin Mullen’s Irish heritage.
A community reception followed the inauguration in the Marcelle Athletic Complex, where several past Siena presidents — Matthew Conlin, OFM, (who served1970-76); Hugh Hines, OFM, (1976-89); William McConville, OFM, (1989-96); and Kevin Mackin (1996-2007) — greeted guests. Many friars gathered at the friary for lunch with their brothers.
On Sept. 30, many guests of Kevin Mullen attended a reception at President’s House, a building recently acquired by Siena College, adjacent to the campus. Several out-of-town attendees enjoyed comfortable and cost-effective lodging at the nearby Carondolet Hospitality Center, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
On the day after the inauguration, an academic symposium titled “Transforming Culture from Within: The Legacy of Francis and Clare” was held in the Sarazen Student Center. In celebration of his inauguration, Kevin commissioned the college’s Inaugural Academic Symposium, held Oct. 2, to underscore his commitment to the vision of St. Francis and to the values that support Franciscan and Catholic traditions of liberal arts education.
“As a Franciscan friar for more than 30 years, and as a long-time student of Catholic social thought, I bring to my work as president a certain ethos,” wrote Kevin in announcing the symposium. That ethos, he said, “is rooted in respect for the human person, the pursuit of the common good, justice and the demands of good stewardship of God’s creation, as well as the conviction that genuine happiness is measured not by the quantity of one’s possessions, but by the quality of one’s relationships – with God, with one’s brothers and sisters in the human family, and with one’s own deepest self.”
The symposium included a lecture and panel discussion, with guest speakers Michael Blastic, OFM, and Sister Violet Grennan, MFIC, of the Missionary Franciscan Sisters. Michael is associate professor at the Franciscan Institute/School of Franciscan Studies at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y.
Panelists included Tom Dickens, associate professor of religious studies and director of the Franciscan Center for Catholic Studies; Mary Anne Egan, associate professor of computer science; Mary Meany, professor of religious studies; and John O’Neill, associate professor of quantitative business analysis.
Prior to the presentation, symposium participants viewed student poster exhibits. They included “Beyond Classroom Walls – Building Understanding in Chile,” by David Bissember, ’08, Spanish major; and, “The Batswana of Botswana: The Value of Humility,” by Christina Chiapetta, ’08, biology major.
Kevin Mullen, a native of Paterson, N.J., has a strong history of service with Siena and the Province, as well as with other institutions. He is a member of Holy Name’s Provincial Council, and has served as Holy Name’s Director of Finance.
Since 2005, Kevin served as director of the college’s Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy, and he has conducted seminars in Franciscan service. Before coming to Siena, he was guardian of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, and pastor and guardian of St. Leo’s Church in Elmwood Park, N.J. In addition, he has chaired the board of directors of St. Francis House, a multi-faceted outreach ministry to Boston’s homeless and marginalized.
Kevin’s teaching career has included faculty positions at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, N.Y; Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass., Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass., the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., and the Washington Theological Union in Silver Spring, Md.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.