ALLEGANY, NY — When Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, was named president of St. Bonaventure University in 2004, she took charge of a school that was struggling to regain its academic reputation after a basketball scandal the year before.
Twelve years later, St. Bonaventure University has improved its culture and image. Recently, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine recognized SBU as a best value university, alongside schools like Princeton and Harvard.
Sr. Margaret led the school out of some of its darkest days. Now she’s ready for a well-deserved retirement.
Last week, Sr. Margaret informed Bob Daugherty, chair of SBU’s board of trustees, that she wished to step down on July 31, allowing ample time for a search for her successor. “It has been a long time since this university has had the opportunity to experience a peaceful and proper transition of its presidency,” she noted in a letter distributed to the university community on Jan. 19.
Under her guidance, the university experienced many changes and improvements, including new academic programs, $71.4 million in capital improvements and several successful fundraising campaigns. Recently, St. Bonaventure was recognized by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine as a “best value university,” focusing on both financial aid and student success indicators, including freshman-to-sophomore retention rates, which increased by 10 percent since 2004.
‘A Tireless Work Ethic’
Sr. Margaret became president during a tumultuous period of university history. The school’s academic reputation was still recovering after suffering a basketball scandal in 2003 that resulted in the firing of the head basketball coach, the president’s resignation and sanctions from the NCAA. Dominic Monti, OFM, served as interim president from 2003 to 2004 as the university searched for a permanent leader.
Prior to her appointment, Sr. Margaret was serving as director of the Franciscan Institute, of which she had been a faculty member since 1997. She is the first woman to have earned her doctorate degree from the Pontifical Antonianum, after having received a bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa., and a master’s degree from the Franciscan Institute.
Sr. Margaret cited several reasons for her decision to resign this year, including the fact that throughout the next year, the university will be developing a new strategic and fundraising plan. “The inauguration of a new period of planning for and then implementing major new institutional goals is a perfect time to invite new executive talent to the office of president,” she noted.
Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, who serves on the university board of trustees, expressed gratitude for Sr. Margaret’s service, on behalf of Holy Name Province.
“Sr. Margaret brought developed academic skills and a tireless work ethic to the job of being president, but most importantly she brought her lived experience as a Franciscan woman who believed in the values taught to us by St. Francis and St. Clare,” he said. “She shared these values with the university community and did her part to build the university’s legacy.
“On behalf of the friars of Holy Name Province, I want to thank Sr. Margaret for her leadership of St. Bonaventure. We, her brothers, are grateful for her service to our province and to the people that form the university community,” Kevin added.
After she concludes her time in office, Sr. Margaret plans to take a sabbatical. She has stated that she will be available to assist the university during the transition period.
“In the months ahead leading to the close of this academic year, I hope to begin to find occasions to adequately express my gratitude for the honor of serving as the 20th president of St. Bonaventure University,” she said. “While it is a task that will take the rest of my life to complete, I hope to make a good start of it in 2016.
“May we continue in these coming months of this new year to do the work that the renowned and revered Fr. Tom Plassmann, OFM, described as ‘building a better Bonaventure,’” she added. “For more than a decade as your president, I have dedicated all of my efforts to do just that. It is a habit of mind and heart that I do not intend to break.”
St. Bonaventure University’s campus has changed dramatically since 2004. With her guidance, the university invested $71.4 million in capital improvements — $52.9 million in buildings and the remainder in equipment, furnishings, land and land improvements. Noteworthy accomplishments include the construction of four buildings, including the Holy Name Library for the Franciscan Institute. The dining hall and five of the dormitories have been renovated, and a new athletic fields complex was constructed.
This spring, the university will break ground on a new home for university ministries, thanks largely to a gift of $2 million from alumnus and former board of trustees chair John “Jack” McGinley.
During the past 12 years, the university has held several fundraising campaigns, including the Anniversary Campaign, which concluded in 2009, raising $95 million, exceeding its goal of $90 million. During the greatest recession in modern history, the university raised $15 million for the Campaign for the School of Business from 2009 to 2013.
Under Sr. Margaret’s guidance, the university’s endowment increased by more than $30.1 million in 11 years, from $33.3 million to $63.4 million at the end of FY15.
Ten new academic programs were launched during her presidency, including the integrated marketing communications graduate program founded by Basil Valente, OFM. She also oversaw the launch of two online graduate programs — strategic leadership and integrated marketing communication. The Franciscan Health Care Professions program was also established, creating partnerships with medical schools to create pathways to medical and health professions. The need to study, support and research specific populations resulted in the launch of five centers — including the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, directed by Michael Calabria, OFM, and The Lateran Center, directed by Ross Chamberland, OFM — and the reorganization of the Franciscan Institute. During her tenure, the university earned repeated national recognition from the U.S. News and World Report as a best value university.
St. Bonaventure encourages students, faculty and alumni to share their memories of Sr. Margaret and their best wishes on social media using the hashtag #ThanksSrMargaret.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province and a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.
- “Sister Margaret Carney Honored with a Festschrift” — Aug. 23, 2006, HNP Today
- “St. Bonaventure Teams Make Headlines, Celebrate Two NCAA Bids” – March 14, 2012, HNP Today
- “SBU President to be Honored for Interfaith Efforts” — Jan. 17, 2007, HNP Today