BY EMILY LAHR
After serving Franciscan University of Steubenville for 13 years, the beloved president of the university, the Rev. Terence Henry, announced Monday, Jan. 28, he would be stepping down at the end of the academic year in May.
“G.K. Chesterton said that gratitude is the key to happiness in life,” said Henry in his announcement to students. “I look back with gratitude on all of the students, faculty and staff I’ve had the privilege to know and all we have accomplished together to advance the mission of the Church and promote the culture of life.”
The Rev. Nicholas Polichnowski, TOR, chairman of Franciscan University’s Board of Trustees, explained that within religious life, leaders are rotated periodically as a matter of course.
Henry said the average tenure of a university president is six years due to its intense responsibilities. The Rev. Michael Scanlan had the rare opportunity to serve as president for 26 years. The Board of Trustees agreed that any president after Scanlan would only serve for 13 years. Henry said it did not come as a surprise.
“No friar must hold an office as his own,” said Henry. “And the time has come.”
The first person Henry contacted to share the information was Steubenville’s new bishop, Bishop Jeffrey Monforton. Henry said he served for three bishops and two popes during his presidency.
He said he believes the Board of Trustees will elect the new president at the last board meeting in April. The next president will be chosen from among the priests and brothers of the 139-member TOR Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, which founded Franciscan University in 1946.
Henry does not know where he will be stationed but he does know that wherever he is positioned he will be needed.
Henry will close out his tenure with a busy semester including speeches on religious liberty at two Legatus chapter meetings. He also accepted an invitation to give a major address at an international meeting of young Catholics discussing how to renew society through the Gospel at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
During his years at Franciscan, Henry has led Franciscan University through more than 12 years of milestones including the most successful fundraising campaign in University history. Targeted with a goal of $25 million, it raised $31 million to enhance the university in a variety of ways, including increased financial aid for students. Henry oversaw the institution of more than 19 new academic programs including the creation of a new liberal arts core curriculum in 2012, the establishment of the Institute of Bioethics in 2007 and the Catechetical Institute.
Since 2000, the size of the Franciscan campus has more than doubled to 249 acres, and undergraduate enrollment has increased by 389 students. For fall 2012, total enrollment was 2,466. Henry was told that around half of all Franciscan alumni have graduated under him.
In 2000, Henry also instituted the Commuter Grant Program, offering a 50 percent tuition discount for local high school seniors who enroll directly to Franciscan University. The grant makes it possible for local students to get a four-year college degree while staying in the Ohio Valley.
2007 saw the return of intercollegiate athletics to Franciscan University, with an NCAA Division III program that today numbers 15 men’s and women’s programs.
Henry said he will miss the many memories he made as president, including the visits to the Vatican and the students in Gaming Austria, but nothing compared to his joy of serving the students on main campus.
“Probably I will miss being a pastor to the student body the most,” said Henry.
Julia Houska, a sophomore majoring in psychology, said Henry was always her favorite friar. She said his homilies and his presence on campus embodied Franciscan’s mission.
“You can’t help but listen (to him) because he is always so enthusiastic and he always has something funny to say but it was also so serious,” said Houska.
Ordained to the priesthood in 1976, Henry earned his master of arts in history from Indiana State University and his Masters of Divinity from St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee Wis.
Inaugurated on Oct. 4, 2000, Henry succeeded Scanlan as the fifth president of the university.
“Oh, how quickly the years roll by,” said Henry. “In my mind’s eye, I can clearly recall the fall semester of 2000, as I welcomed students to campus and moved into my room in Holy Spirit Friary.”
As the selection for a new president begins, Henry wanted to reassure students that those who serve the mission come and go, but the mission stays the same.
As always, Henry summarized his presidency in a G.K. Chesterton quote, “‘Orthodoxy is exciting and perilous.’ I have enjoyed the exciting and have accepted the perils,” said the university president.