Flames of the Torch: Aug. 28
When the Torch went to meet with newly named interim-President Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M. for this week’s sit-down interview, we didn’t quite know what to expect. Nobody on the current editorial board ever had the chance to meet former president Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M. – last year’s executive board had only one interview with him – and certainly none of us had ever encountered him in our day-to-day lives as students.
When we arrived at Newman Hall on Monday afternoon, we were pleasantly surprised to be introduced to a man who seemed at least to be genuine.
In our conversation, he spoke of how he hopes to interact with students, faculty and administrators in a seemingly honest way. He talked about getting around campus via a recently acquired golf cart to help mobility and implementing a pseudo-open door policy. What came across to us was an intent to engage with the University community without being unrealistic or patronizing.
That wasn’t what we gleaned from the Torch’s first interview with Harrington in 1989. At that time, Harrington made wonderful comments about being present for students and faculty, but the petitions for transparency clearly indicated a different reality.
But less about the past and more about the present and future. Levesque has spoken about engagement with students on a level that’s realistic. No president should be looked on to be seen on a near-daily basis. It’s impossible for someone who should be raising funds for the University and has a multitude of tasks.
What Levesque seems to be aiming at is being available as often as he can and as he said at Mass yesterday evening, when his schedule allows. That’s a realistic statement and one that should, in our view, be believed. And to us, that’s exactly what the University needs right now.
It needs an individual who can be taken at face value. An individual who people can trust to be honest and more concerned with the school he’s been charged with and his personal vocation than some strange thought of being the CEO of a company.
The 75-year-old recently retired president of Niagara University said he didn’t necessarily want to become the interim-President in Queens, but that he willingly accepted the role to serve and it appears that he fully intends on doing that for this community.
So we’ll use a phrase that Levesque used himself in our interview with him. He said it referring to how his experience saying Mass after becoming interim-President went and we’ll say it after meeting him and seeing his interaction with other students thus far.
Levesque told the Torch that there is no stipulation that the president of the University must be a Vincentian priest, but that had been the case in the past.
This is a positive development from our view as we move forward with the hope that the University will truly conduct the “national” search it says it will.
The next long-term president should be someone who can bring an open mind and a new perspective to St. John’s – something that often seems to be lacking in certain corners of the University.
While we can certainly understand needs such as a Catholic president. Limits shouldn’t extend past the latter. Too often St. John’s has resisted progress when others have continued to evolve.
This latest news is certainly positive and our hope is this search marks the beginning of a push toward true 21st-century evolution that the University professes.