The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Campus Spotlight

When asked about his greatest achievement at St. John’s, Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., said, “If you knew me better, you’d know that I’d say ‘What did we do. There’s nothing I’ve been able to do alone. It’s just a wonderful team of people here. We have done a lot.”

And in his 18 years as president of the University, he and his team have done a great deal. Harrington points to the construction of St. Thomas More Church and the inclusion of the
Residence Halls as just a couple of the greater achievements. But, he says, there is still so much more to be done to make St. John’s the best it can be.

“I want to see the student center built because that is so important to the students, and enhanced academic buildings,” Harrington said. “And I’d like to see an enhanced residence capacity because I know how hard it is when [the students] have to go off campus.”

Because all of these projects take capital, Harrington spends a great deal of time raising money for all of the improvements that the University wants to see. This causes many to see Harrington’s job as that of primary fundraiser, and he admits that that is a big part of his role. But there is much more to the job of the president.

“I’m the one who has to have the view from 20,000 feet,” he said. “I’m the one who has to see clearly where we came from as an institution and where we’re going. What it is that makes us strong and what it is that can make us stronger. And I have to be able to articulate that in a way that’s meaningful for people so that we can work together to make St. John’s a better place.”

But Harrington is not all business all the time.

“I love Italian food, which is the real reason we have a Rome campus,” he joked.

Under the collar and the prestigious title, Harrington is just like everybody else.

“I think I’m an introvert,” he said. “A lot of other people think I’m an extrovert, but I tend to be more reclusive. I enjoy people and when I’m being president, working a room, that’s fine. But I really value the special relationships, spending time with my family and friends. And I think they would describe me as someone who’s open and warm. It’s just nice sometimes not being president after all these years. It’s kind of nice not being a public figure.”

And when he’s not busy being the man in charge, what does the president of St. John’s do? The same as most other busy professionals. “My dog and my reading, those things are the things that when I have free time I’ll spend time on,” he said.

He’s had his dog, Stormy, a half daschund, half lab he got from the North Shore Animal
League at eight weeks, for five and a half years. And, in honor of the Red Storm, Stormy always wears a red collar.

“She’s my companion,” Harrington said. “I spend as much time with her as I can, taking her for walks and taking her to the park. She’s a great outlet. The best thing I’ve ever
done for myself.”

When not working for the students or caring for Stormy, Harrington enjoys reading novels (historical tomes are his favorites) and visiting his family in Cape Cod, which is his favorite vacation spot.

But time off is rare for the busy president, and he doesn’t seem to mind so much.

“I love being with students, and I get very little time to do that,” he said. “But that’s always what I’ve found most life-giving about working in higher education.”

So while his job is taxing and his time to himself is limited, Harrington said there is an upside to all of it, one that he considers his greatest joy and greatest achievement.

“I think because of the positions I’ve been in as both a priest and an administrator, I’ve been able to impact a lot of people’s lives positively, either personally or even students I don’t even know,” he said. “I think the reason I’ve been able to have an impact is because I listen to my heart.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

We love comments and feedback, but we ask that you please be respectful in your responses.
All The Torch Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *