Leahy wins top Colonel spot

Phat Nguyen / Kirstin Cook, News Editor / Editor-in-Chief

Patrick Leahy went from being a Scranton Royal to a Wilkes Colonel in a matter of hours.

The former executive vice president of University of Scranton was announced as Wilkes’ sixth president March 12.

“It’s not every day that a college administrator can become a Colonel in just a few hours,” Leahy said.

After his introduction, Leahy stressed his plans to both enhance liberal arts at Wilkes and expand professional programs.

“In my opinion, nothing prepares students better for the complexities of today’s world than a liberal arts education,” Leahy said. “I think engineering students should read Shakespeare. I think business students should study the American Civil War.”

Leahy stressed this enrichment of liberal arts would be a continuation of Wilkes’ strengths.

“We must strengthen the traditions of the past as we imagine the possibilities of the future,” Leahy said.

Leahy stated his first goal will be to get to know the campus community.

“My first assignment will be to get to know as many of you personally as I can, and try to understand as well as possible the rich history here at Wilkes,” Leahy said.

He began this goal immediately following the announcement by visiting the cafeteria, library and classes to talk one-on-one to students about what they like about Wilkes, and what they’d like to change.

Leahy, who begins his position July 1, promised to visit each academic department and administrative area on campus within his first 60 days.

“We’ll have ample opportunities to get to know each other, that I promise,” he said.

He said focus groups will help him to establish a personal connection with students.

“Students are the heart of the matter at a university like Wilkes,” Leahy said.

Leahy plans on using this feedback to remodel the decision-making process, placing a priority on involving campus views.

“What we’ll do is take a fresh look at governance here at the university to ensure that we’re getting the proper voice from students, faculty and staff, the three important constituencies on campus,” Leahy said.

Besides this assessment process, Leahy initially plans on ensuring the new science building is “on-time and on-budget.”

He said his next target would be increasing enrollment, but he hopes this is not limited to NEPA.

“I think we continue to invest in the campus so that we make coming to Wilkes University, coming to Wilkes-Barre, Pa. a destination place for students,” Leahy said. “And not only throughout eastern Pennsylvania, but I think increasingly throughout the entire northeast portion of the U.S. and even specific areas abroad.”

Leahy said the futures of Wilkes University and Wilkes-Barre are intertwined, and Wilkes plays an important role in the city’s revitalization.

Leahy’s appointment as the newest Wilkes president ended a nine-month search by an 11-member search committee composed of students, faculty and staff.

The university’s Board of Trustees chair Jack Miller said Leahy’s presentation to the committee on his vision for Wilkes included a track record of outstanding fundraising, financial management and budgeting skills.

“In order to move the institution to new levels of achievement, we need a visionary leader,” Miller said. “I’m confident that Patrick Leahy is that leader.”

While Leahy said fundraising today is challenging, two things will make it easier to raise funds for the project.

“One, is it is a very compelling project. What that science building will do is strengthen what is already a strong part of this university,” Leahy said. “Two, we have no shortage of people who care about Wilkes University.”

During his tenure at the University of Scranton as executive vice president, Leahy’s achievements include 16 percent increase in undergraduate applications leading to enrollment of a class of 1,059 students in fall 2011.

He was also a part of a team that raised $125 million “Pride, Passion, Promise Campaign” that ended at 29 percent above its original goal – nearly three times as much in the previous capital campaign.
Leahy joined the University of Scranton in July 2004 as executive assistant to the president and has also taught student through the business leadership honors program.

He earned a doctor of education degree in higher education strategy and management from the University of Pennsylvania and a dual master’s degree from Cornell University in business administration and labor relations. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature at Georgetown University.

He said he is both humbled and energized by the university’s prospects.

Current president Joseph (Tim) Gilmour said he feels positively about the future of Wilkes with Leahy as his replacement.

“I think he’s someone who is extremely well-prepared for the position,” Gilmour said. “I also think he understands what Wilkes needs to do next, and I think that’s really exciting. I feel that Wilkes is going to be in great hands.”

Gilmour joked that he did not have any tips for the new president.

“I’m not going to tell him anything,” Gilmour said with a smile. “I’m actually going to see if I can learn from him. I know he’s going to be great.”

Gilmour said he has worked to establish Wilkes as a leading educational institute, and feels Leahy will continue to guide the school to its fullest potential.

“The thing that I’ve been working for these years to do is set the stage for Wilkes to really emerge on the big stage,” Gilmour said. “I think (Leahy) is the right person to do that.”