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College President Father Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B., to Retire

September 04, 2012

Barbara LeBlanc
Communications and Marketing
(603) 641-7240

Father Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B., president of Saint Anselm College will retire at the end of the academic year after leading the college for 24 years.Father Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B., president of Saint Anselm College, announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of the academic year (June 2013), after leading the college since 1989.

The longest serving college president in New Hampshire, Father Jonathan has had a lasting impact on Saint Anselm and on higher education in the state.

Under his leadership, Saint Anselm College became a leader in incorporating service into college curricula, launched the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, and enhanced its reputation as a nationally ranked liberal arts college.

"I cannot express what an honor it has been for me to serve this wonderful institution as President for more than two decades," he told the Saint Anselm community in an email Tuesday morning. "Catholic education has been and will continue to be my passion, but now that I am on the brink of age 65 and the college is nearing its 125th anniversary, I think it is the ideal time for me to step aside for new leadership."

"Our students, faculty and staff have benefitted immeasurably from Father Jonathan's leadership," said Chuck Pollard, chair of the Saint Anselm College Board of Trustees. "The face of Saint Anselm College for more than two decades, he guided the college through an expansion in facilities, established the New Hampshire Institute of Politics as the state's premier forum for the study of citizenship and debate of public issues, and successfully steered through the challenges of the financial crisis."

During his long tenure as president and with his firm convictions about the value of a liberal arts education, Father Jonathan helped Saint Anselm College deepen its commitment to excellence in the Catholic, Benedictine tradition, emphasizing academic and extracurricular pursuits in balance with spiritual growth. He expanded the faculty and introduced a number of new majors from Fine Arts to Environmental Science to Communication.

Father Jonathan led the college to significantly increased annual financial support, including heading the college's last very successful campaign that raised over $55 million.

He supported and facilitated the transition to a new governance model for the college that was initiated in 2009.

A believer in the residential life experience for students, Father Jonathan oversaw a significant expansion of on-campus housing, improved and expanded the college library and science center, added new offices for faculty, and built a football stadium, ice hockey arena, and new athletic fields.

Making service a priority at Saint Anselm, he served as founding chair of Campus Compact, a state and national initiative focused on service learning. The college's student-led Meelia Center for Student Engagement now manages more than 40 partnerships with non-profits in Greater Manchester, including Kids Café and the Big Brother/Big Sister program. Through the Office of Campus Ministry, nearly 200 Saint Anselm students a year spend their school breaks serving others on trips to such places as Appalachia, inner city Philadelphia and Costa Rica.

Father Jonathan's commitment to civic education and engagement supported the creation of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, which opened in 2001 with a mission to expose all students to the democratic process, and to foster informed debate and understanding. The Institute, which now includes the New Hampshire Political Library, has gained national stature with presidential primary debates and an annual roster of prominent speakers.

Father Jonathan became president of Saint Anselm, the third-oldest Catholic college in New England, after holding a variety of positions at both the college and Saint Anselm Abbey, where he resides in community with his fellow monks of the Order of Saint Benedict. Benedictine monks founded the college in 1889 and continue to administer and teach there.

A member of the Saint Anselm Class of 1969, who earned a bachelor's of philosophy, he was a theology instructor, dean of students, assistant to the academic dean, and dean of freshmen, as well as associate director of Campus Ministry.

At the Abbey, which he entered in 1968, he served as a superior and master of junior monks, and in 1986 was named prior by Abbot Matthew Leavy, O.S.B., who later named him the ninth president of Saint Anselm College. Abbot Matthew retired in June.

The Bristol, Rhode Island, native is a graduate of Portsmouth Abbey School where he has served as a member of the Board of Regents. He professed solemn vows as a Benedictine monk in 1973 and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1974 after studying theology at Saint John's Seminary in Brighton, Mass. In 1983 he received a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Father Jonathan is a founder of the Association of Benedictine Colleges and Universities, and has served on the board of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

Reflecting his dedication to higher education in general, he has served as chair of both the New Hampshire Colleges and University Council and the New Hampshire Higher Education Commission (formerly NH Postsecondary Education Commission). He served two terms as a Commissioner for the regional accrediting association, the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and has chaired a number of accreditation visits in the region. He was a founding member of the Board of Governors of the New Hampshire Forum on Higher Education (now NH Forum on the Future), and in 2012 Gov. John Lynch appointed him as a director of the New England Board of Higher Education.

Nationally he currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and represents the Association of Catholic College and Universities on the Board of the American Council on Education, the largest association and coordinating body for the nation's higher education institutions.

Father Jonathan also serves as a Trustee of several higher education institutions, including Rivier University.

The Saint Anselm Board of Trustees will establish a Board search committee for a new president that will be assisted by a professional search firm.