Jo Ann Rooney has been named has Loyola University Chicago’s first female president and the first non-ordained church member to take the position.
Loyola has been on the hunt for a new president since the 23rd president, Reverand Michael J. Garanzini, resigned last June after 14 years in the position to become Loyola’s chancellor. John Pelissero, a political science professor and former provost, has been serving in the interim.
She was approved by the board of trustees on May 19th and formally introduced in a ceremony at the Mundelein Center for the Fine and Performing Arts this week. Her term will begin August 1st and will last until 2021, reports Jacob Wittich of the Chicago Sun Times.
Robert L. Parkinson, Jr., chair of the Loyola board of trustees and the presidential search committee, said in her introduction ceremony:
“This is a woman of tremendous character and integrity. The energy she exhibits is nothing short of palpable.”
According to Steven R. Strahler of Crain’s, 55-year old Rooney worked as the managing director of the Huron Consulting Group’s health care practice in Chicago. However, she has had extensive experience in higher education: she has also served as president of Spalding University in Kentucky and Mount Ida College in Massachusetts.
She has also had a political career, reports Dawn Rhodes of the Chicago Tribune. She served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the US Department of Defense, most notably as the principal deputy undersecretary for personnel and readiness starting in May of 2011. She was also nominated to serve as undersecretary of the US Navy by President Barack Obama in late 2013, but she was withdrawn from consideration after she challenged Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, on a proposal that would remove the military chain of command from decisions on sexual assaults and other major military crimes.
According to her curriculum vitae, she has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Boston University, a law degree from Suffolk University, a postgraduate law degree from Boston University, and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania, reports Karis Hustad of ChicagoInno.
Rooney mentioned to reporters a desire to see the university become a more visible part of the Rogers Park community. She said:
Loyola has always been very much a part of the community, but I think, oftentimes, a quiet, silent partner in that community. What we really need to do to really live out that vision of social justice, of inclusion, of diversity, of access, is not maybe being so quiet about it; to continue to have that as a part of our mission, but be leaders, be recognized, be willing to have that dialogue and force the discussions, force the discourse going forward.
She also mentioned that she wants to celebrate and support students who speak out about issues they care about and that have created significant controversy on campus in the past year.