by luke eggleston / sun staff writer
At the end of the spring semester of 2007, then Le Moyne College president Father Charles Beirne, SJ, exited the institution he had helped shape for the past seven years.
His absence will be sharply felt in the coming months but the tradition at Le Moyne remains in tact, ensuring that the college will continue to grow.
“Le Moyne is an institution that’s on the move both internally and in the community,” said Interim President John Smarelli Jr.
Msgr. Robert Yeazel served on Le Moyne’s board of directors for nine years before stepping down. When the college began its nationwide search for a new president, his experience as the chair of the president’s evaluation board as well as his background in priest personnel in the Syracuse Diocese made him a logical choice to lead the search committee.
“They saw it as a natural extension,” Msgr. Yeazel said.
Tuesday, Sept. 4, the committee met with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges to receive a briefing on the search process.
The search is still in its earliest phase. Currently, the committee is seeking the input of its constituents, according to Msgr. Yeazel, in an effort to find what they are most interested in having in a new president.
“These meetings will help us better understand the attributes, skills and experiences that are important to you as we prepare to launch the search,” an internal statement issued to staff and faculty members read.
The committee intends to conclude the information-gathering phase of the search process by the end of September, according to Msgr. Yeazel, and to have a new president in place by the spring semester of 2008.
Over the summer, Central New York’s only Jesuit college experienced rapid growth, both in terms of its facilities and in terms of its expanded enrollment. With 583 new students wandering the campus, Le Moyne set a new record for freshman enrollment.
The weekend of Aug. 25 and Aug. 26 featured the arrival of Le Moyne’s largest freshman class in the history of the school. Previously the largest freshman class numbered 561. In 2006, the school opened its doors to 536 new students
Le Moyne’s Director of Admissions Denny Nicholson was uncertain exactly which factor accounted for the rise in enrollment.
“That’s the million dollar question isn’t it?” said Nicholson, who attends Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville.
Nicholson cited the popularity of the dual degree-nursing program offered in partnership with St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse as one possible explanation. The program offers students an opportunity to obtain both RN and BFN certification.
“That’s a reason for some of the interest,” Nicholson said.
One recent event that may also have accounted for the expanded enrollment was the 2004 New York State Association of College Admissions Counseling Conference, which Le Moyne hosted. The conference included not only admissions personnel but also high school guidance counselors and it enabled Le Moyne to showcase its facilities and programs. Nicholson suspects that many of the high school guidance counselors left the conference with a greater appreciation for the Jesuit school and may have steered some students in Le Moyne’s direction.
The success and profile of Le Moyne’s athletic programs have also provided considerable publicity for the school. The men’s lacrosse program has won three NCAA Division II National Championships within the last four years and the school also offers Division I baseball and Division I women’s lacrosse.
Finally, Nicholson noted, simple word of mouth may account for many of the new students.
“It’s also just the snowball effect,” he said. “Many students come here and have an outstanding experience and then they go back and tell their friends about it.”
In addition, the potential for a new science center has been a topic of discussion and many of the new students have enrolled at Le Moyne in anticipation of the building.
“I think that has intrigued a lot of people about our science program,” the administrator said.
According to Smarelli, Le Moyne’s science curriculum is one of the school’s strengths. Biology, for example, is the school’s top major. In order to take advantage of that the strength, Le Moyne is in the early planning stages of the new science building, which will be funded by its ongoing capital campaign. Of the $50 million the school hopes to raise, $28 million is accounted for. Although the funding is not yet entirely there for the science building, Smarelli is confident that the school will be able to “break ground” on it by 2008.
He said the facility will reflect Le Moyne’s emphasis on building community. Currently, the administration is still working with the faculty in planning the facility’s set-up.
“We have an outstanding program and an outstanding faculty and it’s going to be a program-driven building,” said Smarelli, a 1975 graduate of Le Moyne who was also educated in the Syracuse Diocese school system.
For the increasing student body, the school has expanded many of its facilities. As part of its ongoing effort to improve the campus, the school recently completed upgrades to three buildings on the main campus.
In terms of labor, the largest project was a thorough renovation of the 150-room residence Foery Hall. The building, which houses around 300 students, underwent its overhaul starting May 11. The construction was concluded just in time for the arrival of students.
The building’s suites were redesigned in order to offer a more open feel and the bathrooms in each suite or room were completely renovated. All of the doors were replaced with newer ones featuring more contemporary colors. In addition, all of the floors and ceilings were repaired and all of the windows and interior light fixtures were replaced.
Another residence hall, Harrison Hall, received a somewhat more dynamic renovation as a glass-enclosed penthouse meeting and activities room was added to the building. In order to accommodate the new floor, the building’s elevator had to be replaced and the shaft extended. Harrison Hall is the campus’ largest building and the new floor offers a vast view of the school’s grounds. In addition, the building’s main lounge and lobby were redone and a fitness center was added.
In Grewen Hall, two of the larger classrooms were upgraded with teaching technology that will bring them up to par with the college’s other technologically equipped classrooms.
In the coming years, Smarelli said, the administration would like to look into upgrading the school’s athletic facilities, including installing a turf field and a superior stadium facility.
“We want a facility that represents the quality of our coaches and our student athletes,” Smarelli said.