Le Moyne celebrates new president’s first day with special Mass
by luke eggleston
Sun staff writer
Le Moyne College may have appointed its first lay president in the institution’s history, but it isn’t about to set aside 62 years of Jesuit tradition in education.
July 1, the school welcomed new president Fred Pestello with a special Mass in the Panasci Family Chapel.
Pestello served as provost and senior vice president of educational affairs at the University of Dayton before coming to Le Moyne. UD is embedded in the Marianist tradition but Pestello noted that his formative years in education were spent at the Jesuit school John Carroll University in Cleveland. Pestello said that the Mass was among the highlights in what he considers one of the most significant days of his life.
“This is extraordinarily special. It’s one of the most significant days of my life. I became the 13th president of Le Moyne College,” Pestello said. “Particularly for someone who did his undergraduate work at a Jesuit college and tt was really a transformative experience for me. I came out of John Carroll University a very different person than I went in and I’m convinced it’s because of the Jesuit focus on educating the whole person, the faculty and staff dedicated to the students. I get choked up thinking about how special this day is for me.”
According to Father David Casey, SJ, interim president John Smarelli Jr. had suggested that the welcoming Mass for Pestello be held in conjunction with the school’s orientation for incoming freshmen. Pestello will be introduced more formally at the school’s Mass of the Holy Spirit, which ushers in each new school year.
Roughly 50 members of the Le Moyne community attended the event, including Jesuit Fathers Donald Maldari, Bill Bosch, Bill Dolan, Louis Sogliuzzo and Casey. Father Casey was the homilist for the special Mass on Pestello’s first official day in his new position.
During his homily, Father Casey used the reading of the day, which was from the book of Amos, as an opportunity to link the role of prophecy with that of every Christian, particularly those who are committed to education.
“I was linking a relationship between the prophet — and that was the reading of the day — and you might say that the Christian vocation always includes being a prophet, that this is not only a college but it is a Jesuit Catholic college,” Father Casey said. “What I was trying to show to some extent is the gifts of the prophet and the task of the prophet are similar to what any college must do, but a Jesuit Catholic college must take very seriously.”
Father Casey stressed that prophecy does not imply a static future but one that is dynamic with multiple possibilities. The gift of the prophet, Father Casey noted, is his or her ability to discern a future that conforms to the will of God.
“The prophet is not simply saying that things must stay as they are. The prophet is saying that there are different possibilities, different futures, some of those are ones that the Lord is calling us to, others are more comfortable or more self satisfying,” Father Casey said.
Like the prophet, institutions of higher learning — and Catholic institutions in particular — are called to help fashion a future that is in accordance with God.
During the period leading up to his first day as president of Le Moyne, Pestello said he consulted several Jesuit presidents including Father Michael Graham, SJ, of Xavier University; Father Robert Niehoff, SJ, of John Carroll and Father Charles Currie, SJ, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
He also made it a point to introduce himself and meet with each of the Jesuits located in Central New York both within the Le Moyne community and without.
“All the Jesuits I’ve spoken with on campus and off campus have been very supportive and very encouraging. They have been nothing but positive about the transition we’re seeing here at Le Moyne to the first permanent lay president,” Pestello said.
Father Casey blessed Pestello following the celebration of the Eucharist and Le Moyne’s new president offered a short speech extolling the virtues of a Jesuit education.
“It takes an education which combines faith and reason, takes seriously the fundamental questions around existence, works to develop the whole person,” Pestello said. “I think that’s the type of education that best prepares a person for what they’re going to face in life and the world. To be a member of this community in this very special position, I’m humbled and honored by the opportunity and looking forward to working with the entire community at Le Moyne, its friends and partners, and move this college forward to become even better at what we do.”