Mount St. Mary’s University President Simon Newman, who sparked national debate over the future and Catholic identity of the nation’s second-oldest Catholic university, announced last night that he will be stepping down as president of the University effective immediately. Dr. Karl Einolf, the dean of the Richard J. Bolte, Sr., School of Business, will serve as acting president at the University located in Emmitsburg, Md.
“Now is the perfect opportunity for the Mount’s trustees to unequivocally recommit the University to its Catholic identity and reassure families that it will select a president who can both heal and propel forward a most valuable institution,” said Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly in reaction to the news. “Success depends not on shaking the foundations but confidently building upon them, as the Mount has done so well over the last decade.”
Newman stated in the press release about his resignation: “I am proud of what I have been able to achieve in a relatively short time particularly in helping the University chart a clear course toward a bright future. I care deeply about the school and the recent publicity relating to my leadership has become too great of a distraction to our mission of educating students.
“It was a difficult decision but I believe it is the right course of action for the Mount at this time,” he said.
“The board is grateful to President Newman for his many accomplishments over the past year, including strengthening the University’s finances, developing a comprehensive strategic plan for our future, and bringing many new ideas to campus that have benefitted the entire Mount community,” said John Coyne, chairman of the Mount St. Mary’s University Board of Trustees, in the statement. “We thank him for his service.”
The change in leadership came after several weeks of controversy, including leaked comments regarding a freshmen retention plan and several faculty dismissals, which many saw as leading to a potential battle for the Catholic identity of the University. The Mountain Echo student newspaper first reported the comments and that Newman planned to weed out struggling freshmen early in the semester before a federal deadline in order to improve the University’s retention rate. No students left the University as a result of the plan, but it put many on high alert as to how Newman was handling the University.
“It is the position of The Cardinal Newman Society that any plan to weed out matriculated students without first providing substantial assistance and demonstrating a sincere commitment to the students’ personal formation and well-being would be contrary to a university’s Catholic identity,” the Newman Society said in a February 12 statement on the situation. “Student formation in mind, body and soul is the essence of faithful Catholic education, and at a Catholic university, no financial concern or desire for secular prestige should supplant the University’s core purposes.”
The Newman Society’s previous statement paid particular attention to any issue that could strengthen or diminish the University’s Catholic identity, including changes to marketing, curriculum, student life, faculty and the overall campus culture. The Society stressed the primary importance of Catholic identity at the University, stating: “The Catholic identity of Mount Saint Mary’s, is its foundation, its motivation and its greatest treasure. Commitment to authentic and faithful Catholic education must be preserved — and even strengthened, as it was over the past decade — for the good of its students, faculty, staff and alumni.”
Citing the vision of the Mount’s founder, Father John Dubois, the Society’s statement continued: “We pray and hope that this vision persists at the Mount, in its teaching, curriculum, campus life and even in the public ways the University is marketed to donors and prospective students. Deliberate efforts to preserve and strengthen Catholic identity are essential to continuing the mission of the University and its continued obligation to God, the Catholic Church and the families who entrust their sons and daughters to the University’s care.”
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