Dr. Judith Dwyer to become new president of Saint Xavier University

Dr. Judith Dwyer, executive vice president of the University of St. Thomas since 1998, has been chosen as the new president of Saint Xavier University in Chicago, it was announced Sept. 2 in Chicago.

Dwyer will begin the 17th presidency of Saint Xavier on Oct. 1. Dwyer will succeed Dr. Richard Yanikoski, who has been president for nine years and is leaving the Catholic, co-educational institution to conduct research on Catholic higher education issues. He will be president emeritus of Xavier.

Dwyer’s last day at St. Thomas was Friday (Aug. 29). The Rev. Dennis Dease, president, said he hopes to announce plans for replacing Dwyer by Sept. 12.

“Judith did an exceptional job as executive vice president of St. Thomas,” Dease said. “On behalf of this community, I want to thank her for her service and wish her the best in her presidency at Saint Xavier. She is a dedicated and thoughtful leader. I know that Saint Xavier will thrive under her leadership.”

Dease praised Dwyer’s efforts to develop a strategic plan that is tied closely to the university’s mission and budget while striking an appropriate balance between long-range planning and the need to remain entrepreneurial. She helped him form a stronger senior administration, he said, and he singled out her work in reshaping the Information Resources and Technology division, establishing the Rome campus and creating an Office for Mission.

Dwyer explained that a Saint Xavier representative contacted her in the spring and told her that she had been nominated for the presidency. She was one of three finalists interviewed on campus last month.

“Saint Xavier is a wonderful opportunity for me,” she said. “It is similar in many respects to St. Thomas – it has a strong Catholic identity, it is an urban university and it has a firm commitment to the liberal arts and career preparation. Those are themes that have been important to me throughout my career, as both a faculty member and an administrator, and they will remain so for me at Saint Xavier.”

Dwyer called it a privilege to have worked at St. Thomas and thanked Dease and his predecessor, Monsignor Terrence Murphy, for their mentorship over the last five years. “I loved working with so many people at St. Thomas,” she said, “and I will miss them dearly.”

The Sisters of Mercy founded Saint Xavier in 1846 as a women’s academy, and it was rechartered as a women’s college in 1915. It became coeducational in 1969 and was renamed Saint Xavier University in 1992.

The Chicago campus is in a residential neighborhood adjacent to the suburbs of Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn, and a new Orland Park Campus opening next month will feature classrooms, a library, a wireless cyber café and an outdoor study area.

A record 5,269 students (2,961 undergraduate and 2,308 graduate) enrolled last year at Saint Xavier, which offers 34 undergraduate majors and 40 graduate program options in four schools: Arts and Sciences, Education, Management and Nursing.

John Sweeney, chair of the Xavier board, said Dwyer will be a good fit at the Chicago university because of her experience at St. Thomas. Like Dwyer, he pointed to the similarities between the two schools.

“We look to advance Xavier in the same way as St. Thomas has advanced in recent years,” he said. “We feel Dr. Dwyer is the right person to lead us in that direction.”

Dwyer became executive vice president at St. Thomas on July 1, 1998, succeeding Dr. Charles Keffer, who retired as provost.

A native of Philadelphia, Dwyer holds degrees including a Ph.D. in theology from the Catholic University of America. She was an assistant professor of religious studies at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia from 1980 to 1985, when she became an associate professor of moral theology at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass.

She became an associate professor at Villanova University in 1990 and two years later was appointed assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences there. She moved to St. John’s University in New York in 1995, serving as academic dean and professor of theology.