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Xavier University names first female president in 190 years

Posted at 12:22 PM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-11 12:22:48-05

Xavier University’s new president is bringing two firsts to the 190-year-old school.

Colleen Hanycz, whose selection was announced Monday morning, will be the first woman and the first layperson — someone who is not a member of the clergy — to assume the school’s highest-ranking position.

Her predecessor, the Rev. Michael Graham, was a priest who held the job for 20 years before announcing his retirement in early 2020.

“After a comprehensive search including a deep, talented and diverse pool of candidates, Dr. Hanycz’s leadership, academic credentials, character and commitment to Catholic higher education highlight her ability to serve as our next president and lead Xavier into the future,” wrote Vince Caponi, chairman of Xavier’s board of trustees, in a statement.

Hanycz is a former law professor who also served as president of Philadelphia’s La Salle University and principal of Brescia University College in London, Ontario — both of which are Catholic universities like Xavier. She was La Salle’s first female president, too.

She’ll take the reins July 1.

"I am so honored to have been chosen as Xavier’s first lay president, and will anchor my leadership in a deep commitment to the Jesuit mission of forming men and women for and with others,” Hanycz wrote in a get-to-know-me questionnaire on Xavier’s website.

Hanycz grew up in Toronto, according to the questionnaire, and holds a PhD in law from the city’s Osgoode Hall Law School. She wrote she was excited to “participate in forming the next generation of ethical, engaged, curious, unconventional and enlightened citizens” with her new job in Cincinnati — but also, when it’s safe to gather, to see if the Queen City’s Oktoberfest lives up to Ontario’s.

Founded in 1831, Xavier University did not admit women pupils as full-time students until 1969.