Holy Cross Announces Plans for Presidential Transition

Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J., to stay on until successor is in place

February 3rd, 2011 by 

WORCESTER, Mass.—Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J., announced on Thursday he will be stepping down as president of the College of the Holy Cross.

He made the announcement to the College Community at a campus-wide meeting and in a subsequent e-mail to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents of students.

“This announcement comes after more than a year of careful planning with the Board of Trustees. The board and I are convinced this is the right time for a change in leadership,” Fr. McFarland said.  “Over the past 11 years, I believe that Holy Cross has accomplished a tremendous amount and the College is now in a very strong position.  We are finalizing work on a new five-year strategic plan and preparing to initiate a major fundraising campaign that will be critical to our future.  With those projects in the early stages, it is important that Holy Cross has strong, stable leadership in place that will take us through the next seven or eight years.”

He is the 31st president of the exclusively undergraduate, liberal arts, Jesuit college.

Fr. McFarland will stay on as president at Holy Cross until a successor is in place. He will continue to oversee all aspects of the College’s operations while preparing for a smooth transition to a new president.

“Fr. McFarland’s presidency has been an extraordinary gift to our College,” said P. Kevin Condron ’67, chair of the Holy Cross Board of Trustees.   “Everyone in the Holy Cross Community—students, faculty, alumni and trustees alike—is the beneficiary of his leadership and vision. He has had a lasting impact on the campus, our operations, and our national reputation.  In addition to shepherding a very successful fundraising campaign and overseeing construction of the Integrated Science Complex and two new residence halls, his contributions to the community have been unparalleled—from helping establish the Nativity School of Worcester to serving as a board member and advisor to many of the city’s educational and community organizations.”

Condron also noted that Fr. McFarland is the longest serving president in both the Colleges of Worcester Consortium and the Patriot League, the College’s athletic conference.  At Holy Cross, only Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., who served 24 years (1970-1994) had a longer tenure as president.

A national search for Holy Cross’ 32nd president has begun, Condron said.

Fr. McFarland’s successor will be selected by the College’s Board of Trustees, which has appointed a search committee.  Condron said the board is committed to finding a Jesuit for the position, as specified by the separate incorporation agreement that vests governing power in the board.  The board will seek a Jesuit with an outstanding educational background and previous executive and higher education experience, Condron said.

Fr. McFarland, a computer scientist with extensive liberal arts teaching experience and a special interest in the intersection of technology and ethics, was named president in July of 2000.  Since that time, he has led the College through rapid and progressive change.  The many accomplishments during his tenure include:

  • The record-setting $216.3 million “Lift High the Cross” campaign, which concluded in 2006, surpassing its goal of $175 million and raising funds for financial aid, faculty resources, and other critical campus priorities.
  • A dramatically changed campus landscape with construction of two new student residence halls; new and improved athletics facilities; as well as the most ambitious building project in College history—the acclaimed $64 million Integrated Science Complex, which recently received LEED Gold certification.
  • Financial aid initiatives, including a program whereby Worcester students admitted to Holy Cross whose families earn less than $40,000 per year receive free tuition.
  • An expanded applicant pool (the number of applications for one of about 730 places in the incoming class has increased 43 percent in the past 11 years to 6,911) and the simultaneous increase in the diversity of the student body.  The number of students of color entering Holy Cross has doubled:  Today, African-American, Latin American, Asian-American, and Native American students represent 20% of the student body, compared to 10 percent 11 years ago.
  • Significant community partnerships in Worcester, such as establishing the Nativity School of Worcester (a Jesuit middle school for boys from Worcester’s most vulnerable neighborhoods); giving the Worcester Tornadoes professional baseball team a rent-free summer home on the Holy Cross campus; expanding the community-based learning opportunities for Holy Cross students; and fostering an affordable housing program in cooperation with the South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Corporation.

Immediately before coming to Holy Cross, Fr. McFarland was the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. He was at Gonzaga for four years, where he was also a professor of computer science. A graduate of Cornell (A.B.) and Carnegie Mellon (M.S., Ph.D) universities, Fr. McFarland entered the Society of Jesus in 1975, and studied at the Weston School of Theology where he earned a master’s degree in divinity and a Th.M. in social ethics.  He was ordained in St. Joseph Memorial Chapel at Holy Cross in 1984.  He worked as a consultant at the AT&T Bell Laboratories, doing research in computer-aided design of digital systems, and continued his research while teaching at Boston College for 10 years as an associate professor of computer science. Widely published, he was an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Computer-Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems for three years and has been on numerous program committees for conferences such as the Design Automation Conference, the International Conference on Computer Design, the International Conference on Computer-Aided Design and the High-Level Synthesis Workshop.

In addition to his duties as Holy Cross president, Fr. McFarland is a member of the board of the Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, Catholic Charities of Worcester, and the Worcester Municipal Research Bureau.  He is past chair and a member of the Executive Committee of the Colleges of Worcester Consortium.  He is a past member of the National Advisory Board of PricewaterhouseCoopers USA and of the boards of trustees of the University of Scranton and St. John’s High School.  In addition to helping found the Nativity School of Worcester, he was the first chair of its board.

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