On March 22, 2023, the Saint Joseph’s community will have the opportunity to make an immediate impact on the University through giving challenges that support SJU’s increasingly diverse portfolio of academic offerings and programs.
PHILADELPHIA (March 10, 2023) – Today, Saint Joseph’s University’s Board of Trustees elected Cheryl A. McConnell, PhD, its 29th – and first female– president in the University’s 172-year history, effective immediately. Dr. McConnell is a 35-year veteran of Jesuit higher education, having most recently served as Saint Joseph’s interim president since last June, and as provost and chief academic officer for three years prior.
“Dr. McConnell is the right person to lead Saint Joseph’s at this time of exceptional change,” says James M. Norris ’85, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees and also chair of the search committee. “Cheryl has strong business acumen, deep higher education experience, a career marked by dedicated commitment to our Jesuit mission and exceptional leadership skills. She was the unanimous choice of the committee, even among an impressive and diverse pool of external candidates.”
McConnell joined Saint Joseph’s in 2019, immediately accelerating academic and student life goals and initiatives as part of the University’s strategic plan. Among her most notable achievements was the creation of several undergraduate and graduate programs in response to market demand, societal need and the University’s mission, along with an increased and more effective focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. Early in her tenure she launched an annual, University-wide Day of Dialogue featuring lectures, workshops and events. She played an essential and central role in the University’s COVID-19 response, making Saint Joseph’s a leader in on-ground, in-person operations through the pandemic.
Most recently, she led the historic acquisition of the University of the Sciences. After assuming the interim presidency last summer, she finalized another merger with the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences expected to close next January. She also implemented a leadership council to ensure accountability, timely progress and implementation of strategic priorities and has overseen the start of several campus construction projects.
Before her arrival at Saint Joseph’s, McConnell held several leadership positions at Rockhurst University, a Jesuit institution in Kansas City, Missouri. She served as dean of both the College of Business, Influence, and Information Analysis and the Helzberg School of Management, as well as associate provost for academic affairs and full professor of accounting. While there she developed a strong track record of interdisciplinary collaboration, program innovation and growth, faculty development, budget management and strategic partnerships.
“Cheryl’s advocacy for and partnership with faculty have been hallmarks of her career,” adds Norris. “She understands academia from many perspectives, has tremendous strategic insight and is someone who brings people together and inspires thoughtful action.”
McConnell is a first-generation college graduate, having earned her Bachelor of Business Administration and her Master of Professional Accountancy degrees from Wichita State University. She went on to earn a PhD in higher education administration from fellow Jesuit institution Saint Louis University. A sought-after speaker on women in leadership, she is also a certified public accountant and a certified fraud examiner. Her decades-long commitment to Jesuit education has been strengthened through leadership experiences including the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities’ Ignatian Colleagues Program and Leadership Institute, as well as the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.
“I look forward to working with President McConnell as she leads our Catholic, Jesuit University into its next chapters of teaching excellence, scholarship and service to the Philadelphia community, our nation and larger world,” adds Joseph M. O’Keefe, S.J., provincial of the Society of Jesus’ USA East Province.