University News

Cheryl A. McConnell, PhD, Inaugurated as 29th President of Saint Joseph’s University

Dr. McConnell recognizes the rich history of Saint Joseph’s while looking forward to the University’s future growth and development.

Dr. McConnell in front of Barbelin Hall after being inaugurated as Saint Joseph's University's 29th president.

On Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, Saint Joseph’s University inaugurated Cheryl A. McConnell, PhD, as the 29th — and first female — president in the University’s 172-year history. Saint Joseph’s students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and religious and community leaders gathered for a ceremony in the Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena to celebrate the historic event.

Dr. McConnell, a 35-year veteran of Jesuit higher education, was unanimously elected by the University’s Board of Trustees and the presidential search committee in March 2023.

“It is such a unique and humbling honor to be here today in the presence of so many people, all bonded together by our love and admiration for Saint Joseph’s University,” said Dr. McConnell upon her investiture by Board Chair James M. Norris, MBA ’85. “My heart is full as I look out and see all of us who share in and support this journey — who believe in our shared mission to develop students to achieve personal excellence, professional success and to be engaged citizens.” 

Local religious and community leaders greeted Dr. McConnell, including Rev. Philip G. Bochanski, vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; Thomas P. Foley, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania; Michael F. Tunney, S.J., provincial assistant of higher education of the USA East Province of the Society of Jesus; and Stephen Surovick, S.J., senior director of mission and ministry at Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School and superior of the Jesuit community at Arrupe Hall. 

“Dr. McConnell’s dedication to teaching, to scholarship, to spiritual formation and to student development made her an excellent choice,” said Foley, welcoming Dr. McConnell to the Pennsylvania higher education community. “Her degrees and publications are so impressive, but I personally think Cheryl’s most important qualification is the dynamic of her personal story. Cheryl is a first-generation college graduate who has immersed herself in the twin Jesuit traditions of spirituality and of service.” 

James M. Norris, MBA ’85, chair of Saint Joseph’s Board of Trustees, placed the presidential chain over Dr. McConnell’s shoulders following her investiture, symbolizing the official change in leadership. 

“You will be responsible for ensuring that a Saint Joseph’s education cares for the whole person, seeks God in all things, encourages moral discernment and promotes justice, as St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, conceived,” said Norris. 

Following the inauguration, Saint Joseph’s community members gathered for a celebratory reception. Inauguration events started earlier in the week, with SJU’s annual Mass of the Holy Spirit on Thursday, Sept. 7. The Mass, which is a ceremonial start of the school year, was also the inaugural Mass for President McConnell. 

Prior to her presidency, Dr. McConnell served for three years as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, where she oversaw the University’s academic enterprise with a particular focus on expanding the academic portfolio to meet market needs and student demand. Additionally, she was responsible for an increased and more effective focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, launching an annual, University-wide Day of Dialogue featuring lectures, workshops and events. 

Dr. McConnell led the historic integration of University of the Sciences, coordinating the acquisition of dozens of academic programs in health and science, along with state-of-the-art campus facilities. As interim president, she finalized another merger agreement with the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences, expected to close in January 2024. 

For more information about Dr. McConnell’s inauguration, please visit

Dr. McConnell stands next to former Saint Joseph's presidents. 

James M. Norris ’85 (MBA), chair of Saint Joseph’s Board of Trustees, placing the presidential chain over Dr. McConnell’s shoulders following her investiture, symbolizing the official change in leadership.

The crowd celebrates newly inaugurated President Cheryl A. McConnell, PhD.

Students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and religious and community leaders gathered for the ceremony in the Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena.

Reverend Michael F. Tunney of the USA East Province of the Society of Jesus during the missioning of Dr. McConnell.

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