Board Chair James M. Norris, MBA ’85 with newly inaugurated president Dr. McConnell.

Historic Inauguration

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


Historic Inauguration

We are always committed to our Jesuit mission. If we are open and creative, the ways we can animate our mission are endless. Let’s be inspired by the spirit of our founders, who quite literally were the first to combine science and faith in an era that was not ready to even imagine such possibilities.”

- Cheryl A. McConnell, PhD


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 as Saint Joseph’s 29th and first female president.

Faculty, students, staff, alumni, friends, religious and civic leaders and members of the greater higher education community gathered on Hawk Hill in September to celebrate the inauguration of Cheryl A. McConnell, PhD, as the 29th — and first female — president in the University’s 172-year history.

“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 those 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 with Saint Joseph’s past presidents. Left to right: C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J. ’72; John W. Smithson ’68, ’82 (MBA) (interim); Mark C. Reed, EdD; Timothy R. Lannon, S.J.; and Nicholas S. Rashford, S.J. (foreground)

Dr. McConnell and Saint Joseph’s students following the Mass of the Holy Spirit

Celebrating the Mass of the Holy Spirit

Alumni talk with President McConnell during the celebratory reception

Back, left to right: Phil DeLuca, Gompers principal; Corey Lyons; Rashaan Stokes; Dr. McConnell; Aalinee Anderson; and Rennie Parker, community coordinator. Front, left to right: Swyhir Crew and Cali Dennis

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Norris 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, the ceremonial start of the school year and the inaugural Mass for President McConnell. Members of the Saint Joseph’s community, as well as Fr. Tunney, offered Dr. McConnell their blessings. 

“Our community, O God, calls out a bounty of graces upon Dr. Cheryl McConnell,” said Fr. Tunney. “May we, too, become persons of wisdom, bold vision and steadfast endurance.”

Dr. McConnell’s dedication to teaching, to scholarship, to spiritual formation and to student development made her an excellent choice. 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.”

- Thomas P. Foley

President of the Association of Independent 
Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania

The Community Quilt

A gift from the students of Samuel Gompers School

Community Quilt made by Gompers Elementary students

Members of neighboring Samuel Gompers School’s 7th and 8th grade classes created a special community-themed quilt in honor of Dr. McConnell’s Inauguration. Textiles are used in cultures around the world for celebrations; several symbols are Kente Adinkra symbols, which are used in Kente cloth, a hand-woven textile from Ghana traditionally worn by royalty for important celebrations. The fabric panels in the quilt were imported from Ghana.