Oct 01, 2022
A humble farm boy from Iowa was formally installed Saturday as St. Bonaventure University’s 22nd president, an accomplishment Dr. Jeff Gingerich ascribes to his Midwestern roots and the unflinching support of his wife, Betsy.
Gingerich’s parents, in-laws, Betsy and their five children were among the scores of family, friends and former colleagues who joined hundreds of members of the Bonaventure community and delegates from 27 colleges and universities at the Reilly Center Arena for his formal installation ceremony.
“Without a doubt, my most important mentors have been my parents,” said Gingerich, who took office as SBU’s president June 21.
“I want you all to know that any creativity and love of beauty in this world that I bring to this campus comes from my mother. Any sense of wisdom and absolute kindness comes from my father. I could not be more fortunate to have had these two as my true mentors and models my entire life.”
Of Betsy, he said, “I know there is no way possible that I’d be standing at this podium without your support and guidance. You are everything to me, and I’m so excited to be on this journey together with you.”
Gingerich’s speech was preceded by welcomes from 10 speakers, ranging from friars and campus leaders to Dr. Rick Trietley Jr., ’86, the Olean native who will be formally installed Oct. 12 as president of Viterbo, a Franciscan university in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Trietley, former vice president for Student Affairs at St. Bonaventure, offered the welcome on behalf of the Association of Franciscan Colleges & Universities and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
“You are the right man at the right moment to lead St. Bonaventure to new heights,” Trietley said. “As a St. Bonaventure graduate myself, I am proud to call you our president.”
Student Government President Connor Raine, ’24, said Gingerich wasted no time engaging with students, from handing out doughnuts at 8:30 a.m. on the first day of class to inviting the SGA officers to dinner.
“Each time we are welcomed to his office for a meeting,” Raine said, “Dr. Gingerich always takes the time to ask, ‘What can I do for you, and how can I help?’”
Michael Hickey, ’84, who chaired his first Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, said trustees were unanimous in their belief that Gingerich was the right person at the right time when they named him president in March.
“In an environment for higher education that gets only more challenging with each passing year, we believe Jeff possesses the many qualities needed most in our leader right now,” Hickey said.
Dr. Mary Van Brunt worked closely with Gingerich for 12 years at Cabrini, a Catholic university in suburban Philadelphia. Van Brunt said a quote from Mother Cabrini reminded her most of her friend: “A single act of humility is worth more than the proud exhibition of any virtue.”
“Jeff had no ego and was so collaborative in trying to address the challenges of the university with our team that there were times he had to remind us that he was in charge,” Van Brunt said. “He was a great mentor and created leaders throughout the university. I have no doubt that he will do the same at St. Bonaventure.”
Pat Doyle, ’80, the new president of SBU’s National Alumni Association Board, was among the alumni involved in the presidential search process.
“When I first read Dr. Gingerich’s cover letter of interest (in the job), it struck me that he understood the Franciscan spirit and what it means to be a Bonnie without ever having stepped on campus,” Doyle said. “Our alumni love his energy and enthusiasm for Bona’s.”
Gingerich talked of the heartfelt Bonaventure memories so many alumni and students have already shared with him.
“These memories are filled with the love of those who have come before us and it’s the legacy of this love that makes so many call this place home,” he said. “This is a place I have quickly come to call home. … There is no doubt in my mind that St. Bonaventure is the most welcoming place on Earth.”
Fr. Xavier Seubert, O.F.M., interim vice president for Mission Integration, offered well wishes on behalf of the Franciscan community.
“We pray that the same Spirit of love, who journeyed with Francis, will touch your heart and inspire your mind as you lead us in forming the life of our future together,” he said.
Love was a common thread throughout Gingerich’s inauguration speech.
“My commitment to you today is to move forward in a spirit of unconditional love, and I believe deeply that this unconditional love is our only hope. The great poet Maya Angelou wrote, we must ‘have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time,’” Gingerich said.
“We will thrive at St. Bonaventure, and we will thrive as a global community only if we have this courage to trust love. Know that you have my commitment to love this university.”
The livestreams of the Inaugural Mass, held Saturday morning, and Installation Ceremony will be archived later this weekend on the university’s streaming channel.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. St. Bonaventure was named the #5 regional university value in the North in U.S. News and World Report’s 2022 college rankings edition.