Notre Dame of Maryland University has selected as its next president James F. Conneely, Ph.D., the first man to serve in the position in the institution’s 116-year history. Dr. Conneely, 55, currently associate provost and vice president of student affairs at Eastern Kentucky University, will succeed Mary Pat Seurkamp, Ph.D., when she retires on June 30th.
“While we were open to the possibility of a man as our 12th president at the start of the search process, probably none of us was expecting that we would select a man as Notre Dame’s next leader,” explained Patricia J. Mitchell ’69, chair of the board of trustees of the university, which was founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. “Some have asked, ‘Couldn’t we find excellent women candidates?’ The answer is a resounding ‘yes’ – we were fortunate to have many extraordinary female candidates emerge in our national search. But the absolute best candidate, the individual who represents the right fit for Notre Dame at this distinctive time in our history, is Dr. Conneely.”
Dr. Conneely has expressed appreciation for the centrality of Notre Dame’s Women’s College within its University structure. He has been a leader on women’s issues at Eastern Kentucky, and has been recognized for advancing women into both leadership and non-traditional roles. He and his wife, Becky, who holds a Ph.D. in counselor education and is a lecturer at Eastern Kentucky, have two daughters, Jessica, a first-year student at Converse College, a respected women’s college in South Carolina, and Caitlin, who attends Lexington (KY) Catholic High School, where Dr. Conneely serves as chair of the board of trustees.
Dr. Conneely’s expertise in student affairs and campus life has been eagerly greeted at Notre Dame. “Dr. Conneely makes it clear that he has a student-centered perspective,” said Rachel Jones ’13. “We believe his extensive background in student life on campus will enhance the Notre Dame experience for everyone.” Board Chair Mitchell praised him for “recognizing that meeting the needs of all students, including adult learners, enhances student engagement and success and creates a more vibrant university community.”
At Eastern Kentucky, Dr. Conneely has focused on increasing faculty and student involvement in on-campus living/learning programs, establishing an Office for Community Service and Student Engagement that was recognized by USA Today, creating an Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, increasing student use of health and wellness programs, and successfully transitioning to a community policing model.
In addition to his current post, Dr. Conneely has served in student life roles at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Emory University, Villanova University and the University of Northern Iowa. He is an associate professor at Eastern Kentucky, teaching graduate courses in higher education administration.
Dr. Conneely earned a B.A. from St. Bonaventure University, an M.S. in education from Alfred University, and a Ph.D. in higher education administration from Georgia State University. He has attended executive leadership programs at Harvard University and Dartmouth College. His community involvement includes chairing governing boards for two Catholic schools in the Diocese of Lexington. He has served on the board and executive committee of the United Way of the Bluegrass, as chair of the board of United Way of Madison County, Ky., and on boards of the local chapters of the Chamber of Commerce and American Heart Association.
The president-elect will take office on July 1st.