Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Statement From Pilarz On His Resignation

Just in, via an e-mail sent to the entire university community:
Dear members of the Marquette community:

I am writing to provide some further background and information on my decision to resign as president of Marquette. First, I want you to know that I have enjoyed my time here, especially my interaction with students, faculty and staff. The classes I have been privileged to teach stand out in my mind. Marquette students are bright, engaging, thoughtful and genuine. Our faculty and staff are generous and deeply devoted to the university’s mission. Our work together throughout the strategic planning process is also a highlight in my career in higher education. I have never before seen a campus community work so well toward a common purpose. Hopefully the plan will shape the university’s direction for years to come. Additionally, I want to thank the vice presidents and deans for their contributions to the life of the university and to my life.

Given all of these truths, leaving Marquette is a decision that involved a great deal of prayer, thought, and spiritual conversation, a decision that evolved gradually over two years. But once I came to clarity, I decided it was best to act in a timely manner. Both the clarity and timing are entirely mine, despite the efforts of friends and colleagues to convince me to consider remaining at Marquette.

As part of the final stage of my Jesuit formation, called tertianship (which admittedly came later for me than most Jesuits), I made the 30-day silent version of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Many of you are familiar with the dynamic of the exercises and its drive toward interior freedom. The exercises can lead to what St. Ignatius calls “an election.” During the retreat I felt initial stirrings that have grown in me over the past two years. I began to consider other apostolic opportunities available to me. As I look forward to my future as a Jesuit priest from the vantage point of being over 50, I realized I had been a university president for more than a decade. That is the longest I have ever done anything in my life and I have always been a restless soul.

Believe me that I will be forever grateful for my work with colleagues and collaborators at Scranton and Marquette. It has been a blessing.

At the same time, I have decided to do more and different things as a Jesuit. For example, I desire to do more pastoral work than I have been able to do as a president. I also want to do more teaching, research and writing. I acknowledge, as well, a couple practical realities that have influenced the timing of my decision. First, I believe that Marquette needs a president who is willing to commit to working wholeheartedly on a comprehensive capital campaign over a five to seven year period. Given my other hopes and desires, I am not in a position to do that now. Also, I want to be more available to my aging parents’ health concerns than I can be in my current role. This is common among people my age. Finally, I want to give the Marquette trustees enough time to conduct a careful search for a new president. I decided it was better to share my thinking with them at the start of the academic year rather than in December or May. I agreed that I would stay at Marquette until the board could find an appropriate interim president.

I’m happy to share that the Board of Trustees has asked my predecessor, Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J., to serve as interim president. Now that Father Wild has agreed to serve in that capacity during a search, I can confidently take some time to consider my future options during a sabbatical period in the coming months. I will assist Father Wild with the transition, while traveling back and forth to the East coast to care for my ailing father. Father Wild is concluding his duties with the Wisconsin Province and will take over as interim president on Thursday, Oct. 16. I know that Marquette is in great hands, and I look forward to working with Father Wild and the Board of Trustees to ensure a smooth transition and a successful search.

I hope this helps to explain the nature and timing of my decision. Again, this has been a deliberate process in the context of great personal freedom during which I have had the support of friends and colleagues at Marquette and beyond. I am grateful for that and for my time here.

God bless you, God bless Catholic and Jesuit higher education, and God bless Marquette.

Sincerely,

Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.
President
Marquette University
Note, first, the comments about the capital campaign.
I believe that Marquette needs a president who is willing to commit to working wholeheartedly on a comprehensive capital campaign over a five to seven year period.
This seems to confirm what our sources have suggested: that Pilarz is simply not the sort who wants to glad-hand potential donors incessantly.

Of course, in any case of a “resignation” people are going to ask “was this person fired, or perhaps forced out?” Unfortunately, we don’t have sources who would have a definitive answer. Our tentative conclusion is that he probably wasn’t. When Marquette had a disastrous president (Albert J. DiUlio, S.J.) in the 1990s, it took six years for the Trustees to bounce him. It seems too soon for Trustee dissatisfaction to have reached the point of firing Pilarz.

Thus, we are in an odd situation. We have a statement from a Marquette official that we are inclined to think is actually the (mostly) full and honest story.

We have long maintained that the best kind of university administrator is somebody who does not want to be a university administrator. The best administrators (and they are very rare) are those who care little about building a bureaucratic empire, and who identify with the faculty, and students and (among clergy) long for pastoral work.

Pilarz, it seems, is somebody who did not terribly badly want to be a university president.

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