Henry reflects on 13 years as president of university

STEUBENVILLE – He arrived in the fall of 2000 “a little nervous” about replacing the Rev. Michael Scanlan, TOR, as president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Thirteen years later, the Rev. Terence Henry, TOR, is preparing to step down as president and move to his next assignment as a friar in the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular, Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“I was walking in large footsteps when I arrived. Father Mike was known nationally and internationally but very few people knew who I was. That’s why I asked Father Mike to remain as the university chancellor. It was very important to me for the school to remain faithful to the teachings of the church,” said Henry.

“I look back at my time here with gratitude. It has been a privilege to have been entrusted with the mission of guiding the university,” said Henry Monday afternoon.

The university announced the appointment of Henry in 2000, citing his educational background.

“Father Terence has all the qualifications necessary to lead Franciscan University to the next level of excellence. He has spent most of his life in teaching and administration and has a natural rapport with both students and faculty. Most importantly, he has a clear understanding and love for the educational and spiritual mission of Franciscan University,” according to a university press release at the time.

“When I came here in 2000 to start the transition from Father Mike Scanlan, there may have been some people who wondered if Franciscan University would change. But we kept the mission of the church. It was why the Franciscan friars were originally invited here by Bishop (John King) Mussio to start a Catholic university. I am honored to have served as the fifth president of the university and to see the blessings I have received here,” said Henry.

The Rev. Nicholas Polichnowski, TOR, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, explained leaders are rotated periodically as a matter of course within religious life.

“Being a university president has become an increasingly difficult task. With presidents serving only six years on average, we are grateful to Father Henry for giving 13 years in generous service to Franciscan University,” Polichnowski said.

Polichnowski, who also serves as minister provincial of the Franciscan Friars, TOR, Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, said the next president will be chosen from among the priests and brothers of the 139-member province.

“The board of trustees will begin the selection process immediately, and we expect the new president to start in June. Father Henry will receive his new assignment at that time,” Polichnowski said.

“We joyfully take a vow of obedience. We go where ordered. The demand is always greater than the supply, so we don’t know where our religious superior will assign us. I will miss the university and the people I have met here, but I look forward to whatever that new assignment may be. And the university will remain in my prayers,” Henry stated.

One of the first issues Henry embraced as president was the creation of a commuter grant program for local students.

“The program offers a 50 percent tuition discount for local high school seniors who enroll directly to Franciscan University. The grant makes it possible for local students to get a four-year college degree while staying in the Ohio Valley,” explained Terry.

He also oversaw the university’s re-entry into intercollegiate sports in 2007, as the Barons joined the NCAA Division III and gained entry into the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference.

During the past 13 years the physical campus has more than doubled in size with the purchase of adjacent property, bringing the total acreage to 242, ensuring space for further growth.

Henry’s personal passion as a priest has been confronting what he calls “the culture of death.”

The university joined other Catholic schools and institutions last year in a legal challenge to the Obama Administration’s health care mandate

Every year he leads hundreds of students, faculty and staff at the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Henry also enjoys the outdoors and often invites university students to join him on hiking and camping trips at national parks.

“I am planning a trip this summer to Yosemite National Park, which I consider the most beautiful place in America,” Henry remarked.

And while the man who has been a Franciscan Friar since 1976 sits around a campfire he will probably mention his favorite author, G.K. Chesterton.

“I don’t know what my next assignment will be but I will be ready to offer help to those I serve. Wherever I am I hope I can do my best to help others,” added Henry.

(Gossett can be contacted at dgossett@heraldstaronline.com.)