By Alyssa Foley
Members of the University of St. Thomas community met two of the three presidential candidates this week, one of whom may take Robert Ivany’s seat as university president next summer.
After 13 years at the helm of UST, Ivany is retiring. The university is searching for a new chief executive officer. Students, faculty and staff can meet the third candidate on Monday Oct. 24 at a forum in Jones Hall from 4-5pm.
Richard Ludwick spoke with constituents of the university in a forum on Oct. 20. He is the president of Independent Colleges of Indiana, Inc., a 31-member association of private, nonprofit colleges. He previously served as provost of Saint Gregory’s University, which has campuses in Shawnee, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, OK.
“[UST’s] character as a Basilian institution is one that I find very attractive,” said Ludwick, “I think that it is providentially placed here in the heart of the Western Hemisphere in Houston, it gives this institution the chance to really be a leader among Catholic colleges and universities.”
Increasing Revenue and Enrollment
Ludwick said that he believes the university’s finances are “fundamentally fixable…with a few tweaks here and there.” Ludwick would, “strengthen and diversity and improve the revenue streams [so that] we’re not buckling at those winds of uncertainty.”
He said that he would reduce the student tuition discount rate, or university scholarships, to increase net tuition revenue. However, he admits that this impacts the potential to bring in new students.
To increase enrollment, Ludwick said he would target the Houston area first and ask the local church to be actively engaged in promoting the university.
Student and Faculty Engagement
Ludwick noted that it’s important for a college president to have a strong appreciation for all constituency groups, even for people who don’t like the university. He added that he has the “…annoying ability to get everybody to work together.”
He spoke of honoring and trusting faculty and having dialogues to create a community. “Not only do I want to hear from faculty, but we need to hear from faculty,” Ludwick said he believes in sharing information with faculty so that they can offer the administration “informed advice.”
Ludwick spoke of the value of UST having both a liberal arts core and professional programs like nursing. He said he believes the liberal arts educate gifted, grounded and proficient graduates. Professions like science and technology “are rich gifts to the world that we must share,” noted Ludwick, “I don’t think those two are mutually exclusive.”
Ludwick said he would add English language learning support as necessary.
“I support an open student press,” stated Ludwick, “I appreciate the student press, and I think it has a role to play…one that is grounded in fundamental journalistic integrity.”
Ludwick explained that he is experienced with strengthening Catholic identity within a university. When he was provost of Saint Gregory’s University, they created an office of Faith, Integration, Development and Evangelization to help bring the Catholic mission alive.
Ludwick was asked if he agrees with what Pope Francis said in July that the choice of gender identity amounts to an “annihilation of man as image of God.”
“He is the Holy Father and he speaks for our church, and I support our church’s doctrines,” Ludwick said that he believes this position is not antithetical to the love of God.
“A Catholic institution of higher learning must be a space where those conversations occur, and not just occur here but move out into the wider community,” said Ludwick, “we have an obligation to move into that space.”