Msgr. Kevin M. Quirk, chair of the Wheeling Jesuit University Board of Trustees, has announced that Dr. Michael P. Mihalyo Jr. has been elected as the 12th president of WJU by its Board of Trustees, effective Aug. 15. Mihalyo replaces Dr. Debra Townsley, who recently stepped down after serving as interim president since February 2017.
“In May 2017, Wheeling Jesuit’s Board of Trustees approved a strategy to Realign, Renew and Reinvest in the Future of Jesuit, Catholic High Education in West Virginia. This new strategy was made possible through the commitment of the Most Rev. Michael J. Bransfield, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, the important leadership of Dr. Townsley, and the continuing commitment of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) to serve at Wheeling Jesuit University,” said Msgr. Kevin Quirk, chair of the Wheeling Jesuit University Board of Trustees. “When it came time to identify a new president, the Board of Trustees sought a committed Catholic with successful experience in the administration of small, private academic institutions who would be willing to continue the strategy of Realignment, Renewal, and Reinvestment in order to bolster enrollment, build on important partnerships and ensure a vibrant future. We also wanted an individual who would make a commitment to Wheeling Jesuit and to the region to be a vital part of campus and community life. I am confident that we have found that person in Dr. Michael Mihalyo.”
Mihalyo has more than two decades of experience in higher education. He currently serves as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Rockford University in Rockford, Ill. Prior to his time at Rockford, he served as president of the Kentucky-based Appalachian College Association. In addition, he served as president, chancellor and provost at Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, W.Va., and as vice president for academic affairs and as a faculty member at Bethany College in Bethany.
Mihalyo’s Upper Ohio Valley roots are strong as he originally hails from Mingo Junction, the son of Michael and the late Marianne Brody Mihalyo. An accomplished musician, Mihalyo enjoyed an active career in chamber and church music. Among the highlights of his music ministry career, he conducted a series of services and concerts in Italy, including Vatican City, Rome, and the surrounding area with the St. Peter Festival Choir of Pittsburgh. Mihalyo holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from West Virginia University, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Duquesne University, each in piano performance.
“I am honored to be invited to serve as president of Wheeling Jesuit University. It is well known the university has a strong tradition of academic excellence, leadership and service that permeates throughout the university in the Catholic, Jesuit tradition. Throughout my own career in higher education, I have worked primarily at or on behalf of private, faith-based institutions in the Appalachian region, all with similar focus. I am delighted to have the opportunity to return home to use my skills and affiliations to enhance the learning environment and to lead the dynamic team that will bring to fruition many exciting initiatives at WJU,” Mihalyo said.
Along with his own connections to the region, Mihalyo has strong familial ties to WJU. His sister, Kimberly Mihalyo Abdalah, is a member of the class of 1995 and was elected to the WJU Athletic Hall of fame in 2000. Her husband, Dr. Marvin Abdalah, is a member of the class of 1994 and was elected to the WJU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014. Both were members of the cross country team during their time as undergraduates. Also, Mihalyo’s niece, Molly Metcalf, is a member of the class of 2017.
“Dr. Mihalyo’s connection to the region, his strong Catholic faith, and his valuable experiences at other similar institutions that recently faced similar challenges to WJU allowed him to rise above the rest of the candidates reviewed by the search committee,” said Fr. James R. Conroy, S.J., rector of the Jesuit Community at WJU and member of the presidential search committee.
Bishop Bransfield said, “A tremendous amount has been accomplished at Wheeling Jesuit during the past 18 months. Now the university prepares to welcome a wonderful new class of students, thanks to the important work done by the enrollment team. I am grateful to know that I am also able to welcome Dr. Mihalyo as the university’s new president. I look forward to seeing him build on the strong foundation Dr. Townsley and the Board of Trustees have laid this year, so that Wheeling Jesuit University continues its mission of forming the human mind and heart of its students for service to others and success in their personal, professional, and family life.”