Wheeling Jesuit University Announces Presidential Search

Wheeling Jesuit University’s Board of Trustees announced today, June 4, that they have begun the search for WJU’s next President.

The Board of Trustees recruited Dr. Debra Townsley to serve as interim President of WJU in January 2017, providing her with several objectives to achieve as part of an institutional revitalization and fiscal reorganization. Her appointment ends July 15.

“We thank Dr. Townsley for her hard work and commitment to the university over the past 15 months,” said Msgr. Kevin Quirk, chair of the WJU Board of Trustees. “Though her initial appointment was intended to end this past February, she agreed to the board’s request to stay through July and work with the leadership team in accomplishing the critical parts of what has been a remarkable turnaround in the University’s financial situation and future outlook.”

Founded on the 450-year Jesuit tradition of academic excellence and service to others, Wheeling Jesuit University provides students with varied educational offerings, faculty research partnerships, and opportunities to have an influence in the community for the greater good of all. Since its founding in 1954 by Archbishop John J. Swint, Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, WJU’s dedicated faculty and staff have focused on educating students for lives of leadership and service. The university’s goal is to educate ‘the whole person’ to prepare its students for their life’s work.

Subscribe to Weelunk

Dr. Townsley came to Wheeling Jesuit University as a new partnership was being formed between the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and the Society of Jesus to ensure the future of Catholic higher education in West Virginia and to the Catholic and Jesuit mission and identity of the institution. Under Bishop Michael J. Bransfield’s leadership, the Diocese spearheaded a financial rescue of the university that eliminated WJU’s debt.  In response to this critical assistance, Dr. Townsley undertook a significant reorganization of the university, reducing its expenses, while growing enrollment and pursuing new degree programs leading to employment in healthcare and gaming. “We gave President Townsley a significant list of objectives to achieve in little over a year,” Quirk said. “And she fulfilled each one of them, while preserving the student experience on campus and keeping an eye focused on academic quality.”

“I believe that this is an ideal time for a transition in WJU’s presidency,” Townsley said. “The leadership team has done a significant amount of work in positioning the university for continued success, and it is time for a new president to join the community here to focus on building relationships between the university, the Ohio Valley and the network of Jesuit schools.”

Bishop Bransfield said, “I am extremely grateful to Dr. Debra Townsley for her service to this university and to this community. She has done a wonderful job at Wheeling Jesuit, and her achievements in this year have been remarkable. I look forward to welcoming the next president of Wheeling Jesuit University to the Diocese and hope to see that person build on the strong foundation Dr. Townsley and the Board of Trustees have laid this year.”

The position description for president is posted on the university’s hiring website, cardinalscareers.com. Upon Dr. Townsley’s departure, Mark Phillips, chief of staff in the office of the President, will serve as acting president and will work with the Board of Trustees to facilitate the search process.