‘Father George’ resigns, inherits chaplain duties

As Gannon University has recently decided to create a new position of vice president for student development and engagement, several departments and personnel under that administrative umbrella will also face restructuring.

Among them, the Rev. George Strohmeyer, vice president for mission and ministry and university chaplain, will resign from his position and serve solely as university chaplain next school year.

Strohmeyer said his decision to stand aside was appropriate with the other changes happening throughout campus, such as the completion of Keith Taylor, Ph.D.’s first year as university president, and the new hires of provost and vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.

“My decision to step back was mine and I worked that out with the university to be a good decision,” Strohmeyer said. “But it fit the timing well. The timing of other openings really confirmed that it’s a good time for me to step back.”

The Rev. Michael Kesicki will assume Strohmeyer’s vacated position, which will be re-titled associate vice president for mission and ministry, as Kesicki will now report directly to the new vice president for student development and engagement.

Strohmeyer said he is satisfied Kesicki has been named his successor and he looks forward to working with him.

“I am perfectly happy to step away from this position so that somebody who’s a bit younger and going to be more long-term can move in,” Strohmeyer said.

Last month, Taylor addressed a letter to the university supporting the hiring of Kesicki.

“Father Kesicki is the perfect person to take on this new role and I am excited that he answered the call when I asked him to serve in this new capacity,” Taylor said. “He brings a positive spirit of creativity and enthusiasm and exceptional experience and skills to what is and will be important work across campus.”

Strohmeyer said he is excited to return to the university’s full-time chaplain, a role in which he said he has more frequent communication with students.

“Of all of my years at Gannon, I found the role of chaplain to be the most fruitful and satisfying,” Strohmeyer said. “I love the pastoral life. I’ve really enjoyed those contacts with students in the spiritual realm. But by being with the faculty and the staff, that has fallen away a little bit.”

Allison Adkins, a senior liberal studies major, said that when Strohmeyer serves only as university chaplain, he will have more time to spend with students, which is what Adkins says he enjoys most.

“Right now, he’s in and out of the office so much,” Adkins said. “The move to chaplain will be great for him; he’ll be able to catch his breath and he can further that bond with students.”

Although Strohmeyer said he has a great love for being a chaplain, he also said he learned a lot about himself while holding an administrative position.

“I enjoyed learning responsibilities that I had never had before in my life, as much as it meant more work and more effort,” Strohmeyer said. “Sometimes it was a little tiring, but I can’t say that I did not enjoy developing certain parts of myself: supervisory or leadership dimensions or management dimensions of myself that weren’t tapped before.”

Strohmeyer said the vibrancy of living and working around students has kept him enthusiastic in his time at Gannon.

“What always stands out is the life and energy of young persons,” Strohmeyer said. “So there’s something about being around young persons that I missed the first time when I left and I know I’m going to miss the next time too.”

Strohmeyer first arrived at Gannon in 1964, but then left in 1984 to assume a full-time position with L’Arche, an organization that promotes community living between mentally handicapped individuals and non-handicapped individuals. Strohmeyer has been involved in L’Arche since 1972, when he co-founded  a L’Arche of Erie. Strohmeyer returned to Gannon in 1998 and eventually was named Vice President for Mission and Ministry in 2009. He now has a limited role with L’Arche, but Strohmeyer said he loves seeing new people get involved with the organization.

“I really enjoy inviting students to discover L’Arche, and a lot students have done that, especially recently,” Strohmeyer said.

Strohmeyer said with all of the changes that Gannon has seen in the past year, it’s an exhilarating time to be a Gannon student.

“It’s very exciting here at Gannon,” Strohmeyer said. “It’s hard to see how somebody would not be excited to be here. It’s a good place to be. There’s a lot of respect and a lot of caring and a lot of sense of community.”

 

DAN KUBACKI

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