Mass. college educator named new Loyola head

The Rev. Brian Linnane to take office next month

June 03, 2005|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Loyola College has named the Rev. Brian Linnane, a member of its board of trustees and an assistant dean and professor at a Jesuit college in Massachusetts, as its next president.

Linnane, 49, has worked at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., for more than a decade. He was introduced as Loyola's new president at a news conference at the North Baltimore campus yesterday. He will take office next month.

"I've always been very impressed with Loyola, and I think it's a very blessed place," Linnane said. "I'm excited about leading the school."

He succeeds the Rev. Harold E. "Hap" Ridley, who died in January. Linnane becomes only the third Loyola president in the past 40 years.

He said his chief goals will be to improve diversity and make sure the school's Catholic curriculum and mission remain vital in a changing world.

Linnane was born in Boston into an Irish Catholic family that attended church regularly. He said he wanted to be a priest and a teacher since an early age and tried to join the Jesuit order after high school. He was counseled to wait until after he graduated from Boston College in 1977.

He earned a master's degree from Georgetown University in 1981, before starting his formal religious education at the Jesuit School of Theology.

He also earned several master's degrees and a Ph.D. from Yale University before joining in 1994 the faculty at Holy Cross, where he wrote extensively about ethics and morality. He was named assistant dean in 2003.

"They got a winner," said Stephen Ainlay, dean and vice president for academic affairs at Holy Cross.

"He's absolutely a remarkable teacher and scholar who has the kind of skills you need to pull students out of their shell," Ainlay said. "That's what's going to serve him well as a president."

`A serious scholar'

Linnane's extensive education and teaching experience made him appealing to Loyola's presidential search committee.

"He's a serious scholar, and we wanted to have someone who understands what faculty do," said Claire Mathews McGinnis, a theology professor who served on the committee.

"He knows how to help [students] reach their potential," said John Cochran, chairman of Loyola's board of trustees.

Some Jesuit schools, including Georgetown University, have named lay people as their president in recent years, but Loyola's search committee members decided they wanted a religious leader, McGinnis said.

"We had a Plan B to find a lay person, but we didn't have to go to it," she said.

Linnane is familiar with Loyola because he has been a trustee since 2000, when Ridley asked him to serve on the board. Linnane visited the Loyola campus, which has a student body of about 6,200, at least three times a year and served on several committees, including one that updated Loyola's strategic plan.

"There will be a huge learning curve, but I think I'll be a little ahead of that," Linnane said.

He said he would foster an environment where students are encouraged to fulfill their potential.

"I do hate the term `ending up.' It's our task to counter that and make sure each person can really become the person God wants them to be," he said.

Fundamental views

Linnane also said he would work to maintain Loyola's religious identity. The school was recently criticized by some Catholic groups and Cardinal William H. Keeler for inviting former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani to speak at graduation. Giuliani supports abortion rights.

Linnane said he believes in a free exchange of ideas on campus but added, "Loyola stands for some fundamental views, and we won't compromise those. We will not do anything that would contradict teaching effective Catholic citizens."

He said he was not sure whether he would have approved inviting Giuliani to speak at graduation. "It would depend on the context," he said.

As a Boston native, Linnane said he might have a hard time adjusting to one aspect of being away from his hometown. "I will miss the annual psycho-drama of the Red Sox," he said.

Observing that the Orioles are currently in first place, Linnane added: "I guess it's not a bad time to switch."

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