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March 12, 2023

St. Joe's elects first female president in university's 172-year history

Cheryl A. McConnell, PhD, who has served in an interim capacity since last summer, is the 29th president of the private Jesuit university

Education St. Joe's
saint joseph's university st. joe's president Cheryl A. McConnell Provided Image/Saint Joseph’s University

Cheryl A. McConnell, PhD, who had been serving as Saint Joseph’s University's interim president since last summer, was elected to serve as the first female president in St. Joe's 172-year history.

Saint Joseph's University has chosen the first female president in its 172-year history.

On Friday, Cheryl A. McConnell, PhD, was elected by St. Joseph's Board of Trustees to serve as the private Jesuit university's 29th president.

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McConnell — a 35-year veteran of Jesuit higher education — had been serving as Saint Joseph’s interim president since last summer, following former president Mark C. Reed's departure to take on a presidential role at Loyola University Chicago. Before that, McConnell served as St. Joe's provost and chief academic officer for three years.

Since joining St. Joe's in 2019, McConnell helped create several undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as launching the annual university-wide Day of Dialogue featuring lectures, workshops and events. She also played a central role in the university’s COVID-19 response.

Recently, McConnell led St. Joe's acquisition of the University of the Sciences, which gave the university two Philadelphia campuses and boosted its health science offerings, and finalized another merger with the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences expected to close next January. She has also overseen the start of several campus construction projects.  

During a months-long search, the pool of applicants for the St. Joe's president position included standing presidents, provosts, deans, Jesuit scholars, as well as professionals from outside the higher education field, according to an email sent to the St. Joe's community by James M. Norris, chair of St. Joe's Board of Trustees and the search committee.

“Dr. McConnell is the right person to lead Saint Joseph’s at this time of exceptional change,” Norris said. “Cheryl has strong business acumen, deep higher education experience, a career marked by dedicated commitment to our Jesuit mission and exceptional leadership skills. She was the unanimous choice of the committee, even among an impressive and diverse pool of external candidates.”

McConnell is a first-generation college graduate. She earned earned her Bachelor of Business Administration and her Master of Professional Accountancy degrees from Wichita State University, and her PhD in higher education administration from Jesuit institution Saint Louis University. She is also a certified public accountant and a certified fraud examiner.

Before her work with St. Joe's, McConnell held leadership positions at Rockhurst University, a Jesuit institution in Kansas City, Missouri. 

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