Jesuit Fr. Robert A. Wild will lead Marquette University as interim president, Oct. 16 through August 2014, when a new president is expected to be in place, according to Board of Trustees chair Charles M. Swoboda, in a statement from the university on Wednesday, Sept. 25.
Fr. Wild, president of MU from 1996 to 2011, will conclude his duties with the Wisconsin Province before replacing Jesuit Fr. Scott R. Pilarz, who informed the MU Board of Trustees of his resignation in order to pursue new apostolic work, last Friday, Sept. 20.
Swoboda said in the statement that Fr. Pilarz will assist Fr. Wild with the transition, traveling to and from the East coast to care for his ailing father, according to a letter explaining his decision that was sent to the campus community on Wednesday.
In his letter, Fr. Pilarz said his decision evolved gradually during two years, involving a lot of prayer, thought and spiritual conversation.
“But once I came to clarity, I decided it was best to act in a timely manner,” he wrote. “Both the clarity and timing are entirely mine, despite the efforts of friends and colleagues to convince me to consider remaining at Marquette.”
He said in the letter that he began to consider other apostolic opportunities available to him during a 30-day silent retreat as part of his tertianship, or final period of formation in the Society of Jesus.
“As I look forward to my future as a Jesuit priest from the vantage point of being over 50, I realized I had been a university president for more than a decade,” he wrote. “That is the longest I have ever done anything in my life and I have always been a restless soul.”
He said he desires to do more pastoral work than he has been able to do as president, as well as teaching, research and writing, and acknowledged “a couple practical realities” that influenced the timing of his decision.
“First, I believe that Marquette needs a president who is willing to commit to working wholeheartedly on a comprehensive capital campaign over a five- to seven-year period. Given my other hopes and desires, I am not in a position to do that now,” he wrote. “Also, I want to be more available to my aging parents’ health concerns than I can be in my current role…. Finally, I want to give the Marquette trustees enough time to conduct a careful search for a new president.”
He said he agreed to stay at Marquette until the board found an appropriate interim president.
“Now that Fr. Wild has agreed to serve in that capacity during a search, I can confidently take some time to consider my future options udring a sabbatical period in the coming months….” Fr. Pilarz wrote. “I know that Marquette is in great hands, and I look forward to working with Fr. Wild and the Board of Trustees to ensure a smooth transition and successful search.”
The Board of Trustees – comprised of a university president, NBA head coach, former senator, five Jesuit priests and 12 presidents and CEOs of local, national and global business – and university leadership will work closely with Fr. Wild in the months ahead to ensure continued progression of major university initiatives currently underway, stability and continuity for day-to-day operations.
The board will provide oversight and counsel, and assist the presidential search committee, chaired by John F. Ferraro, a 1977 graduate of MU and global chief operating officer for Ernst & Young, in the search for a new president, which is currently underway, the statement said.
“Change is never easy, but it is necessary for growth. Since 1881, Marquette has stood for strength, stability and excellence in education, and I can assure that with your support, we will remain a premier university for centuries to come,” Swoboda said in the statement.