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It’s the right time to say goodbye

Observer Editorial Board | Saturday, May 1, 2004

Every good leader needs an impeccable sense of timing. Stay too briefly, and questions will always remain about what more could have been accomplished. Stay too long, and the welcome fades. Departing University President Father Edward Malloy made neither mistake when he chose to step down at the end of his 18th year in office – a tenure that should not be questioned in its achievements, its longevity or its legacy.Malloy was a fresh face with a daunting task when he succeeded President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh in 1987 – a tough act to follow by any standard. Yet Malloy not only upheld his predecessor’s standard of excellence, he also modernized it during an unmatched period of growth in the University’s history. The academic reputation skyrocketed, with the average SAT score rising from 1240 to 1360. The endowment multiplied, growing from $350 million to more than $3 billion. Buildings went up across campus, notably Rolf’s Sports Recreation Center, the new DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts, and buildings on both DeBartolo and West Quads. The faculty increased by more than 500. The diversity of the student body – both racially and economically – improved dramatically. Internationally, Notre Dame students have made their mark during Malloy’s administration, as the study abroad program continually expanded to its current status as best in the United States, claiming programs in 17 nations. Students from foreign countries are also expected to make up three percent of the class of 2008 – a reflection of the University’s ascent to worldwide prominence.Malloy himself is also far more recognizable than when he began. Known across campus for his Sorin Hall residence, basketball prowess and ubiquitous nickname, “Monk” stands out in the University community as an individual, not just as an administrator.However, with these personal and institutional strides came struggles, such as NCAA sanctions imposed in 2000 and a severely decreased endowment in 2002 that led to budget cuts across the board.As eventful as his tenure has been, Malloy recognized that it was nearing its natural conclusion. In asking the Board of Trustees to evaluate his performance, he exhibited an unselfishness and concern for the wider University community, yet did not hesitate to clearly inform them that he was ready to move on to another phase of his life.Malloy said the solid advice and spiritual guidance he received during his discernment process led him to the realization that his heart – while always with the University – was no longer in the President’s Office. He knew stepping down was the right choice.What remains to be seen is whether Father John Jenkins is the right choice for the next president. His solid Catholic and academic background made him a strong candidate, and the insight he gains from Malloy over the coming year will be invaluable as he begins to grasp the role he will play in the University’s future. Jenkins has promised to realize Malloy’s vision for Notre Dame – and like his predecessor, he will need the judgment, the tenacity and the timing to do it.