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Doyle replaced at Student Affairs

Allan Joseph | Wednesday, May 2, 2012

After just two years on the job, Fr. Thomas Doyle will be replaced as vice president for Student Affairs, the University announced Tuesday.

Erin Hoffman Harding, vice president for strategic planning, will replace Doyle on Aug. 1, at which point Doyle will become a faculty fellow in the Institute for Educational Initiatives as well as a pastoral minister and adviser to the Office of Human Resources.

“Erin brings with her to this new position a wide range of extraordinary skills that will serve the University well,” University President Fr. John Jenkins said in a press release. “I am likewise grateful to Tom Doyle for his excellent leadership and service over the past two years … Above all, he has been a superb priest and brother in Holy Cross. His pastoral leadership has been a gift to our community and it will be ideal for his new responsibilities.”

University spokesman Dennis Brown said Jenkins made the decision to replace Doyle. Despite the decision, Doyle told The Observer he greatly respects Jenkins and was pleased to serve the University. “Fr. John and I have known each other since I was a seminarian,” Doyle said. “I have the utmost respect for him and for the job that he has as president. Student Affairs is just one very important part of it. I’ve loved my two years working in Student Affairs. I’m looking forward to staying at Notre Dame.”

Doyle said he appreciated the counsel University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh provided him late last week when the transition was finalized.

“[Hesburgh] couldn’t have been more supportive or gracious,” Doyle said. “He basically reminded me to treasure the fact that I’m a priest and that I get to be a priest – to look for interesting and meaningful work to do as a priest, and then he gave me his blessing up in his office … For us as priests, it’s our vocation and our sense of call and following that leads us.”

Doyle said he was happy with his time overseeing Student Affairs and spoke highly of his successor.

“There’s just a great peace when we know that we do our best and we live life with the most integrity that we can muster,” Doyle said. “I think it’s providential for Erin Hoffman Harding, who I think is an extraordinarily exceptional person. She is not only exceptionally bright, [but] she has great institutional knowledge and insight. I think she has a great heart for students and student life on campus.”

Building relationships with students and families has been his favorite part of the job, Doyle said.

“I’ve had to be close with students and their families. That’s the part that just been incredibly rewarding and enriching for me,” he said. “It allows me to say to the cynics of the world that there’s hope … You get a chance to see students at their very best – and sometimes when you see them at their very worst, it’s the portal through which they’re going to become their very best.”

After working closely with students, Doyle had some parting words of advice for students who may not interact with him in his new roles.

“It sounds ironic, but I wish our students would fail more often, because I think sometimes failure is one of the great opportunities for discovery or epiphany and awakening,” he said. “I wish for our students to be more gentle on themselves because I think they push themselves and drive themselves exceptionally hard.”

Doyle also encouraged the Notre Dame community to be more open to the University’s diversity. “While we have a great sense of community here, I would wish our students and the faculty and staff [to be] more attentive and deliberately engaging and appreciative in the diversity that is around us – all kinds of diversity.”

While he leaves office in the midst of a controversial discussion about LGBTQ rights on campus, Doyle said he has faith in the discussion process.

“It’s not about who wins and who loses, but it’s how it is that we enter into a deep community with one another and how we reverence and respect one another and live up to all of what the Spirit of Inclusion calls us to,” Doyle said. “We need to trust one another and trust that there’s good faith on both sides – but never get so discouraged that we stop dialoguing. Once there’s dialogue – it might feel like evolution, like it’s slow – but as long as there’s dialogue there’s hope that we will find and discover truth.”