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Holy Cross to hire first president from outside of the Congregation of Holy Cross

and | Wednesday, March 30, 2022

With the retirement of Holy Cross college President Fr. David Tyson in June, the college is in the process of choosing a new president. 

The two final candidates, Brian Schmisek and Marco Clark, have experience working with Catholic universities. Whoever is selected will be the college’s first president to not be a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross. 

Board of Trustees members John Gschwind and Calvin Colbert said the selection process was an extensive effort by the Holy Cross’s presidential search committee with a diverse set of input on decisions. 

“[The committee] really wanted to make this a very engaged, comprehensive effort to bring all the key stakeholders, because I think the board, and I think Calvin [Colbert] and myself in particular, think this is kind of a very important, almost transformational event for the college,” Gschwind, who chaired the search committee, said.

When considering candidates, Gschwind said the committee agreed that Holy Cross’s mission was the primary consideration. 

“Whoever we’re going to hire will be very aligned with the Holy Cross congregation mission for this college,” he said.

Emilee Skidgel, Holy Cross student body president who served on the committee, said she knew right from the start of the search that they would be searching for priests and laypersons as candidates because Holy Cross’s constitution does not require the president to be a priest or brother.

Colbert explained the decision to choose a member from outside of the congregation as president derived from a shortage of available brothers and priests available to serve as president. 

“Ideally, obviously, we would love somebody who was from the clergy,” Colbert said. “But people who are in the clergy have different missions of their own and different interests and different ministries.”

Skidgel said the committee hired a selection firm to help them with the process. The firm sent over two representatives in November that toured the college and attended many open forums in order to gauge what it’s like to be a Saint.

After applications were opened, the search committee received 52 completed applications, Colbert said.

As well as aligning with Holy Cross’s mission, Gschwind and Colbert said they wanted someone who could grow the college, develop a strategic plan and better the student experience.

“We want Holy Cross college to stand on its own,” Gschwind said.

Skidgel said she is confident in the committee’s choices and believes that both final candidates are highly qualified and would bring about “a lot of good for the college.”

The Finalists

Gschwind said both finalists for president are very qualified to take on the role. 

“I speak for myself, I think both are very mission driven, check all the boxes,” he said.

Schmisek currently serves as provost and dean of faculties at Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota and has been in that role since 2019. At Saint Mary’s, his role is to “provide the academic vision, leadership, direction and evaluation for all academic activities and faculty affairs of the university.” He previously served at Loyola University Chicago as a professor and dean of the Institute of Pastoral Studies and at the University of Dallas as the founding dean of their school of ministry. 

Schmisek is a native of North Dakota who is also passionate about making theological materials accessible to lay audiences. He is married to Marnie Schmisek, and together they have four children. 

Clark has 33 years of Catholic education experience and 25 years of experience working alongside the Brothers of Holy Cross. He currently serves as the executive director of the Holy Cross Institute of St. Edward’s University, based in Texas. In his work at St. Edward’s, Clark “provides leadership support for the 120 Holy Cross schools around the world by conducting research, publishing resources and delivering programs to ensure their Holy Cross mission, identity and educational charism.” 

He is married to wife Peggy Clark, and together they have three children and five grandchildren. In his free time, Clark says he enjoys spending time outdoors and with family. 

The candidates are now in the final steps before the decision will be made in the coming weeks. Both Schmisek and Clark visited Holy Cross’s campus in person over the past week, where they met with the current president, the Board of Trustees, faculty and students. 

The committee will have several meetings over the next couple of weeks to make their final decision. 

“When you think about hiring someone, in some respects, it’s a lot like dating,” Colbert said. “We’re getting to know them … but they’re also getting to know us.”

Since this will be a historic choice for the college, Skidgel said the committee has not taken the decision lightly.

“Everyone on the search committee has come into it [looking for] the most qualified individual,” Skidgel said. “I think we have that, so I think our job has been done well and to the best that we could have done it.”

The article and headline previously incorrectly referred to Holy Cross brothers as clergy members. Brothers are non-clergy. The Observer regrets this error.

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