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Seton Hall University

Past Presidents of Seton Hall

Reverend Bernard McQuaidMcQuaid, Most Reverend Bernard J., (1856-1857)
Seton Hall College was first located in Madison, New Jersey, and commenced operations on September 1, 1856 with an initial enrollment of five students. Those who were included on the registration rolls under the leadership of Father McQuaid could expect to endure a structured seven-year Classical, Liberal Arts program (three year prep and four year college study) with heavy emphasis on Theology, Philosophy, Latin, Greek and Foreign Language offerings. 

Reverend Daniel J. FisherFisher, Reverend Daniel J., (1857-1858)
Father Fisher was counted among the first college faculty members, and one of four diocesan priests who taught at the school during its first few years in operation. Under his guidance, Seton Hall conducted their first commencement exercises held during June of 1857. During this period (and over the next few decades), Seton Hall played host to various meetings of the Diocesan Synod held on campus with some assistance from Father Fisher and his fellow clergy and other institutional leaders.

Reverend Bernard McQuaidMcQuaid, Most Reverend Bernard J., (1859-1868)
During his second term as chief executive, Father McQuaid helped with the move of the Seton Hall College campus from Madison to South Orange in 1860. The College was Incorporated by Act of the New Jersey State Legislature on March 8, 1861. Father McQuaid also belonged to the first Board of Trustees and co-authorized approval of the first Bachelor of Arts degree (A.B.) that was awarded to Louis Edward Firth in 1862. The earliest corporate seal included the Seton Family coat of arms and image of the Blessed Mary along with the enduring motto — Hazard Zit Forward — "No Matter What The Hazard, Yet Forward" was subsequently designed and adopted by the institution during May 1864 with sanction offered by Father McQuaid. He later became Bishop of Rochester (NY).

Bishop Michael A. Corrigan, D.D.Corrigan, Most Reverend Michael A., (1868-1876)
The activities of Father Corrigan centered mainly on work conducted on behalf of the Diocese of Newark in support of Seton Hall College prior to his elevation as second Bishop of Newark in 1873. During his tenure as President, Father Corrigan dedicated the Immaculate Conception Chapel in 1870. In addition, he was active in building enrollment numbers and throughout the nineteenth century. The school experienced steady and sustained growth by attracting interested students from nearby South Orange and the Newark metropolitan area along with prospective students as far away as Canada, France, Santo Domingo, Spain, and other locales.

Reverend James H. Corrigan, M.A.Corrigan, Reverend James H., D.D., (1876-1888)
The presidency of Father Corrigan came directly after that of his brother and coincided with the Silver Anniversary celebration for Seton Hall College observed during the Fall of 1881. Administrative efforts conducted through the leadership of Father Corrigan included overseeing the construction of Alumni Hall (currently serving as home to the Immaculate Conception Seminary) built in 1883. He also oversaw the fund raising and subsequent rebuilding of the main College Building in 1886 after a fire (an earlier blaze occurred in 1866) destroyed this edifice.

Reverend William Marshall, M.A.Marshall, Reverend William, M.A., (1888-1897)
Father Marshall was instrumental in helping to launch a Military Science and Tactics Department (a forerunner to the modern-day Theology among others which served as the educational hallmark of Setonia as the school moved into the latter years of the 19th century.

Reverend Joseph Synnott, D.D.Synott, Reverend Joseph, D.D., (1897-1899)
After the re-structuring of Seton Hall College in 1897, Father Synott worked with local authorities to help Seton Hall achieve wider recognition through accreditation agencies representing both the states of New York and Rhode Island resulting in the acceptance of credits earned at Seton Hall in line with guidelines recommended earlier by the New Jersey Department of Education. Further improvements on the academic front initiated by Father Synott came about in 1898 as Seton Hall built its first formal library facility (Marshall Hall) at a cost of $35,000, which originally housed 18,000 volumes. 

Monsignor John Stafford, S.T.L.Stafford, Monsignor John, S.T.L., (1899-1907)
The Golden Anniversary of Seton Hall College was celebrated in 1906, and president Monsignor Stafford presided over the commemorative ceremonies and special Commencement Exercises that featured over1,200 attendants at the first indoor ceremony in school history which took place at the nearby Newark Theater. As the 20th century dawned and progressed, Setonia experienced a number of firsts in the realm of athletics having fielding its earliest inter-collegiate basketball squad in 1903, and the construction of a permanent baseball diamond (located on the present-day Owen Carroll Field) which was christened two years later. Father Stafford was also instrumental in the plans and aiding with construction of the School Infirmary and residence for the Sisters of Charity who assisted with campus operations at this time.

Monsignor James Mooney, D.D.Mooney, Monsignor James, D.D., (1907-1922)
Monsignor Mooney assumed the leadership role of Seton Hall College after serving as Rector of the Immaculate Conception Seminary. The physical plant on campus underwent dramatic change as another structural fire occurred in 1909 and destroyed most of the College Building (Stafford Hall), but he was able to help lead rebuilding efforts during the aftermath. Mooney Hall, named in his honor was opened in 1910 and originally housed the high school division after serving for a short time as the main administrative center for the college. The school infirmary was upgraded and renovations to the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception were undertaken around this time along with the opening of Bayley Hall (which housed the short-lived Seton Hall Grammar School) three years later. Monsignor Mooney enjoyed the longest tenure of any president in Seton Hall history during its first 125 years.

Monsignor Thomas McLaughlin, S.T.D.McLaughlin, Monsignor Thomas, S.T.D., (1922-1933)
Through the efforts of Monsignor McLaughlin, enrollment increased after the Great War, and the aesthetic look of campus changed as well after all college-owned acreage on the northern side of South Orange Avenue was sold in 1922. In artistic terms, student publications, including Immaculate Conception Seminary moved its operations to Darlington, New Jersey in 1927, but the two schools retained close ties as part of the Diocese of Newark family (becoming an Archdiocese in 1937) with the maintenance of the Aquinas House of Studies, a residential facility for student priests. In 1931, Seton Hall College celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. That same year, Setonia adopted the appellation "Pirates" as the nickname for each of its athletic teams. The school later attained Middle States Accreditation a year later, and in 1933 attained affiliation with the Association of American Colleges and American Council on Higher Education.

Monsignor Francis J. Monaghan, S.T.D.Monaghan, Monsignor Francis J., S.T.D., (1933-1936)
Monsignor Monaghan was instrumental in keeping Setonia operational during the Great Depression-era. Admissions standards during the 1930s included the following criteria for an applicant: "(they) must show evidence of good character, intelligence, ambition and acceptable personality. In addition … they must meet certain academic standards." Requirements for a diploma included four years of Philosophy

Monsignor James Kelley, Ph.D.Kelley, Monsignor James, Ph.D., (1936-1949)
At the time of his inaugural, Monsignor Kelley became the youngest college president in the nation, having turned 33 years old when hired at Seton Hall. In 1937, the Newark and Jersey City Extension Schools (Urban Division) opened for the express purpose of educating both men and women who were unable to attend the day school in South Orange. The Bayley Seton League, founded in 1938, gave financial support and helped with campus beautification projects and related endeavors for several years thereafter. By 1940, Walsh Gymnasium opened, and the first nursing courses were offered at Seton Hall that same year. During the mid-1940s, Seton Hall had low enrollment numbers, which were made up mainly of those who were nearing enlistment in the armed services or enrolled in the minor seminary. After World War II, the 94 percent enrollment rate at Setonia became the highest level of student enrollment increase in the entire nation. Monsignor Kelley also hired the first African-American faculty member in school history, Dr. Francis Hammond in 1946. Heralding this development, radio station W-S-O-U (the first college-operated FM station in New Jersey) went on the air in 1948. 

Monsignor John McNulty, Ph.D.McNulty, Monsignor John, Ph.D., (1949-1959)
Monsignor McNulty helped to secure university-status for Seton Hall on June 2, 1950 by act of the New Jersey State Legislature. During this time, the school also established four separate academic divisions including a Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies in 1955. The 1950s also heralded a major construction boom as Bishop's Hall (later known as Boland Hall) served as a student dormitory along with the building of McNulty Science Hall (1954) and McLaughlin Library (1955). A greater commitment to academic endeavor also came about in 1951 when the Seton Hall School of Law was established in Newark where Miriam Rooney, Ph.D. served as dean and in the process, became the first woman to hold such a position in the United States. The formation of a College of Medicine and Dentistry was started at the Jersey City Medical Center. Shortly thereafter, Seton Hall held its Centennial celebration in 1956. 

Bishop John J. Dougherty, S.S.D.Dougherty, Bishop John J., S.S.D., (1959-1969)
Physical plant enhancements were evident as the Bishop Dougherty Center (student union) was built in 1962 and the Humanities Center (Fahy Hall) made its appearance six years later. Counted among the educational initiatives which had their origins in this decade were the first Ph.D. awarded in Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) started later that decade. Another milestone for Seton Hall occurred when full co-education of the South Orange campus was enacted in 1968 and continues to this day. 

Monsignor Edward Fleming, Ph.D.Fleming, Monsignor Edward, Ph.D., (1969-1970)
Monsignor Fleming served as Acting President and helped to increase academic opportunities for the student body including the newly admitted female undergraduates on the South Orange campus. He also endorsed needed additions to the Student Center that provided increased dining facilities along with modifications eventually made to Corrigan Hall during his time as chief administrator.

Monsignor Thomas Fahy, Ph.D.Fahy, Monsignor Thomas, Ph.D., (1970-1976)
Under the guidance of Monsignor Fahy, the Center for Black (later known as African-American) Studies was established in 1970. Another key addition to the campus landscape came to the fore when the Puerto Rican Institute was founded four years later. During the time of Monsignor Fahy, Seton Hall became more boarder-oriented when they opened Aquinas Hall, the first residence hall for women in 1971. Within academic circles, the Schwartz Nursing College Complex opened in 1973. Governance of Seton Hall originally balanced between a 25-member Board of Regents and 13 trustees, as operational leadership on a daily basis emanated from the office of Monsignor Fahy. In addition, Elizabeth Ann Seton, patroness of the University was canonized in Rome by Pope Paul VI in 1975, making her the first American-born saint. A year later, in response to a great swell in religious-based research, the New Jersey Catholic Historical Records Commission was founded at Seton Hall, where it remains active to this day.

 John Cole, M.B.A.Cole, Mr. John, M.B.A., (1976-1977)
Named acting president and his appointment made Mr. Cole the first lay chief executive in school history although he served in an interim capacity. The Seton Hall Law School Center was dedicated at its downtown Newark locale in 1976 prior to the official dedication of its current edifice 15 years later.

Robert Conley, Ph.D.Conley, Dr. Robert, Ph.D., (1977-1979)
Dr. Conley oversaw the planning and implementation steps behind the signing of a "Sister-States" agreement between the State of New Jersey and the Chinese – Zhejiang Province. This is one of the first such agreements to be made between an American state and a province in China.

Reverend Lawrence T. Murphy, M.M., Ph.D.Murphy, Reverend Lawrence T., M.M., Ph.D., (1979-1980)
The work of Father Murphy centered on academic and administrative upgrades around campus along with continued support of campus institutes and other key initiatives. In 1979, Seton Hall joined the Big East Conference and became a competitive force in the intercollegiate sports world.

Edward D'Alessio, Ph.D.D'Alessio, Dr. Edward, Ph.D., (1980-1984)
Seton Hall University celebrated its 125th anniversary in 1981. The doctoral program in the Immaculate Conception Seminary is built as the School of Theology returned to campus after being off-site since the 1920s. The George M. Ring Building became home to University Affairs (now University Advancement) in 1982 and that same year, Saint Andrew's Hall was purchased. An honorary degree was bestowed on Ronald Regan who visited campus in 1983 becoming the only standing U.S. President to visit the school.

John Petillo, Ph.D.Petillo, John, Ph.D., (1984-1989)
Served as the first Chancellor in school history. By 1987, the Seton Hall Preparatory School and the University ended their mutual ties when "The Prep" moved its campus to West Orange and was separately incorporated. Endorsed the construction of four dormitory buildings, namely Cabrini, Serra, Neumann, and Xavier between 1986-88. Along with improvements in residential housing options, the continued flow of commuter traffic considerations resulted in the opening of the Farinella and the Ward Place gates in 1988. That same year, a new residence hall for resident clergy was christened, named in honor of the Most Reverend Peter L. Gerety, Archbishop Emeritus of Newark. A new recreation center was also attached to the venerable Walsh Gymnasium by 1987, and 17 years would be named in honor of former player and long-time athletics administrator Richie Regan. This upgrade in athletic fortune led to a memorable appearance for the men's basketball team in the NCAA Championship game in 1989. 

Monsignor Dennis Mahon, Ph.D.Mahon, Monsignor Dennis, Ph.D., (1988-1989)
Monsignor Mahon transited from various administrative roles on campus to presiding over a student enrollment of approximately 8500 students and eight distinctive schools including graduate-level programs.

Monsignor Richard Liddy, Ph.D.Liddy, Monsignor Richard, Ph.D., (1990)
Prior to serving as Interim Chancellor, the work of Monsignor Liddy centered on that of Rector and Dean of the School of Theology. His leadership efforts in Presidents' Hall were focused on academic-centered objectives that included building on the educational advances established campus-wide over the previous decade. Monsignor Liddy also helped to launch and oversee a five-year $100 million capital campaign on behalf of the University.

Reverend Thomas Peterson, O.P., S.T.D.Peterson, Reverend Thomas, O.P., S.T.D., (1990-1995)
Served as Chancellor and was responsible for continued building initiatives that included off-campus housing that included Ora Manor, a South Orange apartment complex. Father Peterson also worked on developing a new Law School structure in Newark along with a new parking garage on the South Orange campus. He was also instrumental in support of a new four-story christened Walsh Library. Known as the "Jewel of the Campus," the Library was built in 1994 and today contains more than 600,000 volumes, along with numerous print and electronic resources. From an academic vantage point, under Father Peterson, the intellectual growth of Seton Hall has centered around an assemblage of specialized colleges and schools that included the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, University College, University Libraries, and the School of Graduate Medical Education among others.

Monsignor Robert Sheeran, S.T.D.Sheeran, Monsignor Robert, S.T.D., (1995-2010)
Under the leadership of Monsignor Sheeran, the Science and Technology Center in 2007 along with major renovations made to the Immaculate Conception Chapel a year later. 

Gabriel Esteban, Ph.D.Esteban, Dr. Gabriel, Ph.D., (2010-2017)
Under President Esteban, a host of improvements were made to the South Orange campus. A 14,000-square-foot addition to the Richie Regan Recreation and Athletic Center was completed in 2013. The first college building, Stafford Hall, was replaced by a technologically advanced 12-classroom building in time for the Fall 2014 semester. A fourth floor and expanded entrance were added to Aquinas Hall, and nearly 600 spaces were added to the parking deck. The University also developed an Interprofessional Health Sciences (IHS) initiative and entered into a partnership with the Hackensack Meridian Health Network to establish an IHS campus on the former Hoffmann-La Roche site in Nutley and Clifton. The total undergraduate population at the start of the 2015-16 academic year numbered 6,065, which was the highest annual enrollment at Seton Hall in three decades.

Headshot of Mary Meehan Meehan, Mary, Ph.D., (2017-2019)
Interim President Meehan was the first woman to lead Seton Hall. During her tenure, enrollment exceeded expectations and the University achieved the highest student-retention rates in its history. Various construction projects were undertaken to further strengthen the South Orange campus, most notably a new welcome center christened Bethany Hall that opened in 2018. Additional ventures included upgrades to Owen T. Carroll Field and the completion of Phase I of the University Center renovation. Building on the intellectual life and academic strength of the institution led to several key initiatives, such as a University-wide inclusion dialogue among students, faculty and administrators, along with several new academic degree programs, including an M.D. and M.S. in physics, along with various minor and certificate programs.

Portrait of President NyreNyre, Joseph, E., Ph.D., (2019-2023)
Named the 21st chief executive of Seton Hall in February 2019, President Nyre began his tenure on August 1 of that year. He guided the University through the COVID-19 pandemic while advancing a vision and strategy to elevate Seton Hall among the nation’s foremost Catholic higher education institutions. Hallmarks of his presidency included a multi-year strategic plan, Harvest Our Treasures, which was a product of unprecedented involvement by the University community. Under his leadership, Seton Hall Implemented an Affordability Agenda to provide maximum financial aid and reshaped academic programs to rebalance instructional and non-instructional expenses in favor of academics. 

Portrait of Interim President PasseriniPasserini, Katia, Ph.D., (2023-Present)
A nationally recognized knowledge management scholar with extensive higher education experience, Katia Passerini, Ph.D., was appointed Interim President of Seton Hall on July 24, 2023. Prior to this appointment, she served the University for three years as Provost and Executive Vice President. Arriving during the height of the pandemic, she played a key role in instituting the HyFlex teaching modality that enabled the University to achieve safe and healthy in-person instruction. Interim President Passerini was an influential voice in the development of Harvest Our Treasures. Advancing her strategic focus on research and academic innovation, Academic Affairs made significant progress under her leadership. Her accomplishments at Seton Hall include supporting the development of a host of new undergraduate and graduate programs; hiring more than 60 full-time faculty members in two years; and facilitating the growth of faculty grant applications by nearly 60 percent since 2020-21 and grant receipts by 146 percent over the same period.