Although everyone at Saint Anselm College suspected that Fr. Jonathan De Felice, O.S.B., couldn’t be president forever, a minor shock wave was felt on campus at 11 a.m. September 4, when he announced that he would retire at the end of the academic year. Over the course of nearly 24 years as president, he had a profound impact on the lives and faith of more than 9,000 of the college’s alumni (9,363, to be exact).
The 1969 Saint Anselm graduate was named acting president in December 1989, following a decade of leadership by Br. Joachim Froehlich, O.S.B. He was appointed by Abbot Matthew Leavy, O.S.B., who was then the chancellor of the college. Prior to becoming president, he taught theology and served as dean of students, assistant to the academic dean, dean of freshmen, and associate director of Campus Ministry.
“Catholic education has been and will continue to be my passion, but now that I am on the brink of age 65 and the college is nearing its 125th anniversary, I think it is the ideal time for me to step aside for new leadership,” Father Jonathan said in an email to the college community. He will continue to serve the church and work for the progress of the college—but first, he will enjoy a well-earned sabbatical.
In addition to his unwavering dedication to Catholic higher education, the ninth president has a strong commitment to civic education and engagement. He considers it the college’s mission to expose all students, regardless of major, to the democratic process, and to foster informed debate and understanding.
Under Father Jonathan’s leadership (which makes him the longest serving college president in New Hampshire), Saint Anselm College enhanced its reputation as a nationally ranked liberal arts college and became a leader in incorporating service into college curricula.
“Catholic education has been and will continue to be my passion…”
“Father Jonathan helped Saint Anselm College deepen its commitment to excellence in the Catholic, Benedictine tradition, emphasizing academic and extracurricular pursuits in balance with spiritual growth,” says Chuck Pollard ’79, chair of the college’s board of trustees. “He guided the college through an expansion in facilities, established the New Hampshire Institute of Politics as the state’s premier forum for the study of citizenship and debate of public issues, and successfully steered through the challenges of the financial crisis.”
He led the college’s last very successful campaign that raised more than $50 million, and supported the transition to a new governance model for the college that was initiated in 2009.
Father Jonathan oversaw an expansion of on-campus housing, expanded the library and science center, added new offices for faculty, and built a football stadium, ice hockey arena, and new athletic fields.
He also had an impact on higher education in the state and nationally as a member of numerous boards and committees and trustee of several higher education institutions. Father Jonathan is a founder of the Association of Benedictine Colleges and Universities and has served on the board of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Most recently, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch appointed him as a director of the New England Board of Higher Education.
The trustees have established a Board search committee, using a professional search firm Isaacson, Miller, to help identify appropriate monastic, internal, and external candidates.
TIMELINE: Track Fr. Jonathan's most memorable presidential moments at Saint Anselm.