Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist, Jack Ford, held an exclusive interview with Monmouth University President Patrick F. Leahy Ed.D. on Tuesday, Mar. 16th
The American television news personality asked Leahy about a series of varied topics, curated by both Ford himself and those belonging to the general Monmouth University community.
Before the interview took place, Amanda Klaus, Interim Vice President for University Advancement, introduced the evening’s events. She thanked everyone for their attendance and highlighted the event garnering participation from across the country.
Upon this introduction, Ford led with a question that brought the audience to the beginning of Leahy’s time as a scholar and leader in higher education, well before his time as President of Monmouth University.
“Has your path to Monmouth always been intended,” Ford asked.
“Yes and no,” Leahy stated. “I always tell people it was in my first year of college when I took a class with the President of Georgetown that showed me the meaning he took from his work.”
“Nonetheless, I finished my degree and went into the traditional line of business, and it would take me about ten or twelve years before I found myself in the scholastic field,” Leahy explained.
Building upon his first question about Leahy’s time in higher education, “What was it that drew you to the notion of coming to Monmouth since you had contributed too much of Wilkes University’s success during your term as president?” Ford asked.
Leahy explained that while he was happily serving the Wilkes community, it was during a sleepless night on vacation that he reflected on the professional opportunities awarded to him.
The following morning, Leahy received an email from a search consultant asking that he take a look at the opening at Monmouth University.
“Maybe it was meant to be in some respects,” Leahy said. “Coincidentally, my daughter was also looking at colleges, and it didn’t take us long to fall in love with Monmouth.”
Ford followed up on Leahy’s narrative by asking what he had not anticipated, or expected, when he decided on Monmouth.
“Other than the global pandemic,” Leahy laughed, “I think I generally knew what I was getting into— I don’t think I learned things I wasn’t expecting; rather, as I got to know Monmouth, it only further confirmed my decision.”
“Speaking of the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s discuss your experience with having to start your term during a global crisis,” Ford continued. “What did you initially anticipate, what did you fear, and what actually happened?”
“Just a couple months before the shutdown, ironically, we were discussing our five-year strategic plan as to how we intend to separate ourselves from the market,” Leahy started. “That was quickly put on hold as we had to prepare for the reality that COVID-19 was not only here in our community, but potentially on our campus as well.”
Leahy went on to explain that the administration had decided fairly early to take a few days off prior to students leaving for their spring break. This gave the University time to prepare the faculty for the likelihood of teaching virtually, at least for a couple of weeks.
“When did you come to grips with the notion that we weren’t going to have a normal rest of the semester?” Ford asked.
“We held on to the hope of reopening, but we realized mid-April that the prohibitions would not be loosened any time soon,” Leahy said. “By that time, we just wanted to give our campus community the clarity they needed to move forward for the rest of the semester, as well as the summer.”
Moving past the current state of affairs, Ford asked what Leahy believes the campus will look and feel like in the coming academic year.
“We are going to operate under the assumption that we want to get back to normal as soon as possible, and work backwards, if necessary, according to health regulatory guidelines,” Leahy proclaimed.
Expanding upon this hope for Monmouth’s future, Ford asked, “How do you plan to separate Monmouth from the rest of universities within this market for higher education?”
“The galvanizing principle of our strategic five-year plan is to integrate academic excellence alongside affordable access,” Leahy explained.
Leahy went on to underscore that by improving the University’s rankings and attracting students who are increasingly diverse, both demographically and socioeconomically— that is how the University intends to marry and implement those ideologies for success.
Ford spotlighted the quality of the University’s teaching staff, stating “The heart of the matter is what happens in the classroom, which separates a good academic institution from a great one.”
Leahy agreed, stating, “They continue to amaze me with their knowledge and commitment; it is the heart of the matter, and exactly why we can in fact separate ourselves from other institutes of higher education.”
As they wrapped up their discussion, Ford concluded stating, “It is always a pleasure and now the Monmouth University community knows how very fortunate they are to have you at the hilt.”
IMAGE TAKEN from Live Interview