ROMEOVILLE – Brother James Gaffney, president of Lewis University since 1988, is retiring, but friends and colleagues will have plenty of time to get used to the idea.
Lewis University announced Friday that Gaffney will retire June 30, 2016.
Gaffney said that since it’s been so long since Lewis has needed to fill the president’s job, he thought it wise to announce his plans early and provide time to find a replacement.
“I urged people, ‘Don’t feel rushed at all. We have time for a dialogue,’” Gaffney said. “It also gives presidents at other universities a chance to think about it [the Lewis job] rather than feel rushed.”
Gaffney been president of Lewis for more than a quarter-century and has helmed the university during a time of growing enrollment and new construction at the Romeoville campus. Lewis had a record enrollment of 6,700 in the fall, and Gaffney said he sees that growing to 7,500 by the time he leaves. He also said there should be four buildings under construction or in planning phases when he retires.
Even so, Gaffney, 72, said it makes sense to retire.
“There are advantages from a change – someone of different qualities or different abilities,” he said. “No one should serve forever or indefinitely.”
Gaffney already is the longest serving president at Lewis University. When the news came out Friday, many people made it clear to him that they would like him to stay longer.
“I’ve received dozens and dozens of emails,” Gaffney said. Some asked him to reconsider, he said. “But people in time will see it’s a good decision for the university.”
Gaffney announced his decision to the university’s board of trustees Monday and sent a letter to faculty and staff Friday.
In a written announcement issued by the university, James LaGrippe, chair of the board of trustees, described Gaffney as “visionary” and “an exceptional leader.” LaGrippe noted accomplishments that have included “revitalizing the Romeoville campus and building a momentum that will continue for many years to come.”
Gaffney should be around for many years to come as well. When he retires, Gaffney will become president emeritus and serve Lewis in an ambassador role. He still has “vigor,” Gaffney said, and “I am in good health.”