Editorial: A Fond Farewell to Dr. Powell

Photo of Dr. Thomas Powell
Photo courtesy of Mount St. Mary’s University

On March 10, 2015, President Thomas Powell will step down as the twenty-fourth president of Mount St. Mary’s University and the indelible mark he has made on our institution will never be forgotten. Dr. Thomas Powell’s tenure as president of the Mount saw many changes, transitions and shifts. Because of this, only a few of his many accomplishments will be detailed here.

After taking office in June 2003, President Powell began a campaign that brought together the Mount’s institutional brand with an integrated marketing communications program. This tied in closely with the preparations for the Mount’s Bicentennial celebration, which had been in the works long before 2008. This celebration included the building of a new residence hall, Bicentennial Hall; President Powell emphasized the implementation of the university’s Master Plan in the building of Bicentennial as well as the renovations throughout campus during his tenure. These improvements included new sidewalks and parking lots, the renovation of the oldest buildings on campus, including the Terrace and the Chapel of Immaculate Conception, and many other additions to enhance the beauty of the university as a whole. President Powell successfully implemented a key goal in his 2004 vision statement, namely the clear recognition of the Grotto as a formal part of Mount St. Mary’s. During Dr. Powell’s term as president, the Grotto flourished into both a place of spiritual meditation and a national attraction for Catholic pilgrims.

Dr. Powell also led the Mount to a renewed spirit of academic excellence during his time at the Mount. As early as 2007, the President’s office was beginning to examine the Mount’s core curriculum to consider if it reflected the needs of contemporary Mount students. This led to the reevaluation of the old core curriculum and the creation of the Veritas program, which was successfully implemented starting with the Class of 2016.

Dr. Powell was not the only Powell to influence the Mount deeply. Since President Powell assumed office, his wife Irene Powell has worked throughout the Mount community to continue to make the university an open and welcoming environment. Among other accomplishments, Mrs. Powell composed several Mount-centric verses of the university’s hymn, “Immaculate Mary.” She also chaired the Mount Family Association, working with the Center for Campus Ministry to send out prayer memos and newsletters to the families of those in the Mount community. Both Powells were crucial in evaluating the role of Catholic identity within the Mount community, and could be seen frequently at 7 p.m. Sunday masses in Immaculate Conception chapel.

Dr. Powell’s time as president was not devoid of challenges. Although the Mount has ascended through the U.S. News and World Report college rankings, questions of dwindling faculty resources and lack of clarity in regards to academic rigor remain unanswered. It should also be noted that the advancements made during the Powell tenure did not come cheaply; the University’s debt in 2013 exceeded $60 million and continues to grow while the Mount’s endowment struggles to compensate. Despite these difficulties, the work that the Powells did in the Mount community will never be forgotten. We thank Dr. and Mrs. Powell for all their contributions to the university and wish them well in the days ahead.

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