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Fr. Zeis concludes tenure as president at end of academic year

March 5, 2013

The Saint Francis University community is preparing to say goodbye to its president and to welcome a new one at the end of this academic year. Fr. Gabriel Zeis, T.O.R.,‘75, has announced that he will conclude his  tenure as president on June 30, 2013.

Inaugurated on October 23, 2004, Fr. Zeis succeeded Fr. Christian Oravec, T.O.R. In the years that have followed, Fr. Zeis has focused on building upon the university’s reputation for academic excellence while undertaking an ambitious capital campaign to support that mission.

“I am touched by the fact that I have been able to serve my alma mater and my Order in such a profound way,” said Fr. Zeis, who graduated from Saint Francis in 1975. “It is humbling to watch our students become strengthened by their time here, and to know that the path that we have created as an institution will continue to strengthen students for many years to come.

Fr. Zeis has served as an agent of change on campus long before beginning his presidency. From 1980 to 1987, he was a member of the Religious Studies Department at what was then Saint Francis College. During that time he developed the Outreach Program and was the first director of the university’s Dorothy Day Center.

During his tenure as president, Fr. Zeis has overseen a period of strategic growth that has resulted in dramatic increases in both enrollment numbers and endowment value. From 2005 to 2011 the university’s total enrollment increased from 2,022 to approximately 2,440 students. In roughly that same period, the market value of the university’s endowment assets rose from $17.5 million to $37.4 million.

In terms of increasing academic distinctiveness, Fr. Zeis led the formation of a prominent academic school system comprised of the Schools of Arts & Letters, Business, Health Sciences, and Sciences. He also played an instrumental role in fundraising for academic facilities to enhance the school structure through the ongoing Capital Campaign for Saint Francis University: Called to Serve…Fulfilling the Promise.

The campaign has resulted in the addition of two new academic spaces: the 30,000 square-foot Joseph and Marguerite DiSepio Institute for Rural Health and Wellness in 2009 and a new 70,000 square-foot Science Center to house the programs within the School of Sciences, slated to open for fall 2013. Additional renovated/expanded academic spaces are planned for each of the other schools as funds become available through the campaign. 

When Fr. Zeis became president, he shared his intent to serve for a maximum of ten years. With that time frame nearing he is looking forward to handing over the presidency and receiving his next assignment .

Fr. Nicholas Polichnowski, T.O.R., chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees and the minister provincial of the Franciscan Friars, T.O.R., Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, which founded the university in 1847, explained that the next president will be chosen from among the priests and brothers of the 139-member province.

"The Board of Trustees has begun the selection process, and we expect the new president to start in July. Father Zeis will receive his new assignment at that time," Fr. Polichnowski said.