Fr. Pilarz excited to assimilate to MU culture

Rev. Scott Pilarz, S.J., the next university president, receives a Marquette shirt from Board of Trustee President Darren Jackson in August. Tribune file photo

As Marquette enters its final semester under the leadership of University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild, thoughts are shifting toward his replacement, Scranton University President the Rev. Scott Pilarz. And he’s thinking about us as well.

Last Thursday’s University News Briefs included a letter Pilarz wrote to the Marquette community. In the letter, Pilarz talked about his previous trips to campus, his interactions with the community and what his plans are going forward.

“In the five months since being named Marquette’s next president, I have visited campus several times and begun a process I value tremendously: meeting with faculty, staff and students and learning what makes Marquette such an outstanding university,” Pilarz wrote.

Law School Dean Joseph Kearney has acted as Pilarz’s “transition point man” throughout the process. Kearney has helped facilitate Pilarz’s trips to Marquette and assisted in organizing discussions and finding participants.

Since the announcement five months ago, Pilarz has met with some 80 students, faculty and administrators in the “Practices, People and Ideas” sessions Kearney organized.

For this semester, only one specific event has been planned for Pilarz, Kearney said.

The visit is designed for Pilarz to have more time to meet with deans and vice presidents than was allowed last semester. But Kearney does expect more meetings to come.

“I expect the upcoming meetings to be both deeper and broader than was possible in the fall,” Kearney said. “Deeper in the regard of giving Fr. Pilarz a greater specific sense of the university, both its realities and its possibilities. Broader in the regard of seeking to ensure that as many folks as possible are able to see him.”

But from the meetings so far, Kearney said Pilarz has already learned a lot in a short time.

“(Pilarz) is an experienced leader and a quick study of Marquette,” Kearney said. “He clearly enjoys the chance to engage with students, faculty and other members of the university community.”

During one of his visits to campus, Pilarz attended a group discussion on the arts at Marquette hosted by Lori Bergen, dean of the College of Communication.

Bergen said this was a “lively and engaging” discussion regarding the breadth of strengths, challenges and opportunities about the arts here.

During the discussion, Bergen said Pilarz confided in the group that despite being part of Marquette’s video Christmas card in which he sang part of a Christmas carol, he couldn’t actually sing and was nervous.

“It was kind of a neat moment that showed all of us that, in spite of being an incoming president of a major university, he’s kind of an average Joe, too,” Bergen said.

Jeanne Hossenlopp, vice provost for research and dean of the graduate school, was also asked to moderate a group discussion involving Pilarz on the topic of doctoral programs at Marquette.

“Fr. Pilarz took the lead in directing the discussion,” Hossenlopp said. “He asked a number of questions and was interested in hearing everyone’s thoughts.”

And after attending to Scranton business, Pilarz will be back walking the streets of Milwaukee soon enough.

“I will have additional visits to Marquette throughout the spring semester and look forward to meeting more of you,” Pilarz wrote. “When you see me around campus, please introduce yourselves. I am eager to meet you and to begin hearing about your dreams and aspirations.”