Pilarz looking to make smooth transition to MU

It’s been a long time since last August, when the Rev. Scott Pilarz was chosen as Marquette’s next president, and though the elapsed time has been a bit greater than expected, his enthusiasm is just as high as when he got the call.

“Usually, a transition process doesn’t last this long,” Pilarz said. “But there’s a great anticipation and excitement, and I cannot wait to finally settle down at Marquette.”

That long transition process will finally come to a head in August, when Pilarz will succeed the Rev. Robert A. Wild as university president. Pilarz said the departing president has been a valuable resource in the process.

“I can’t explain how much (Wild) has helped,” Pilarz said. “We’ve had a number of face-to-face and phone conversations, from global issues to where the copy machine is. He’s been a tremendous help.”

Pilarz also hopes to bring a lighter side to his duties as president. For instance, he said he hopes to continue his current practice of living in a residence hall and teaching one class a semester.

“I want to be as accessible to the students as possible,” Pilarz said. “And I hope they will be accessible to me as well, be it a quick ‘Hello’ or anything else. As for teaching, probably not the first semester here, but that’s something I definitely hope to continue.”

Wild will stay on until late summer due to a Jesuit retreat Pilarz plans on taking part in. But when he arrives on campus as the new president, he’s got one thing on his mind.

“Listening,” Pilarz said. “And listening to all the constituents on campus. In order to get to know Marquette better, I’ve got to know the people who make it up. I’ll take every opportunity I can, formal or informal.”

But compared to the smaller Scranton University, where Pilarz has been president since 2003, he might have a lot more listening to do at Marquette — a challenge he relishes.

“Getting to meet the people of Marquette is by far the thing I’m looking forward to most,” Pilarz said. “Regardless of the size of campus, every person here deserves to have their voice heard, and holding those conversations is something I hold a great stake in.”

When Pilarz arrives on campus, he’ll have a lot on his plate. A prime example is balancing Marquette Catholic and Jesuit identity with being a modern university that addresses secular needs, like those of the LGBT community.

“There’s been the thought that we can’t be Catholic and a university,” Pilarz said. “That’s really a false binary because as we continue to move in a more inclusive direction, we can mine that Catholic tradition to help steer us. We have so many resources at hand to do so.”

Pilarz also knows fundraising will be a big part of his job.

“I’ve got to hit the road and raise money, especially for scholarships,” Pilarz said. “We’ve got to keep a Marquette education available for all those who want it.”

As for his long-term goals, Pilarz is keen on maintaining Marquette’s reputation and keeping it affordable.

“The things I’m most passionate about is our identity and mission, and keeping Marquette an engine of opportunity for those who deserve a great education,” Pilarz said. “Those are tremendously important things to me and the university, and something that will take lots of work and time.”

Also making the trip to Milwaukee, hopefully, is Pilarz’s bulldog Jack, a beloved pet among the students of Scranton.

“Jack is getting up there in years,” Pilarz said. “He’s 12 years old, and for a bulldog that’s pretty old. But hopefully he’ll be just as excited and up to the move as I am.”