New OLHCC president sees growth opportunities
Marianite of the Holy Cross Sister Suellen Tennyson (right, at podium) leads a prayer Aug. 16 for Our Lady of Holy Cross’ new president, Dr. Ron Ambrosetti, who took helm July 1. He replaced interim president Dr. Myles Seghers. Photo by Frank J. Methe | CLARION HERALD
In the second-floor “concert hall” of the Holy Angels Academy campus on St. Claude Avenue – where Our Lady of Holy Cross College was founded in 1916 to allow religious sisters to earn their teacher certification – the incoming president of the college and three former presidents gathered Aug. 16 to both reminisce and speak optimistically about its future.
“Our Lady of Holy Cross College is ahead of the curve,” Dr. Ronald J. Ambrosetti, the new OLHCC president, told a gathering of Marianites of Holy Cross and college supporters that included three former presidents, Holy Cross Father Thomas Chambers, Dr. Paul “Buddy” Ceasar and Dr. Myles Seghers.
“Over the next 20 years, 70 percent of all undergraduate college students are going to be over the age of 30, and we are ready for this,” Ambrosetti said. “People think there is an endless supply of 18-year-olds, and there is not. We’re ready to meet this future.”
Meeting the need
Of the college’s current enrollment of about 1,200 undergraduates, many are older men and women who are either resuming their studies after being in the workforce for several years or looking to enhance their marketability with a new degree.
Ambrosetti, who succeeded Seghers on July 1, comes to OLHCC after nine years as provost and dean at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., where enrollment doubled to 4,000, in large part because of graduate programs in nursing, pharmacy and executive leadership.
Ambrosetti said in order to compete for students, colleges need to remain affordable and offer flexible course schedules that cater to the work lives of nontraditional students.
“One of the biggest areas of growth that you’re going to find is with students over 30,” Ambrosetti said. “Many of them are career changers. Many of them may have never finished college. And now that we’ve been at war, there are military men and women who took courses while they were overseas.
“For some, it’s a matter of degree completion. Whatever we do with existing and new programs, we have to schedule them when these people can get there. What Our Lady of Holy Cross already knows is that people over 25 and over 30 probably have family obligations and jobs and money issues. As far as I’m concerned, there is a moral imperative here to help people out, especially so they can find us affordable.”
Ambrosetti said it is astounding that OLHCC has no current debt, but he is open to the idea of a state-of-the-art residential hall to accommodate boarding students. He mentioned that Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio found a niche with female students from Latin America, and a similar draw could be duplicated if OLHCC had on-campus boarding.
Kyle France, vice chair of the OLHCC board of regents, mentioned the small-family atmosphere that Father Chambers nurtured, which he discovered as a graduate student in the early 1990s. Father Chambers’ office was just inside the front entrance of the school, and he always kept his door open for students to drop in and talk.
Marianite Sister Suellen Tennyson, congregational leader and chair of the Members of the OLHCC corporation, said she has been impressed with Ambrosetti’s “spirit, energy and enthusiasm” about the school and its educational philosophy, created by Blessed Father Basil Moreau, of “teaching students, not subjects.”
Seghers said he was thankful that during his year as interim president that the college has been fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and that the nationwide search for a new president, in which he participated, went so well.
“The support of the faculty and staff carried us a long way,” said Seghers, who plans to take a sabbatical after 42 years as a teacher and administrator in Catholic education. “Everybody just pulled together.”
Ambrosetti’s strengths as OLHCC president will be his vast higher education experience and his energy, Seghers said.
“At the same time, he’s a genuinely nice person, and he will fit in well into the culture of New Orleans,” Seghers said. “He talks to people on a first-name basis and he likes to be called ‘Ron.’ I’m sure he’s looking at this as a capstone experience in higher education.”
Ambrosetti will be formally installed as president next April.