In late June 2013, S. Elizabeth A. Hill, C.S.J., J.D., announced her resignation as president of St. Joseph’s College.
In this, the final publication of SJCNY before S. Elizabeth’s retirement, we examine the legacy of a president who took St. Joseph’s College into the 21st century and, breaking the cliché of never looking back, vowed to look back constantly. In doing so, she affirmed the defining mission this institution holds dearest: Never forgetting the value of its past.
Since 1997, S. Elizabeth held the title of president of St. Joseph’s College — only the fifth in its nearly 100-year history. During her 17 years in that position, she earned the ultimate respect from her faculty, staff, contemporaries and generations of SJC students.
S. Elizabeth A. Hill is a woman who led with articulate simplicity, warmth and congeniality. At every function, whether at a collegewide commemoration, department event or simply during a personal conversation, her presence was equal parts brilliant, kind and effortlessly authentic.
Gathered in the pages that follow are testimonials to the spirit of S. Elizabeth A. Hill. For nearly two decades as president, S. Elizabeth’s level of care was evident to all.
Jack P. Calareso, Ph.D., was selected as our new president on March 24, after a long search process that was equal parts intense, rigorous and somber. On July 1, Calareso will pick up the torch that S. Elizabeth has carried for so long and guide St. Joseph’s College through its centennial celebration in 2016 and on toward the future. We anticipate great things from him, and for good reason: His predecessor set a high standard for future leaders of SJC.
S. Elizabeth leaves with her legacy intact as a passionate leader. Her enthusiasm will be unmatched.
She’s the woman who helped expand both campuses, and kept us competitive in times of turbulence. She’s the woman who either helped start so many of our burgeoning initiatives, or bolster our programs into renowned SJC degrees. She’s the woman who’s been honored with several trophy cases worth of accolades. Above all, however, S. Elizabeth has remained a dedicated educator. The simple philosophy of the selfless teacher was always dear to her heart, as we could all tell.
“Being with young people is a great source of hope,” S. Elizabeth stated in a 2013 interview with The National Catholic Reporter. “Their idealism and belief that they can and will help make things better, that they can and will change the world, gives me hope.”
We bid a fond farewell to S. Elizabeth Hill. Our teacher. Our leader. Our friend.
S. Elizabeth A. Hill:
A Portrait in Leadership
S. Mary Florence Burns ’46, C.S.J., Ph.D.
Academic Vice President Emerita, St. Joseph’s College
If you were to look at S. Elizabeth Hill’s graduation picture in the College yearbook, I think you would see a future president. There is a steadiness, the intelligence, the astuteness — almost the farsightedness, if I can put it that way — and the willingness to work, interest in people, kindness, thoughtfulness, all there from early on.
S. Helen Kearney ’67, C.S.J., Ph.D.
President, Sisters of St. Joseph Trustee, St. Joseph’s College
When Elizabeth became president of St. Joseph’s College, the entire ceremony was about the values of education and the social responsibility that students must find in that education, and Elizabeth has literally promoted those values in everything that she’s done.
S. Kathleen McKinney ’71, C.S.J., Ed.D.
Principal, The Mary Louis Academy
Trustee, St. Joseph’s College
Elizabeth is real; she is a very real person. She takes relationships seriously, she always has time for people, she stops and she talks to people. She is; she doesn’t seem.
Raymond N. D’Angelo, Ph.D.
Chair, St. Joseph’s College Department of Social Sciences
I remember being a part of her search committee 17 years ago, where she laid out her plan for the future of the College. She very carefully itemized what she wanted to do. She wanted to increase support for faculty research and scholarship; she’s done that. She wanted to increase athletic facilities on both campuses; she’s done that. She wanted to enhance the presence of both campuses in their communities, in Patchogue and in Brooklyn, and she’s done that.
Carelle Cherebin ’09
Medical Student, NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine
Every time I passed her office, her door would be open. I actually spoke to her — it was a brief conversation, I think about the dean’s list or something like that — and she was just so pleasant, and it kind of inspires me to be that kind of leader; that humble, pleasant, personable leader.
Michael J. Hanophy, Ph.D.
Professor, St. Joseph’s College Department of Biology
I think I first met S. Elizabeth within my first week or two here. I knew who the president was, but I figured there were 100 faculty, they just hired 10 or 12 of us, and I didn’t think she would know who I was, and I would introduce myself in my own time, but I think I met her in the front hall and she introduced herself and she knew who I was, which struck me as unusual for the president of a college. I knew there was something a little different right then about S. Elizabeth as a president.
I think our core charism is really love of God and neighbor without distinction, and I think Elizabeth has certainly promoted that.
Sheila M. Baird
Co-founder and Partner, Kimelman & Baird LLC
Trustee, St. Joseph’s College
Her leadership style has just engendered great loyalty and devotion. She has a very collaborative style. She’s decisive but she listens to all opinions, and she’s very clear in her vision. I certainly attribute the expansion [of the College] greatly to her — she’s had a very solid team behind her, both in administration and in faculty — but, of course, a team doesn’t just happen by itself. It needs a good leader to create that team.
Somebody came in to use the labs — they wanted to use the labs for some kind of filming — and they referred to the labs as “quaint,” and S. Elizabeth went to the chair at the time and said, “I know that the word quaint is not something I want to hear used for my laboratories.” She wanted to see that we were giving students the best cutting-edge science education we could.
I was on faculty for 43 years, and many a student in my class would tell me they were having a struggle. They had come perhaps on partial scholarship, some came on full scholarship, they were working, they had multiple responsibilities at home, and if there ever was a moment they wanted to give up or felt there was not a way out, if you ask them to go see S. Elizabeth, they would come back, probably in the next class, to say they were staying and they were continuing.
Lisa Arquer ’13
Hurricane Sandy Student Relief Fund Recipient
Hurricane Sandy happened, and it was very devastating for my family. I had reached out to all my professors here and I had written them emails saying “listen, this is what’s going on. … Can I make up my work? Can we work together?” and the compassion that I got not only from the faculty here, but from the College overall was fantastic — nothing that I had ever expected. They offered me a scholarship, they covered my remaining balance of my tuition here, which was really helpful because I was unsure if I was going to be able to continue. I was unsure if I was going to be able to graduate on time. And it’s been really just a sincere blessing, and I’m very, very appreciative for that.
Sister Mary Florence
S. Elizabeth Hill’s motto at her inauguration as College president was “continuity and change,” and I believe that she has carried out that motto remarkably well over these last 17 years. The continuity is clearly there and that has not been easy in this period of significant change in higher education.
Elizabeth has been on our board for a long time, at Mary Louis Academy, and she is always encouraging people to take the next step. She is always very willing to help with it, but she is very encouraging of being daring, so to speak.
S. Mary Florence would say — she uses the term, someone is “steady.” I always find that’s a great compliment from S. Mary Florence, when she calls you steady, and I think that good, steady leadership has been a real asset to the College over the last 15 years that I’ve been here.
Obviously there’s been expansion — increase in programs, the athletic fields, the buildings and things like that, they are symbolic and concrete examples of expansion — but I think the motivation is what students need and what students will want.
I don’t think that college presidents are often the kind of people that you feel that you can knock on the door of their office and walk in at any time, as I do between my classes. That kind of real close-knit community that we have here, we could lose a little bit of that with S. Elizabeth going.
Sister Mary Florence
S. Elizabeth Hill has succeeded, I think, in maintaining the basic mission of St. Joseph’s College, which in turn stems from the mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph’s. Her example over these last years has helped all of us to see that even as we move through difficult financial times and as we move through a radically changing world — international as well as local — that there are some values that endure. I think she’s given testimony to those, and for that I think we should say with Shakespeare:
“I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.”