Editors Note: Reflecting on The Hoya’s 81st year in print and the upcoming selection of a new university president, we will periodically include reflections on relevant pieces of Georgetown history. This article is reprinted from the Wednesday, Jan. 15, 1969 issue of The Hoya, when the Rev. Gerald J. Campbell, S.J. retired as university president and Rev. Robert J. Henle, S.J., was selected by the board of directors to succeed Campbell. Henle remained president for nearly a decade before the Rev. Timothy Healy, S.J., took over.

The traditional “100 days of grace” customarily accorded to an incoming American president by would-be critics has also applied at Georgetown to greet the Rev. Robert J. Henle, S.J., newly appointed university president. He will succeed the Rev. Gerald J. Campbell, S.J., who retires Jan. 31.

This wait-and-see attitude has not, however, tempered speculation for increased federal aid in the next five years and hopes for realization of Fr. Henle’s dream “for a future unique greatness.”

The 59-year-old president-elect, who will assume the office over the summer, comes to Georgetown highly recommended after 25 years of work at St. Louis University. He has served as academic vice president there since 1958.

One man able to judge the appointment from a unique vantage point is Daniel Shalafly, chairman of the Board of Trustees at St. Louis University, a 1922 graduate of Georgetown College and father of present Georgetown student Thomas Shalafly (C ’70). Contacted this week by telephone, he applauded the selection of his friend, Fr. Henle.

“We are sorry to lose Fr. Henle at St. Louis; he is a brilliant academician,” he said. “He faces serious challenges at Georgetown, but this man has the energy and experience coupled with his unusual ability and academic and administrative background, which qualify him for the job. If anyone can meet these challenges, Fr. Henle is that one.”

When the 13-member search committee which selected the St. Louis scholar for the job, first started its task, the Rev. Edwin A. Quain, S.J., chairman, said he was hoping for a president who would not be afraid to mix in Washington life.

“I would like to see the next president in the White House guest list; I don’t want members of Congress to have to ask who the president of Georgetown is,” Fr. Quain said.

Mr. Scalafly says Georgetown’s new head fully fits Fr. Quain’s description.

“I have seen him in action, and Dr. Henle is very articulate, has a good sense of humor, he is well poised, he is at ease in social groups, he is a very attractive dinner companion .”

“Fr. Henle has made many appearances before legislators for the university [St. Louis] in Missouri, and he has made many appeals in Washington. He will not shy away from the Washington scene,” Mr. Scalafly said.

Mr. Scalafly, who became the first layman to head the governing board of a Catholic university in January 1967, noted a five-year blueprint for St. Louis, which the president-elect just finished. The report analyzes the Missouri university’s strengths and weaknesses school by school. Mr. Scalafly called it a “good, hard-nosed, honest appraisal.”

“I don’t know what this augurs for Georgetown,” he said, “but it does indicate some extent of this man’s skill.”

Student reaction at St. Louis was not of quite the same nature as Mr. Scalafly’s. John McCarthy, editor-in-chief of the University News, contacted by telephone, said, “I am afraid I don’t have much complimentary to tell you.”

“Fr. Henle was respected as a scholar-administrator,” he said, “but in general he was extremely inaccessible to the student body. In fact, I really had no idea what he did here until I sent a reporter to him a couple of weeks ago.

“I have to give Fr. Henle credit for establishing a couple of good programs here, though. He increased recruitment of black students, and he set up a branch in Madrid. On the whole, however, I’d have to say I am happy to see him go. I just hope we can get someone now who will be more accessible to the students.”

His opinion concerning the new president’s accessibility was echoed by a leading St. Louis student government official, who preferred anonymity. When asked which students Dr. Henle has worked with, he replied, “I don’t recall Fr. Henle working with any students.”

Student leaders at Georgetown have taken a more favorable approach to Fr. Henle’s appointment. They have combined caution with optimism and hope in supporting the choice.

Reporters were issued a statement from Yard President Dan Hurson under the heading “The Student Council Press Service.” It included a statement of strong endorsement and full support for Fr. Henle. Hurson and Walsh Area Student Council President John Kelly, both members of the search committee, also issued a further statement on the selection. It applauded the president-elect as a man “who could think young – someone in tune with modern education and the changing style of Georgetown life.”

The statement said all three student participants in the search endorsed the candidacy of the St. Louis scholar. The conclusion of the statement was directed at skeptics and critics of the choice:

“We suggest that skeptics give Fr. Henle a chance to demonstrate those abilities that so impressed both a discriminating search committee and the Board of Directors. Georgetown’s future is in all our hands, and as much as possible the entire community played a role in the vital decision. Fr. Henle stood against tough competition and emerged as the man we want to lead Georgetown. We feel Fr. Henle deserves the support of the student body and that in the critical months and years ahead he will prove himself worthy of the great challenge all of us have placed in his hands.”

Fr. Henle himself has had no time to state specific goals at Georgetown. Referring to the next two years as the critical years for private education, he left no doubt that he considered Georgetown to be a university with a real future coupled with a distinguished past.

“I told your Board of Directors that if I thought the Georgetown situation to be a hopeless one and a financially bankrupt position, I would have stayed in St. Louis,” he said.

In his acceptance statement, the president-elect dedicated Georgetown to a series of goals – dictated by the driving force of love.

“If I read the hopes and the forecast of those hopes correctly, Georgetown can and will respond creatively and spontaneously to the great invitation arising from the new world society which is rapidly emerging.

“In an international age, Georgetown, situated in a world capital with enormous international resources, will set new patterns of intercultural and international education: In an ecumenical age, Georgetown, a Catholic university in both senses of the word, will establish a model of Christian commitment and human openness. In an age of universal well-being of all people, Georgetown will respond with Christian concern to the needs of the inner city, of the disadvantaged and of the handicapped. In an age of rapid change, wherein the ability to continue to learn and the wisdom to evaluate will be more important than any piece or pattern of pieces of technological, sociological, scientific, literary information or knowledge, Georgetown will continue to concentrate, in new ways indeed, on the growth of individuals and individualized human persons.”

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