MacDowell Looks Back Before Departure

Arthur Dowell, Web Master/ Online Sports Editor

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three part series to celebrate the accomplishments of President MacDowell’s 15 years here. He will leave with the class of 2013.

As President Michael A. MacDowell counts down the months to retirement, his accomplishments during his 15-year tenure may easily be a taken-for-granted part of the background of everyday college life.

But they are significant, likely greater than the campus community dreamed or imagined when he walked onto campus. MacDowell said that when he took the job, he saw a lot of potential in both the school and the people, and it was his job to meet it.

“It was discouraging to see people not knowing how good they really were,” says MacDowell. “I saw a lot of upside to the school and wanted to focus on moving the school ahead.”

MacDowell has done just that, and he led the school to unprecedented growth while following the charisms of mercy, service, justice, and hospitality, which the school was built upon.

One of his largest, although unseen, accomplishments is tremendous growth of the annual fund.  By increasing the fund from $337,000 in 1998 to $1,115,000 today, he has more than tripled the money the school raises each year. Student enrollment also sharply increased. There were 189 newly admitted first year students during his first semester as president,. In 2012, the class counted 511.

Far more students now live on campus.  Only 450 of the 1086 students lived in dorms during his first year. MacDowell had a plan to get people to take notice of the opportunities they had for residential living, and the school supplemented room and board to entice them to live on campus.

MacDowell said many of his responsibilities were new to him, and he excelled as quickly as a high school Valedictorian in English 115.

“I wasn’t involved as much in the aspects of student admission, marketing, board relations until I became president,” says MacDowell. “The whole experience was eye opening for me.”

The results of his experience are literally eye-catching. Two of MacDowell’s most noteworthy additions are the three-story Mary Kintz Bevevino Library and the renovation of the Munson Center, which today holds the television studio and communications department media labs. Two-thirds of the funds for both projects were raised by June 1998, and MacDowell and staff were able to raise the final third  needed for completion in 1999.

The facelift helped attract people of different scenes and majors.

MacDowell said he knew the school had a reputation for the health and medical fields including physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, and medical imaging, so he grew them by adding both speech language pathology and physicians assistant majors to the curriculum.

Not all his changes were academic or residential – he picked up the pace of the sports program, by adding both men’s and women’s lacrosse programs in his fifth year at the school.

“I was used to seeing a lot of kids having a stick in their hands from my days in New York,” he says. “I looked at it as a way to branch out our athletics department and get interest from those from great distances who played lacrosse.”

But for that to happen, the school had to first purchase 24 acres of land and create an all-purpose field for both fall and spring sports. MacDowell said the school had a grass field for both soccer team,s and he knew it would be difficult to keep it in good condition for both seasons.

In 2002, the school constructed Manglesdorf field and today it hosts football, soccer, lacrosse, track and field and field hockey.

MacDowell had three main goals of boosting admission rates, fundraising, and increasing the visibility of Misericordia. He did all that early in his tenure. Giving credit where it is due, MacDowell said a lot of the credit goes to his wife and first lady Tina MacDowell.

“It’s a 24 hour, seven days a week job, and I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish half of what I’ve done without Tina.”

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