Xavier University Names First Female President in School's 190-Year History

On July 1, 2021, Colleen M. Hanycz (pronounced Han-ich) will become the 35th president of Xavier — the first female president and the first lay person to oversee the school.

Jan 11, 2021 at 5:07 pm
click to enlarge President Hanycz - Photo: Provided by Xavier University
Photo: Provided by Xavier University
President Hanycz

For the first time in Xavier University’s 190-year history, a woman has been named the next president of this prominent Catholic school. On July 1, 2021, Colleen M. Hanycz, PhD (pronounced Han-ich), will become the 35th president of Xavier. She is succeeding Fr. Michael J. Graham, who has served as president since 2001. 

“Following a comprehensive search including a deep, talented and diverse pool of candidates,” says Vince Caponi, Chairman of Xavier’s Board of Trustees, “Dr. Hanycz’s leadership, academic credentials, character and commitment to Catholic higher education highlight her ability to serve as the next president and lead Xavier into the future.”

Hanycz is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She says that she and her husband are excited to move to Cincinnati and are looking forward to Oktoberfest — something that was big in her hometown growing up. According to her bio on Xavier University website, she loves higher education because it gives her the ability to “participate in forming the next generation of ethical, engaged, curious, unconventional and enlightened citizens.” She also enjoys baking and gardening to destress.

This is not the first time Hanycz has made history as a female in higher education. She is the current President of La Salle University in Philadelphia, a Catholic University. Hanycz was the first female president of La Salle, and she will finish her term there before she steps into her new role at Xavier. She also served as Principal (President) of Brescia University College in London, Ontario, Canada. Brescia is a Catholic women’s university, and she served there for seven years.

“Xavier’s lived mission is deeply appealing to me,” Hanycz says in a release. “As a Jesuit, Catholic university committed to serving society by forming students intellectually, morally and spiritually for lives of solidarity and service, Xavier’s values strongly align with my own. Building on the tremendous legacy of Fr. Michael Graham, S.J., I am excited to partner with Xavier’s community in writing the next chapter in its storied history.”

Her academic background also does not disappoint. She used to be an associate professor of law and has shown a love for student-centered education throughout her career. 

Hanycz will not only be the first woman, she will also be the first lay person (aka not an ordained member of the church) to oversee the university. Xavier says that of the 26 other Jesuit, Catholic colleges in America, 15 have lay people as president and only three have a female president.