Wheeling Jesuit U. picks new president

WHEELING – The Rev. James Fleming will succeed Richard Beyer as president of Wheeling Jesuit University on July 1 as a result of a unanimous vote by the university’s board of trustees on Thursday.

“Wheeling Jesuit University is a great institution possessing even greater potential,” said Fleming, who now serves as the university’s executive vice president, which will make him the first person to become president at the university after serving there in another capacity. “It has been a great privilege to be a part of this community for the past three years, and I thank the board of trustees for their confidence and the opportunity to continue moving the university forward.”

Beyer, who has served as WJU president since 2010, said he decided not to seek another term as president due to what he termed a “family-oriented decision.” He will work closely with Fleming on the transition.

“The experience here at WJU has been tremendous, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such outstanding people,” Beyer said, adding that Fleming is an “outstanding partner.”

Fleming, 53, initially joined WJU in 2010 as the institution’s first vice president for mission and identity before becoming executive vice president in 2012. He previously served as director of mission planning and assessment for Boston College and was a member of the faculty there from 2000-2010.

A native of Lowell, Mass., and a priest with the New England Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), Fleming also holds a doctorate in education policy, organization, measurement and evaluation from the University of California-Berkeley. He said working and living is such diverse cultures gives him plenty of “real world experience.”

Both Fleming and Beyer acknowledged the university’s role in the city of Wheeling, particularly as city leaders are in the midst of a significant downtown urban renewal project.

“There is no hiding the fact that we have been working with the city and with the Regional Economic Development Partnership to explore possibilities,” Fleming said. “They have been very cooperative.”

“The Wheeling community is very important to Wheeling Jesuit University,” Beyer added.

The Most Rev. Michael J. Bransfield, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, congratulated Fleming on his appointment to succeed Beyer, noting WJU is the only Catholic institution of higher learning in West Virginia.

“I have known Father Fleming since his arrival on campus, and I have always been impressed with his enthusiasm, keen leadership and exceptional commitment to advancing the mission of Wheeling Jesuit,” Bransfield said. “His collaboration with and support of Mr. Richard Beyer was exceptional, and I thank Mr. Beyer for moving the university forward in its enrollment, curriculum, alumni outreach and strategic planning.”

Mimie Helm, chairwoman of the university’s board of trustees, said Fleming is “ideally suited to serve as president of the university. He is a dynamic and visionary leader who possesses a keen knowledge of the university and, obviously, the Jesuit values on which it was founded and continues to operate.”

Helm acknowledged that some may question Beyer’s exit, partially due to the controversial developments involving J. Davitt McAteer, former chief executive officer of the university’s Center for Educational Technologies and the National Technology Transfer Center. McAteer retired from his post in June, a decision Wheeling Jesuit officials said was planned long before revelations of a federal probe involving alleged misappropriation of funds.

“I understand that some may think we are forcing him out, but he helped us plan for this,” Helm said of Beyer. “We are happy with Rick and are sad to see him leave.”

“Under his leadership, WJU has achieved record enrollment, tremendous growth in alumni giving, as well as the establishment of new academic programs in fine arts, engineering and health sciences,” Helm added.

Helm noted that Fleming is “distinctly qualified to build on the momentum generated in recent years and to lead the university’s continued growth as one of the nation’s best liberal arts institutions.”

“In the months and years ahead, the relationship between the Diocese and WJU will continue to grow. The university already supports our Catholic school system in the Diocese, providing excellent secondary instruction as well as a host of learning opportunities at all grade levels. Our parochial school students are involved in many of the same service projects as WJU students and, of course, we sha re a deep passion for educating young people in the finest Catholic tradition,” Bransfield added.