Jesuits End 65-Year Affiliation With Financially Struggling Wheeling Jesuit University

Wheeling Jesuit University’s board of trustees has declared a ‘financial exigency’ at the school, officials confirmed Tuesday. Photo by Scott McCloskey

WHEELING — Wheeling Jesuit University will have a new name for the coming academic year, as on Wednesday the university’s board of directors and the Maryland Province for the Society of Jesus agreed to end the university’s Jesuit affiliation at the end of this school year.

In a statement released Wednesday, Wheeling Jesuit officials said the move is being done to realign the schools programs “to better equip students for the 21st century economy, while refocusing to emphasize core academic programs in health sciences, business administration and education.”

The statement says the move away from being a Jesuit university “in no way impacts the academic credentials of past, present or future students, or changes (the school’s) distinctive Roman Catholic identity.” Wheeling Jesuit officials also noted an agreement is being discussed between the school and the Society of Jesuits to have an ongoing Jesuit presence on campus.

“As the university confronts challenging circumstances, our commitment to living our mission by serving our students remains steadfast. While an end to Jesuit sponsorship is difficult for all, refocusing our academic program on those areas that reflect the intersection of the faculty’s expertise, student and workforce demands, and financial sustainability is the best path forward for the university and our students,” said Wheeling Jesuit University President Michael P. Mihalyo, Jr. “We are grateful that we will be able to maintain a Jesuit presence and influence and continue our rich Catholic tradition.”

The decision follows troubling financial times at Wheeling Jesuit, as the university recently announced it was dropping 19 of its academic programs.

The re-branded university — the new name of which is yet to be determined — will continue to offer Mass and Catholic campus ministry at the Chapel of Mary and Joseph, while the Ignatian ideals of service and Catholic teachings on social justice will also continue at the Appalachian Institute.

The Rev. Robert Hussey, S.J., Provincial Superior of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, stated: “The Jesuits are deeply grateful for the opportunity we have had to contribute to the important mission of Wheeling Jesuit University over many years. The Maryland Province understands that a reorganization of the university is necessary to provide for a vibrant future and regrets that this will not allow our Jesuit affiliation to continue beyond the current academic year. We recognize this will be a difficult transition but wish the university much success in the years ahead of serving the people of West Virginia and beyond.”

The College was founded in 1954 by the fourth bishop of Wheeling, Archbishop John Joseph Swint, who named it “Wheeling College” and subsequently invited the Jesuits to administer the institution. In 1988, the Rev. Thomas Acker renamed it to “Wheeling Jesuit College,” and in 1996, he changed the name again to current-day “Wheeling Jesuit University.”


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