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James Conneely named first male president of Notre Dame of Maryland

The Baltimore Sun
February 27, 2012
A man will lead Notre Dame of Maryland University for the first time in its 116-year history, after the board of trustees announced Thursday its unanimous choice of James Conneely as the institution's next president.

"It's a boy!" said board chairwoman Patricia J. Mitchell, drawing giggles from a crowd of students, professors and alumni who had gathered on campus to hear the decision.

Mitchell, a Notre Dame graduate, said she went into the search assuming that the next president would be a woman. She remained skeptical, even when Conneely emerged as one of 12 semifinalists for the job, she said. But she and other university leaders said they could not ignore Conneely's instant affinity for students and faculty during a recent campus visit or his grasp of Notre Dame's history as an intimate college for undergraduate women.

"He was just so far superior in his ability to engage and inspire the community," Mitchell said in explaining why he beat two female finalists. "People kept saying to me, 'He gets us.' And he did."

Conneely, who serves as associate provost for enrollment and vice president for student affairs at Eastern Kentucky University, said he never would have submitted his name if he hadn't expected fair consideration from Notre Dame, which admits male graduate students but remains all-female at the undergraduate level.

"I didn't get the sense they were surprised," he said of his meetings with students. "But they properly inquired about how I would embrace and support the mission at Notre Dame."

He pointed out that he has always hired women for key leadership positions and pushed for deeper attention to women's issues on the campuses where he has worked. He said no one need fear that he will steer the university away from its roots as a women's college.
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