Colleen M. Hanycz, who has led La Salle University since 2015, will leave in June for a college presidency in Ohio, the chair of La Salle’s board of trustees announced Monday.
Hanycz, 54, will become president of Xavier University, another Catholic university, in Cincinnati. The board will form a presidential search committee.
“As the first lay woman to lead La Salle, Dr. Hanycz has served the university during a dynamic and disruptive time in American higher education, which continues to this day,” trustees chair William W. Matthews said in a statement to the La Salle community.
Among the highlights of her leadership, he noted her review of university programs, a new “Explorers are Never Lost” brand campaign, and a five-year strategic plan launched in 2017.
“Dr. Hanycz’s leadership here has been marked by an unwavering commitment to the delivery of a practical education guided by the mission of the Christian Brothers,” he said.
Like many colleges, La Salle in recent years has struggled with enrollment and finances, only made more challenging by the coronavirus. In June, the university of nearly 5,000 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students laid off 53 employees — nearly 7% of the full-time workforce — and cut salaries or hours for 48 others. Another 51 vacant staff positions were eliminated.
Hanycz said at the time that La Salle faced millions in losses and additional expenses. If students couldn’t return to campus in the fall because of the pandemic, Hanycz said, schools like La Salle, which are “lightly endowed” and “highly dependent on tuition, room, and board,” would face “a dire financial outlook.”
The college had few students living on campus in the fall and held almost all classes remotely. That will change this month when it welcomes students back to campus residence halls and includes an in-person component for about half its classes.
“It’s certainly going to be helpful to be able to return to an on campus, in-person experience,” Hanycz said in an interview. “Not only is that better from a community perspective and from our ability to deliver on our mission, but it certainly helps the whole financial picture.”
Hanycz said she wasn’t looking to leave La Salle. Her current contract runs to 2024. But she said she was recruited for the Xavier job and allowed herself to be considered.
She noted that she will be the first lay female leader to head Xavier, just as she had been at La Salle.
“After much discernment, I am confident that this is the right time for me to pursue this new opportunity and for La Salle to begin writing the next chapter in its nearly 160-year tradition,” she said in a message to the La Salle community.
Hanycz came to La Salle from Brescia University College, a Catholic school in Canada. La Salle was facing a financial crunch when she arrived in 2015. Freshmen enrollment had plummeted 18% from the year before, and 23 staff members had to be laid off. The school faced a $12 million deficit in its $132 million budget.
She oversaw a restructuring. The university lowered the school’s tuition sticker price in 2016, launched a marketing campaign, and announced plans to eliminate some programs, helping offset the shortfall.
A 2018 plan to sell university art to fund teaching and learning initiatives sparked controversy.
Under Hanycz, La Salle also garnered recognition for the value of its degree. Last year, Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce ranked the school in the top 4% nationally in 10-year earnings, top 7% nationally in 20-year earnings, and top 6% nationally in the 30 and 40 years after graduation.