By Molly K. McCarthy, Writer-Editor, Le Moyne College Office of Communications
Le Moyne College President Linda LeMura, Ph.D., used her fall convocation address to invoke the nearly 500-year-old tradition of Jesuit education – one that is resilient, flexible and steeped in innovation. During her remarks, LeMura noted, “While other institutions were building ivory towers, Jesuit colleges and universities were becoming roads, bridges – structures intended to connect our students and to lead them into new ways of knowing, being and believing.”
“By its very nature, a Jesuit education does not thrive in an atmosphere of detachment or privilege; it demands engagement in the world,” she told the campus community. “At Le Moyne College, we educate students not so they can insulate themselves from struggle or wrap themselves in material comforts. We educate students so they can heal a fragmented world.”
This month, LeMura, who has led the College since July 1st, was formally inaugurated as its fourteenth president. She is the first lay woman ever to serve at the helm of a Jesuit college or university in the United States. Her work at the College is inspired by Pope Francis’ call for Catholic educational institutions to “offer to all an approach to education that has as its aim the full development of the person, which responds to the right of every person to access knowledge.” Her vision of Le Moyne as “a place that develops compassionate, engaged and forward-thinking leaders” is inseparable from the Pontiff’s message and the College’s Catholic, Jesuit identity.
“The Jesuits set the bar extraordinarily high in administering and establishing schools others would want to emulate,” LeMura said recently. “I have always been particularly impressed by the ways they use art, literature and philosophy to weave the tale of the human experience.”
LeMura is not new to Le Moyne, having served as the dean of arts and sciences for three years and provost and vice president of academic affairs for seven. However, her role as president has provided her with a unique vantage point to reflect on what she sees as one of the most serious issues facing colleges and universities today: the commodification of education. “Students and families are extremely preoccupied with, and not unreasonably so, finding a job after they earn their degrees. Certainly we want them to do well,” she said. “Beyond that, we also want them to be thoughtful citizens who are nimble and interested in the world around them, so that they will be successful in their lives and not just in their jobs.”
To that end, one of LeMura’s primary aims in her first year as president has been to encourage a dialogue about the value of higher education, particularly Jesuit, liberal arts education. Grounded in rigor and ethics, it is an education that “provides students with expertise in their fields of study as well as the ability to communicate effectively, collaborate with others across disciplines, and continue to learn,” LeMura said. These skills continue to be absolutely critical, a point corroborated by employers. What’s more, they are inculcated in the curriculum across campus, from the College of Arts and Sciences to the Madden School of Business to the School of Graduate and Professional Studies.
“The value of a liberal arts education at Le Moyne is that we are developing individuals for whom the intellectual life is inseparable from their sensitivity to others and their habit of giving back,” LeMura said. “Beyond that, our graduates are adaptive and able to teach themselves so their learning never expires. They make a habit of critical inquiry, which unlocks disciplines that are not initially their own.”
As she looks to the future, LeMura is developing a new strategic plan that “will allow Le Moyne to meet the challenges ahead while preserving the integrity of what the College does well.” To that end, her priorities include expanding the number of Jesuits who teach at the College through its visiting professor program; boosting the College’s presence outside of Central New York; and increasing financial support to students to ensure that a Le Moyne education remains affordable and accessible. She will measure the College’s success in its ability to attract the most talented students, regardless of their financial circumstances; hire and retain the most sought-after faculty from around the globe; and in the ways that the College’s graduates lead and serve their communities.
LeMura said that she hopes to provide the College with “leadership that is grounded in energy and collaboration” and which “accepts change with gusto and enthusiasm.”
“Now that I am in this role and I have met with hundreds of alumni, I am awestruck by the passion that they have for this institution, and bringing that passion back to campus is powerful,” she said. “It is an affirmation of why we do what we do.”
About Dr. LeMura
A Syracuse, NY native and graduate of Bishop Grimes High School, Dr. LeMura is a summa cum laude graduate of Niagara University. She received her master’s degree and doctorate, both in applied physiology, from Syracuse University. Prior to arriving at Le Moyne, she served in several roles at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, including professor, graduate program director, and interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Her fields of research and expertise are pediatric obesity, pediatric applied physiology, lipid metabolism and energy metabolism. She has taught applied physiology, anatomy and physiology, bioethics and the biology of aging.