Wave of resignations at St. Joseph's College causes confusion for alumni

Four leaders at St. Joseph's College have announced their resignation since the beginning of October. Why many of them decided to leave is still unclear.

Posted: Oct 17, 2019 12:00 AM
Updated: Oct 17, 2019 12:24 AM

RENSSELAER, Ind. (WLFI) - A wave of resignations from St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer is causing new confusion among alumni. It all started on October 2nd.

The university's Facebook page announced Bill Hogan decided to resign from his role as Vice President for Advancement. After that, Board of Trustees Ned Tonner and Mara Davis resigned, and Chief Information Officer Michael Kohlman is stepping down too. Kohlman said his last day will be November 1st. Hogan's resignation is the only one that has been officially announced by the university. Monday was his last day.

Ned Tonner shared this statement, which he had posted to his private Facebook page:

"I submitted my resignation to the Board of Trustees for Saint Joseph’s College this past Tuesday (October 1st). Bill Hogan’s departure certainly impacted my decision, which I made of my own volition. My vision for the re-birth of SJC aligned with his. I did pour my heart into this and enjoyed co-chairing the Purple Tie Dinner with Mindy Beier and working with others. I only wish the best for Saint Joe’s."

The fountain still shoots water into the sky and the bells still ring every quarter hour on the Rensselaer campus. The bells should signal the end of class for students at St. Joseph's College. Instead, they ring on a silent campus with empty sidewalks.

"Without the alumni, St. Joe's will never come back," said 1989 alumnus Tim Conroy.

This is a sad realization for him. He said he could have gone to a school in Birmingham, Alabama. A place with a much more pleasant climate come February. However he said attending St. Joseph's is a family tradition.

"I started coming to St. Joe's when I was 7-years-old when my brother went here," he said. "I came here in the 80's and met my wife here of almost 30 years, I have two sons who came here. One found his wife here too."

He got his degree in business administration.

"The best part about St. Joe's is that we are family," he said. "The faculty was great. If it wasn't for Sister Catherine Fay, I wouldn't have graduated."

There is a sign on a light pole on the main drive into the school. It reads "Community: Involved for Life." Many alumni feel left in the dark and without any kind of communication ever since St. Joseph's College announced it would close in May of 2017. It was last October that SJC announced it's partnership with Marian University. Communication has been an ongoing struggle since 2017.

"Alumni got notice that there were problems and then two weeks later, it was announced that the school was closing." said Conroy. "It's just mind boggling how something that's been around for 127 years can just fall apart in one day."

1976 alumnus John Paczesny said at times, it was hard to keep faith.

"The day that the announcement broke, it was very difficult for me," he said. "On Easter Sunday of 2017, I said to my wife, we're going to church in Rensselaer and I'm saying goodbye."

Paczesny has kept up the fight, though. He has been vocal from the start about getting his alma mater back on track.

"I've talked to so many alumni over the years, we want new leadership, we want a plan, we want a vision and we haven't seen any of that," he said over the phone. He currently lives in South Bend.

He said Hogan was always accessible and willing to answer his questions about how Core 128 was doing. That's the university's main fundraising program. But now, he said getting information is like pulling teeth.

"Most of the information comes from the St. Joseph's College Facebook page now," he said. "There used to be on the school website a column called 'news' where they would post all newsworthy or official press releases. That has been deleted. They've deleted the board of trustees and every body's email. It's almost nonexistent."

A post appeared on the St. Josephs College Facebook page on Wednesday. It reads, "CONSTRUCTION: Please excuse the dust while we make some changes to our page. Check back soon to see the updates!"

Alumni were sent an update to their emails on Tuesday. It reads, "The 128 Core Partners document targeted December 31, 2019, for the development of “a comprehensive three-year plan.” It does not mention the resignations, but does say they're still fundraising to eventually return to academic programming. In the meantime it estimated operational costs for just the next three years to be "several million dollars."

Both Conroy and Paczesny have similar demands for the future of their university.

"That a new board comes in, one that had nothing to do with the closing, with a whole bunch of expertise," said Conroy.

"I want to be able to walk on my campus again, I want to be able to go in the church and sit there and quietly pray," said Paczesny. "I want to be able to have homecoming activities back on campus."

"We are Pumas and we are involved for life," said Conroy.

News 18 did reach out to SJC through the Facebook page for a comment and some clarification. We have yet to hear back.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32437

Reported Deaths: 2030
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9371546
Lake3347170
Cass15867
Allen135366
St. Joseph121834
Hendricks113567
Hamilton112391
Johnson1092104
Elkhart107028
Madison58259
Porter49521
Bartholomew48634
Clark47141
LaPorte41523
Tippecanoe3803
Howard37620
Jackson3681
Delaware35936
Hancock32327
Shelby32121
Floyd31539
Boone29335
Morgan27024
Vanderburgh2532
Montgomery23317
White2288
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Grant19521
Noble19221
Harrison18821
Dubois1852
Henry1709
Greene16824
Warrick16528
Dearborn16421
Monroe16211
Vigo1507
Lawrence14623
Miami1391
Putnam1347
Jennings1284
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1136
Franklin1068
Kosciusko971
Carroll932
Daviess8416
Marshall801
Steuben802
Wayne755
Newton7410
Wabash732
Fayette714
Jasper621
LaGrange622
Washington521
Fulton471
Jay460
Randolph453
Rush452
Jefferson421
Whitley412
Clay411
Pulaski400
Owen341
Sullivan331
DeKalb331
Brown331
Starke313
Perry260
Wells260
Huntington262
Knox250
Benton250
Tipton241
Crawford230
Blackford202
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Parke180
Spencer171
Posey160
Gibson142
Ohio130
Warren121
Adams121
Vermillion100
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0159
West Lafayette
Broken Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 70°
Kokomo
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 68°
Rensselaer
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 68°
Fowler
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 68°
Williamsport
Overcast
69° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 69°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
65° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 65°
Frankfort
Overcast
69° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 69°
Delphi
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 68°
Monticello
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 68°
Logansport
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 68°
Cooler, less humid weather ahead by the weekend.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events