Longest Serving President of Seton Hill Sparked Growth and Development
November 02, 2013
Author: Molly Robb Shimko
A 1957 alumna of Seton Hill, JoAnne Boyle served as President of Seton Hill from 1987 until her retirement in June 2013. Prior to becoming President, JoAnne Boyle served as professor of English at Seton Hill and chair of the English Department. She was a tireless champion of the liberal arts. She once wrote, “I can’t imagine what life would be like without grounding in the liberal arts. Without a foundation in the arts and sciences, people cannot be as effective in the world; they miss the frame of reference that helps them compare and think carefully about a subject. I think there is a hunger in us and a yearning for the knowing of where what we do and who we are fits into a larger picture and the study of the liberal arts provides that for us.”
According to Sr. Lois Sculco, Vice President for Institutional Identity, Mission and Student Life at Seton Hill, “JoAnne Boyle was an exceptional teacher. She taught because she was passionate about the subject matter and was deeply satisfied when she found students who shared that passion. And, JoAnne was a fearless leader for Seton Hill. As a visionary and a risk-taker, she opened many doors and helped others see possibilities that otherwise they might not realize were there.”
JoAnne Boyle’s tenure was marked by numerous achievements. Seton Hill University Interim President, Bibiana Boerio said, “She was at the forefront of leaders who recognized the value of a university to the economic stabilization and growth of downtowns. Shortly after Seton Hill’s plans for the Performing Arts Center in downtown Greensburg solidified, the University and the City received recognition from the Brookings Institute as a model program for the way universities can drive economic development in communities. Her vision brought programs of national prominence to Seton Hill including the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine at Seton Hill opportunity, the University’s highly ranked physician assistant program and the Center for Orthodontics.”
Michele Ridge, Chair of the Seton Hill University Board of Trustees said, “JoAnne Boyle was remarkable. Because of her leadership, Seton Hill experienced an incredible transformation from a small women’s undergraduate college to a coeducational university with an enrollment of more than 2,500 students. She worked diligently to strengthen the University’s academic and financial foundations and led Seton Hill forward by focusing campus resources on programs, faculty, key personnel and facilities that positioned the University as an educational leader in the nation.”
Ridge continued, “In recognition of JoAnne Boyle’s courageous leadership, the University’s new Health Sciences Center will be named in her honor. The JoAnne Woodyard Boyle Health Sciences Center will help ensure that our students are well prepared for graduate study, research and careers in science and healthcare.”
Bishop of Greensburg, Lawrence E. Brandt, who serves as Honorary Chairman of Seton Hill’s Board of Trustees said, “On the occasion of the death of Dr. JoAnne Boyle, I extend in the name of the Diocese of Greensburg and in my own name as bishop our heartfelt sympathy to her husband, Arthur, and their children Arthur III, Elizabeth, Terrence, John, Patrick, Teig and Morgan. We assure the Boyle family of our prayers that the Lord give Dr. Boyle the reward of her goodness. Our sympathy and prayerful remembrance likewise go out to the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill and the faculty, administration, alumni and students of the Seton Hill University community.”
Bishop Brandt continued, “Under Dr. Boyle’s 25 years of leadership as president, this Catholic, liberal arts university has grown in both its scope and service to the community and the region following in the rich tradition of faith and academic excellence established by its founders, the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill. We thank the Lord for the years Dr. Boyle lived and worked among us. May she now rest in the Lord’s embrace and sing his praises forever.”
Sr. Catherine Meinert, Provincial Superior and President of the U.S. Province of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill added, “When you spoke with JoAnne, you sensed immediately her commitment to our students, her energy, her wit, and of course, her wisdom. You always wanted to hear more about anything she had to say. She will be missed, especially by the Sisters of Charity who were such an integral part of her life.”
The Seton Hill University Board of Trustees designated JoAnne Boyle President Emerita in June 2013. Boyle was the University’s first president to receive the title. In June the Board also acknowledged how Boyle, as an educator, affected the lives of countless young people in a profound way. Michele Ridge said, “As a way to celebrate JoAnne’s commitment to education, the Excellence in Teaching Awards were named in her honor. The JoAnne Woodyard Boyle Excellence in Teaching Awards will recognize JoAnne’s tenure in the classroom by honoring those teachers with a passion for learning and a deep care and concern for their students.”
B. Patrick Costello, Esq., Seton Hill Emeritus Trustee and General Counsel for the University said, “JoAnne cherished our students and believed they would transform the world the way the Sisters of Charity, our pioneering founders, did when they established this wonderful place more than a century ago. And, JoAnne loved the Sisters of Charity and this university that she helped them build. We will all miss her very much.”
Don Francis, President of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Pennsylvania (AICUP) commented, “Seton Hill, where enrollment has grown 60 percent during the last decade under JoAnne Boyle’s presidency, plays a growing role in the City of Greensburg’s and the region’s economy. Indeed, JoAnne Boyle made Seton Hill an engine of prosperity for the community.”
Former Mayor of the City of Greensburg, Karl Eisaman, added, “It was a privilege to be a colleague of JoAnne’s. She imagined a community revitalized by a determined partnership of culture, commerce, government and education. Her vision to bring vital Seton Hill programs into downtown Greensburg created a new future for the City and helped our town become an attractive destination and a better place to live and work.”
As a result of JoAnne Boyle’s leadership, multi-million dollar capital campaigns restored the University’s historic Administration Building and led to the construction of the Katherine Mabis McKenna Center, two residence halls, Farrell Hall and DeChantal Hall, the Athletic Field House, athletic fields and the Performing Arts Center.
Numerous endowed scholarship funds were created during Boyle’s tenure to help ensure the affordability of a Seton Hill education for thousands of students. Michele Ridge commented, “Containing costs and providing students with generous financial aid awards were hallmarks of JoAnne Boyle’s administration.” The University experienced 14 years of balanced budgets and operating surpluses under Boyle’s leadership.
During Boyle’s presidency, Seton Hill strengthened its international faculty and student exchange programs, established the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education (featuring The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference), opened a Women’s Business Center, a Center for Family Therapy, a Center for Orthodontics and the Wukich Center for Entrepreneurial Opportunities.
Sr. Gemma Del Duca, Co-Director of Seton Hill’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education in Israel said, “JoAnne Boyle creatively supported the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education and actively participated in preparing educators to mend our world through understanding and reconciliation.”
Under Boyle’s tenure, Seton Hill integrated mobile technology into the University’s curriculum. Boyle wrote about mobile learning, “In my many years of college experience, I believe that nothing has changed the landscape of education the way mobile technology has. When the Oxford English Dictionary was first published—or when the first encyclopedia was released—people were stunned by such a treasure trove of knowledge. Of course, both can be found now using the iPad—along with so much more, all at your fingertips. By embedding mobile technology into a rigorous learning environment, we, as educators, are not only providing students with unimpeded access to all the world’s learning, we are also supplying them with the tools to create new ideas, new art, new horizons.”
In recent years, Boyle led the institution’s move to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II and its latest move into the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). In 2012, Seton Hill was recognized as the highest academic ranking school in the NCAA Division II East Region.
Boyle received a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in English from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) degree from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from Seton Hill.
Boyle served as board chair of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, and the International Women’s Forum of Pennsylvania. She was named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania and later served as president of the Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania. Boyle served on the boards of the Economic Growth Connection, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the University of Pittsburgh’s Board of Trustees and its College of Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors, Westmoreland Museum of American Art and the Honor Board at WQED and was a former board member of the Council for Independent Colleges and Universities, 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, Steel Industry Heritage Corporation, United Way of Westmoreland County, and Westmoreland Regional Health System.
A native of White Plains, New York and brought up in Charleston, West Virginia, JoAnne Boyle was born on October 27, 1935. She was a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Ligonier, Pa. Her parents, Josephine and Gordon Woodyard, predeceased her. She is survived by her husband of 55 years, Arthur Boyle, Jr., seven children, Arthur Boyle III, Elizabeth Boyle McDonald, Terrence Boyle, John Boyle, Patrick Boyle, Teig Boyle, Morgan Boyle, and 13 grandchildren. In addition, she is survived by her sister, Nancy Woodyard Chilcoat and brother, Gordon Woodyard, Jr.
Visitation will be held in the Parlors on the second floor of the Administration Building at Seton Hill University from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Monday, November 4; and from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 5. JoAnne Boyle’s funeral Mass will be held in St. Joseph Chapel at Seton Hill on Wednesday, November 6 at 11:00 a.m. with Msgr. David Rubino officiating. Private interment will follow the service at the Sisters of Charity Cemetery at Seton Hill. Pantalone Funeral Home, Inc. is in charge of arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, the Boyle family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Seton Hill University Reeves Library or to the JoAnne Woodyard Boyle Health Sciences Center at Seton Hill University. Memorials may be sent to Seton Hill University, Office of Institutional Advancement, One Seton Hill Drive, Greensburg, Pennsylvania 15601.