Joseph R. Marbach, Ph.D., was inaugurated as Georgian Court University’s ninth president on October 16, 2015. The distinction was formally bestowed by chair of the Georgian Court University (GCU) Board of Trustees Louesa M. Lardieri-Wright ’75 and councilor and member of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Leadership Team Mary Pat Garvin, RSM, Ph.D.
Ms. Lardieri-Wright said that President Marbach came to this platform with the “complete confidence and respect of the Board of Trustees, the faculty, the students, the staff, and the alumni of Georgian Court University.”
Speaking to President Marbach directly, Ms. Lardieri-Wright told the new president that he had the university’s “congratulations, prayers, and full support.”
Early in his inaugural address, which focused on his theme, “Answering the Call: Transformation through Catholic Education,” President Marbach credited the current success of the university to the leadership, vision, and dedication of previous presidents Rosemary E. Jeffries, RSM, Ph.D., ’72; Barbara A. Williams, RSM, ’63; and Maria Cordis Richey, RSM, Ph.D., ’50; along with the whole community of Mercy Sisters. Now, at the beginning of his term as president, he called for a renewed commitment to “answer the call to transform lives through higher education by encouraging our students to pursue their passion in an environment infused with the Mercy core values of respect, integrity, compassion, service, and justice.”
Challenges and Opportunities
President Marbach’s address touched on the top concerns that will be affecting the university during his presidency. He noted that Georgian Court must respond to the increasing diversity of the student body, both in terms of ethnic diversity and the influx of nontraditional students. He also spoke about the pressures of the economy that are affecting both his administration and GCU students, noting the struggles that resulted from the Great Recession of 2008 and the debts that students incur. “While some of the debt horror stories are exaggerated,” he said, “the pressure to contain costs is real, and is forcing the industry to reexamine how we do business. Georgian Court is not immune to these pressures.”
Despite the challenges he mentioned, President Marbach emphasized that Georgian Court’s Catholic identity will work in favor of the university. “As the only Catholic university serving Central and Southern New Jersey,” he said, “we are uniquely situated to provide the students in the Trenton, Metuchen, and Camden dioceses—and beyond—the opportunity to discover their talents and prepare for lives of purpose.” He had noted earlier in his speech that Georgian Court University offers “a value-added and values-based education that focuses on student learning,” and that the university would increasingly add value by partnering with the business, educational, and nonprofit communities. In addition, he expressed his goal to expand experiential and engaged learning opportunities for students through new partnerships with Catholic high schools, two-year colleges, and graduate institutions.
On a personal note, President Marbach reviewed his journey to Georgian Court University, citing the similarities of LaSalle University, Temple University, Seton Hall University, and Georgian Court, all places where he has worked. “All were founded or were inspired by a patron or patroness committed to transforming the lives of those less fortunate or underserved through education.”
President Marbach concluded his inaugural address with a call to action for the Georgian Court community. “I ask each of you to join Georgian Court as we renew our commitment to answer the call—the call to transform lives through higher education. The call to encourage our students to pursue their passion in an environment infused with Mercy and guided by respect, integrity, compassion, service, and, especially, justice.”
Bishop O’Connell Inspires at Inaugural Mass
Prior to the inauguration ceremony, there was an Inaugural Mass celebrated in President Marbach’s honor. The celebrants of the Mass included the Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M., JCD, Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton and the Reverend Anthony DiPalma.
In his homily, Bishop O’Connell addressed President Marbach and the GCU community, saying “Begin your service with faith, Joseph, firm faith in God and place your life and service in his hands. Likewise, I encourage this community of learning to do the same as a new chapter begins for you.”
As a past president of The Catholic University of America, Bishop O’Connell assured President Marbach that there would be challenges ahead. His advice to the new president was, “Never fear that identity; never apologize for or compromise it; never turn your back on what it demands of you and this university.”
The Mass ended on a very lively note, with applause and cheers for GCU’s eighth president, Sister Rosemary Jeffries, and the Sisters of Mercy. The Mass concluded with a very lively recessional song, “Go Make a Difference,” that had the audience all-but dancing in the aisles.
Story contributed by freelance writer Michele Hujber, APR.