Rockhurst Inaugurates 15th President


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“Go Hawks.”

Sandra Cassady, Ph.D., closed her inaugural speech Friday with a cheer, marking her official appointment into the 15th president of Rockhurst University.

Cassady — who assumed duties of the presidency in June following the departure of the Rev. Thomas B. Curran, S.J. — was officially installed Friday, Nov. 11, in a series of afternoon events on campus.

It was the culmination of a presidential transition — the university’s first in 16 years — that began last fall with Fr. Curran’s announcement that the 2021-22 academic year would be his last as the institution’s leader. Following a nationwide search, Cassady was introduced as the successor in February 2022 to a live audience of students, faculty and staff in Arrupe Hall auditorium to a standing ovation.

Cassady has spent nearly 30 years in higher education, first as a faculty member and then in various administrative roles at St. Ambrose University, a Catholic university in Davenport, Iowa. Most recently, she served as dean of the College of Health and Human Services at St. Ambrose, helping develop new programs that led to an increase in the university’s enrollment.

In a Mass at St. Francis Xavier Church to begin the events, Cassady was “missioned” by the Very Rev. Thomas P. Greene, S.J., provincial superior of the Jesuits Central and Southern Province, who entrusted her with the university in its capacity as a work of the Society of Jesus. In addition to her acumen for developing new programs, Cassady has proven herself to be a capable steward of the values and mission at Rockhurst’s core, according to Tom Hastings, M.D., FACP, ’81, chairman of the Rockhurst board of trustees and co-chair of the presidential selection committee.

“We are confident in your commitment to Jesuit, Catholic education, your experience navigating complexities your role will require, and most of all your sincere desire to help our students discover their gifts and talents so they can leave Rockhurst confident in their ability to make our world a better place,” he told Cassady during the installation ceremony in Mason-Halpin Fieldhouse that followed the missioning Mass.

The installation also featured greetings from speakers representing staff, faculty, students, the community, alumni and Cassady’s own family. Her brother, Michael Hauser offered warm congratulations to his sibling, saying that being a successful leader in a contemporary academic institution requires a range of qualities, from intellect to toughness to compassion.

“Rockhurst University has all of that, and so much more in you,” he said. “We are all very proud of the countless lives you have positively impacted with your servant leadership throughout your life’s work.”

Photo of Dr. Sandra Cassady, Ph.D. wearing blue jacket with black trim and gold medallion next to Joe Reardon, wearing windowpane sportcoat and with dark and light blue striped tie.
Sandra Cassady, Ph.D. and Joe Reardon

Also offering a gesture of welcome was Fr. Curran, who in a benediction invoked the tendency of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, to marvel at the beauty of the night sky. He presented a scarf designed with a stellar motif from the Vatican Observatory (run by Jesuits) along with a note of congratulations from its director, Bro. Guy Consolmagno, S.J.

“May they both help you connect to Ignatius, who drew consolation almost every evening by gazing among the stars,” Fr. Curran said.

Reflecting on the theme for the inauguration proceedings, “We Are Called,” Cassady said in her speech that Rockhurst must continue to meet the needs of its students and of the community it calls home.

“We exist to make our city a better place,” she said. “We are called to create a more just world through access to all our academic offerings, innovative programs and learning experiences, and transformative education. I am honored to work alongside my Rockhurst companions, and I am honored to serve as president at Rockhurst University.”