Steubenville, Ohio, Apr 17, 2011 / 16:07 pm
The Franciscan University of Steubenville has announced that its chancellor and past president Father Michael Scanlan will be retiring on June 30, 2011. Dr. Alan Schreck, a professor of theology at the school described how the 79-year-old priest took a leap of faith to renew the school's Catholic identity.
“He saw his appointment as an opportunity to step out in faith, and do something radical – because a radical solution was needed,” Schreck told CNA. In 1974, the school was a “typical Catholic college,” suffering from cultural and financial upheavals. But the Franciscan priest set out to “make Jesus Christ the Lord of the campus in every aspect.”
“Fr. Michael said we had to establish a clearer Catholic identity, both in the campus life and in our academic offerings,” explained Schreck, who has taught at the school since 1978. In this way, the school took a different path from many other Catholic institutions of its day. “They began hiring people who were solidly Catholic and believed in faithfulness to the magisterium.”
“The rest is history,” said Schreck. Fr. Scanlan was president for 26 years, and has now been chancellor for 11 years.
The school's history began in 1946, when the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular founded the College of Steubenville. But the college might not have survived, if not for the radical decision of a young Harvard law school graduate.
Michael Scanlan had been engaged to be married, and held a position in the legal department of the Air Force. “But one day, at some point, he went out into the woods for a day – just to pray and ask God to reveal his will,” Schreck recalled. “He really wanted to dedicate his life to God, but didn't know how.”
“At the end of the day, he came out convinced that God was calling him to become a priest.”
After entering the Franciscans of the Third Order Regular in 1957, and being ordained a priest seven years later, he eventually became rector of St. Francis Seminary in Pennsylvania. Early in 1974, he met Alan Schreck – a recent college graduate – on the campus of Notre Dame.