A 1989 graduate of the university, the priest has a long affiliation with the school. He served in 1998 and 1999 as assistant to Fr. Michael Scanlan, and is closely associated with Scanlan's tenure at the university.
Scanlan is the long-time university president who is credited with imbuing a failing regional college with a sense of "dynamic orthodoxy," introducing the charismatic renewal to its campus, stabilizing the college financially, and attracting faculty and students from across the country.
Pivonka played a key role in one of Scanlan's major initiatives: the university's "household" system. Households, small single-gender, dorm-based faith communities, were among the aspects of university life Scanlan introduced in order to support the faith formation of students. Pivonka served as director of household support from 1996 to 1998.
The priest has also served as director of the university's well-known youth conferences, a professor of theology, director of the school's Austria program, and as vice president for mission and planning from 2003 to 2005.
In recent years, the priest has led Franciscan Pathways, an evangelistic initiative of his Francscan province, focused on conversion, spiritual formation, and the Holy Spirit in the lives of Catholics. In that role, he produced "The Wild Goose" video series on the Holy Spirit, as well as other documentaries and pastoral videos.
Pivonka "brings a unique array of perspective, experience, and qualifications to this role. His work as a nationally known preacher and evangelist combined with prior senior-level administrative experience at Franciscan will serve the University well," the university's board chairman, Fr. Malachi Van Tassell, TOR, said in a March 22 statement.