June 14, 2018, Miami, Florida – Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP, PhD, President of Barry University, has announced her retirement effective June 30, 2019. Sister Linda, who graduated magna cum laude from Barry College for Women in 1962, is the first alumna to become the university’s President, a position she has held since July 2004.
“For the remainder of my tenure as your president, you can rely on me to serve you – our students, faculty, and staff – and our alumni, benefactors, and community partners, energetically and enthusiastically, remaining faithful to and focused on Barry’s Catholic, Dominican identity, its empowering Mission and Core Commitments,” Sister Linda wrote in a letter to the university’s faculty and staff. “As an Adrian Dominican Sister and a very proud Barry alumna, I shall always be grateful for your faithfulness to mission, commitment to demonstrate and expect rigor and excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service, and your devotion to our wondrously diverse student body.”
John Bussel, Chair of Barry University’s Board of Trustees, credits Sister Linda with strengthening the university in numerous ways, including leading Barry successfully through the most turbulent of changes ever in higher education. Her management and operational skills have turned a large, disparate organization into a highly effective institution, he said. “Sister Linda is a guiding light to the Barry community, and she personifies the Adrian Dominican charism to seek truth, make peace, and reverence life.”
During Sister Linda’s 14-year tenure, in spite of challenges such as economic volatility, changing demographics, and nontraditional competitors, Barry has experienced program growth, diversification, institutional re-organization, and new and hybrid learning modalities. A revised Mission Statement now includes Core Commitments that shape student living, learning, leadership, and community engagement initiatives.
Since 2004, the total assets of Barry increased by more than $87 million, 69 percent. In addition, Barry has received local, state, federal, foundation, and individual grant and gifts close to $40 million, supporting basic science research, the renovation of teaching and laboratory spaces, construction of new buildings, scholarships, program development, and nine mission-focused centers and institutes. These include the Center for Human Rights and Social Justice and the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, originally directed by Patricia Siemen, OP, now Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation.
Provisionally credited at the start of Sister Linda’s presidency, the Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law received full accreditation in the Fall of 2006. Currently enrolling over 700 students, the Orlando campus has been expanded with five new buildings. The main campus at Miami Shores also grew with the addition of two residence halls, an office and classroom building for the School of Podiatric Medicine, and the Rene Sylvester Tower on Interstate 95.
Sister Linda has also overseen the expansion of learning opportunities at Barry University. New Extended Learning programs provide students with additional opportunities to earn degrees at various Florida sites through distance education modalities. Barry accommodates the shifting demographic trends, enabling working adults to earn master’s and doctoral degrees.
In the last 14 years, Barry University has become a minority majority institution, with no single group having a majority. In 2016, the Wall Street Journal named Barry University one of the most diverse universities in the United States and recognized it for creating the most multicultural learning environment.
A native of New York, Sister Linda moved to the Miami/Dade County area with her family in 1958. After graduating from Barry in 1962, she entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation. She earned a master’s degree from Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian and a PhD from Michigan State University in 1980.
Sister Linda served at Barry as the chief student life officer from 1969 to 1978 and as founding dean of the School of Professional and Career Education (PACE) and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs from 1981 to 1986. In 1986, she was elected to the General Council, serving under Sister Nadine Foley, OP, the Prioress, until their term was completed in 1992. She was President of Gwynedd-Mercy College (now University) in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, from 1993 to 2002.
Her retirement in 2019 will not mean the end of ministry for Sister Linda; after a sabbatical, she will discern her ministerial options.
June 7, 2018, Caldwell, New Jersey – About 40 students from 13 Dominican colleges and universities “caught the fire” of the Dominican charism May 22-27, 2018, as they attended the annual Dominican Colleges Preaching Conference at Caldwell University, sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell.
“The theme of Dominican Young Adults (DYA) USA is ‘catch the fire,’” noted Sister Mary Soher, OP, Director of Campus Ministry for Dominican University of California. Sister Mary, an Adrian Dominican Sister, brought two students from Dominican University to the conference, and led the opening presentation, “Dominican Spirit in Song.”
Also attending the event were Adrian Dominican Sisters Mary Jones, OP, Director of Mission Education and Heritage Development at Siena Heights University, Adrian, who brought two students with her; Nancy Murray, OP, who portrays St. Catherine of Siena in a one-woman show; and Sara Fairbanks, OP, Director of Vocations for the Adrian Dominican Congregation.
The conference introduced students to Dominican saints as well as to the Dominican family throughout the world: Friars; cloistered nuns; Sisters who serve in active ministries; Associates, lay women and men who are committed to a particular Congregation of Dominican Sisters; the Dominican Laity, who are connected to the Friars; Dominican Volunteers; and Dominican Young Adults, which has chapters at several Dominican colleges and universities throughout the United States, as well as among young adults who are past college.
In addition, the students learned about and experienced the different ways that Dominicans preach – not only from the pulpit, but also through service in response to the signs of the times and through the arts. The conference concluded with Mass, during which the various college groups proclaimed their action plans for when they return to their school in the Fall, as well as their personal action plans.
Sisters Sara Fairbanks, Mary Jones and Mary Soher took time to reflect on the 2018 conference and its impact on the students from Dominican colleges and universities – each looks toward her involvement in late June in the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference at Siena Heights University in Adrian.
“I really enjoy working with other Dominicans in the Dominican family to hand on our preaching charism to our college students,” Sister Sara said. “I take delight in teaching college students the art of liturgical preaching. It does my heart good to hear our young people sharing their spirited and insightful reflections on the Word from their own particular experience of the world.”
Sister Mary Jones said the group was the most diverse that she’s encountered at the conference. “Not only women and men but different cultures,” she said, but first-time participation by some of the universities. She was also impressed by the students’ excitement at meeting various members of the Dominican family – including a cloistered Dominican nun who had graduated from Caldwell University. “The students were asking great questions: What’s a normal day for you as a Sister? How is it that you don’t wear a habit?”
“One of the highlights always is the sending-forth Mass, when you hear everybody’s commitment, including our own, and know that these students are very much on fire with our charism and are looking forward to implementing their plans,” Sister Mary Jones said. “”Their energy is always so amazing.”
Sister Mary Soher agreed. “The students really got into it. They were inspired to learn more about other schools and how they live out the Dominican ideals or pillars…. They came back with ideas of ways to better deepen their relationship with God.” Students also inspired one another to greater involvement in the Dominican family, she added. “Some students are already part of Dominican Young Adults USA and three or four schools are now interested in starting their own DYA chapter.”
Feature photo: Attending the 2018 Dominican Colleges Preaching Conference were: front, from left, Siena Heights students Rochelle Chezick and Alex Wilkinson and back row, from left, Adrian Dominican Sisters Nancy Murray, OP, Mary Jones, OP, Mary Soher, OP, and Sara Fairbanks, OP.