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.