At the end of September, Chestnut Hill College came together to celebrate a truly momentous and historic occasion as William W. Latimer, Ph.D., M.P.H., was inaugurated as the College's seventh -and first male and lay - president in its 99+ year history.
A New Chapter in an Unfinished Story
Marked by a legacy of tradition and risk, Chestnut Hill College was founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph (SSJs) nearly 100 years ago as an institute of higher learning designed to provide an education to women and to empower them to go out into their communities, serving the ‘Dear Neighbor’ with an active and inclusive love. The first graduating class was composed of just a handful of students, marking the first chapter in a nearly 100-year story. Over the next century, the book of Chestnut Hill College has continued to be written as students from all walks of life have traversed the halls, learning not just how to earn a living but how to live.
On Friday, September 29th, another new chapter was added to the rich tapestry of history as Chestnut Hill College celebrated the inauguration of just its seventh president. William W. Latimer, Ph.D., M.P.H., came to Chestnut Hill College in July 2022, succeeding Sister Carol Jean Vale, Ph.D., after a tenure of 30 years. In becoming president, Latimer assumes the mantle of being the first male and first lay president in the College’s history, answering a call that was first tasked to the SSJs nearly a century ago.
"I am deeply honored and privileged to have the opportunity to serve as the President of Chestnut Hill College and to champion its mission," Latimer noted in his Inaugural address. "The work we do collectively together is at the heart of creating spaces where freedom is created not as a right...but as a collaborative effort by a community to engage in responsible action where all are welcome and nurtured by inclusive love to serve the Dear Neighbor."
With festivities held over a week long period, Latimer’s Inauguration provided a beloved celebration and commemoration of the College’s storied past, cherished present, and unarguably bright future. The hallmark of the liberal arts, which continues to remain front and center in the College’s holistic education, married seamlessly with the mission and charism of the SSJs as a new era in the College's history formally began.
Inauguration Week kicked off with the Annual CHC Night at the Phillies, which even rainy skies couldn't stop. Over 500 Griffins gathered in Citizens Bank Park to watch their new president throw out the first pitch and to cheer on the Phillies amid their run to the postseason.
From the baseball field to the concert hall, the Inauguration festivities then transitioned to a focus on the convergence of music and science. Dr. Thomas Schubert provided a lecture showcasing the interconnectedness of the arts and sciences, and afterward, a choir represented by CHC students, friends, and students from Our Mother of Consolation, serenaded the crowd to the sounds of 'Caledonia.' The song preceded the awarding of an honorary degree to Dougie MacLean, OBE, a famous Scottish musician who pledged his support to the College's reinvigorated efforts around the discipline of music.
The return of the Schubert Lecture celebrated the academic side of the Inauguration; however, it was the student-led Griffin Soiree and Collegewide Griffin Fest that showcased the immeasurable pride of Griffin Nation. The soiree allowed students, faculty, staff, and alumni to dance the night away alongside Big Griff as well as Latimer and his family. At the 1st Annual Griffin Fest, three of the four athletic teams playing at home won their games, as a strong contingent of the Chestnut Hill College community came out in full support of the Griffins. The fest, held after Open House, offered a chance for all, including our prospective students and families, to see what makes Griffin Nation such a special place.
Of course, the marquee of the week's events was the Inauguration ceremony itself. Sorgenti Arena provided a beautiful backdrop as the College’s two former living presidents, local politicians, alumni, students, faculty, staff, and representatives from the Association of the Sisters of Saint Joseph (ACSSJ), Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education (SEPCHE), SSJs, and others, offered their remarks and support behind Latimer's presidential vision.
A Vision Toward the Future
On Thursday, September 28th, Latimer affirmed his commitment to the mission of the SSJs and Chestnut Hill College in a special mass. On Friday at the Inauguration ceremony, that theme of commitment and just relationships carried over, as many spoke of the College’s warm and welcoming community to which Latimer is joining.
The ceremony began with a special prayer and invocation offered by Sister Michelle Lesher ’00, Interim Chief Officer for Mission and Ministry.
“May we find inspiration, encouragement, and support in our President’s vision and leadership,” Lesher offered while asking for guidance, wisdom, grace, and blessings for Latimer, his family, and the Chestnut Hill College family. “Impel us to work collaboratively, fostering an environment where transformative education, just relationships, innovation, and genuine care for one another and every kind of Dear Neighbor without distinction is truly possible.”
Following the invocation, others offered remarks on behalf of the new president including PA State Representative Tarik Khan, Mayor Jim Kenney, SEPCHE President, Dr. Michael Mittelman, Dr. Nancy Blattner representing the ACSSJ, and SSJ congregational president, Sister Maureen Erdlen, SSJ. In addition, members of the College’s faculty, staff, student, and alumni constituencies also offered their kind words in support of Latimer’s presidency.
“Dr. Latimer, as we embark on our next century, with your leadership and vision, we are all excited to be part of a shared vision and future based on a culture of compassion and inclusivity which is the legacy and charism of the Sisters of Saint Joseph,” noted Nancy Dachille, Director of Career Services, as she spoke on behalf of the College’s staff.
Offering remarks on behalf of the ACSSJ, Blattner echoed the excitement behind Latimer’s presidency. “Chestnut Hill is blessed,” noted Blattner. “Bill is an experienced leader who has held the position of an inaugural chair, served as a founding dean, worked as a vice president and president of other private and faith-based institutions…He is a passionate supporter of the liberal arts, academic excellence, and shared governance. Furthermore, he has demonstrated compassionate concern for students while compiling a strong record of scholarship, publications, and grant awards. Bill is a servant leader, an academic, and a visionary.”
As mentioned by Blattner, Latimer has established a distinguished career in higher education, rising through the ranks of faculty to administration at institutions including the College of New Rochelle, City University of New York, Lehman College, the University of Florida, Johns Hopkins University, and at his prior position of Vice President of Mercy College, Bronx Campus. Holding a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Rhode Island and an M.P.H. in Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota, Latimer has also experienced immense success in other areas, including fundraising, grant writing initiatives, strategic planning, enrollment management, and forming and sustaining community partnerships across both civic and business sectors. During his Inaugural address, he spoke on some of this breadth of experience, including working in a post-apartheid South Africa caring for women with HIV, and how it led him to where he is today, as president of Chestnut Hill College.
“I think it is nearly impossible to convey in words alone the truly sacred work that is enacted at Chestnut Hill College on a daily basis with a trajectory that spans nearly 100 years and has radically transformed the lives of so many who have gone on to embody the charisms of the Sisters of Saint Joseph who founded the College in 1924 and in so doing also embody the nature of freedom characterized by the articulation of self through responsible action,” noted Latimer. “For me, the unparalleled bravery and selflessness that I witnessed in South Africa and that I now witness each day at Chestnut Hill College give me hope for the future.”
For the College's new president, that future includes the addition of a nursing program, one that in Latimer’s own words, will “complement the long-standing excellence in the liberal arts which will always be the cornerstone of the College.”
Strongly featured in the Inauguration was Latimer’s family, his wife Dr. Maria Kahn Latimer, and daughters Ava, Dorothy, and Willa, who all joined Latimer on stage as he was invested as the new president. In becoming the first lay and male president in the College’s history, Latimer is also the first president to be both a husband and father, something that is not lost on the community he has joined.
“On this day, we also ask for your blessings on Dr. Latimer’s family,” expressed Lesher in her invocation. “May they each flourish and may they feel part of the fabric of this community.”
To read more about the Inauguration Week events, see photo galleries, and watch videos, please visit www.chc.edu/inauguration.
- Marilee Gallagher '14