“The community along this river doesn’t need a special reason to celebrate,” said Our Lady of Holy Cross College Board of Regents chairman Deacon Larry Oney.
“Certainly no one could argue tonight that it is fitting to celebrate,” he said April 12 as he observed the investiture of Ronald J. Ambrosetti, Ph.D., as the 17th president of Our Lady of Holy Cross College.
“It is a time to celebrate and renew our commitment to Catholic education and embrace the possibilities of tomorrow for this college,” Deacon Oney said.
Sister Ann Lacour, congregational leader of the Marianites of Holy Cross, ex-officio member of the Board of Regents and chair of the Marianite members of Our Lady of Holy Cross College Corporation, gave a history of Our Lady of Holy Cross College, founded in 1916 and run by the Marianites.
She also welcomed Ambrosetti and encouraged him to minister alongside the Marianites and those working to uphold the mission of the college to educate the minds and hearts of its students.
“This is another moment in time to gather and celebrate all that has been and, more specially, all that is to come,” Sister Ann said. She told Ambrosetti that nothing is impossible with God, “who is working in our midst.”
She then invited attendees to extend their hands to bestow a blessing on Ambrosetti.
“The spirit of the living God is upon you,” she said. “Remember, it is God’s hand that is guiding everything, and it is God that is guiding all things.”
Deacon Oney and Marianite Sister Ann Lacour then formally bestowed the medallion of the college upon him.
Ambrosetti displayed his English writing skills at the ceremony with a recollection of a mission trip that opened his world beyond college, impacted his life and put him on a path that led to the presidency of Our Lady of Holy Cross College.
Mission trip awakening
It was the summer of 1966 when Ambrosetti and friends traveled on a mission trip to rural West Virginia on summer break from Loyola College in Baltimore to paint houses in a poor but proud mining town in West Virginia.
Even though he had viewed a film in college on the “Holy Ghost People” in Appalachia, nothing prepared him for his experiences on that trip, and it stuck with him.
Ambrosetti said he witnessed the generosity of a family he was helping and was invited inside the home of Margaret Rich to view a memorial of the human spirit erected to former President John F. Kennedy, whom she had met while he criss-crossed America during his presidential campaign. She told Ambrosetti that was the last time a Catholic had visited her town of Sulphur Hills.
“Education enriches life, but life enriches education,” Ambrosetti said. “It is the educating of the mind and the heart and the spirit.” The trip was the merging of his college studies and his experience; his brain and heart were moved forever.
So this same mission at Our Lady of Holy Cross College was something Ambrosetti has easily embraced since he stepped on campus last July.
The native of Baltimore has a Ph.D. in English from Bowling Green University (Ohio). He has served in teaching and administrative roles at the State University of New York College of Fredonia, Roger Williams University in Rhode Island and California State University at Dominguez Hills, and most recently he was provost and dean at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., before coming to Our Lady of Holy Cross College.
New Orleans locale a plus
Ambrosetti wants to build on the fact that the college is in New Orleans. He is bolstering the curriculum by adding a Ph.D. in counseling and will soon add a Ph.D. in executive leadership, which he introduced successfully in Rochester. Along with a Ph.D. in pharmacy, it helped the school double its faculty and grow from 3,000 to 5,000 students in less than 10 years.
His experience at other colleges also taught him the value of marketing beyond the immediate area to attract students seeking a Catholic education nationwide and even in Latin America. Ambrosetti hopes to establish a residence hall where students can board.
“He’s caught the spirit of what Holy Cross is all about,” Sister Ann said. “He has vision and a great energy. We need a president who has energy and isn’t afraid to challenge the faculty … and has knowledge of universities on the east and west coasts. And, he is willing to sit down and listen and talk as we plan the future of the Marianites.”
One of the first steps he’s working on is to bolster enrollment to pre-Katrina levels of 1,400 students.
“We have to build academically and build the campus life of the students,” he said.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.