Saint Joseph’s University names first female president in 172-year history

Cris Collingwood//March 13, 2023

Saint Joseph’s University names first female president in 172-year history

Cris Collingwood//March 13, 2023

Philadelphia based Saint Joseph’s University, which has a definitive agreement to merge with Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences in Lancaster by January 2024, named its first female president in the university’s 172-year history. 

Cheryl McConnell

Cheryl McConnell, a 35-year veteran of Jesuit higher education, who most recently served as Saint Joseph’s interim president since last June, was elected to fill the role immediately by the university’s board of trustees. 

“Dr. McConnell is the right person to lead Saint Joseph’s at this time of exceptional change,” said James M. Norris, chair of the university’s board of trustees and chair of the search committee. “Cheryl has strong business acumen, deep higher education experience, a career marked by dedicated commitment to our Jesuit mission and exceptional leadership skills. She was the unanimous choice of the committee, even among an impressive and diverse pool of external candidates.” 

McConnell joined Saint Joseph’s in 2019. Among her most notable achievements was the creation of several undergraduate and graduate programs in response to market demand, societal need and the university’s mission, along with an increased and more effective focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, St. Joseph’s said.  

Most recently, she led the acquisition of the University of the Sciences, Philadelphia, and finalized the merger with the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences. She also implemented a leadership council to ensure accountability, timely progress and implementation of strategic priorities and has overseen the start of several campus construction projects.  

Before Saint Joseph’s, McConnell was dean of Kansas City, Missouri-based Rockhurst University’s College of Business, Influence, and Information Analysis and the Helzberg School of Management, as well as associate provost for academic affairs and full professor of accounting. 

“Cheryl’s advocacy for and partnership with faculty have been hallmarks of her career,” said Norris. “She understands academia from many perspectives, has tremendous strategic insight and is someone who brings people together and inspires thoughtful action.”