Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota (SMU) announced yesterday it will welcome the Rev. James P. Burns, IVD, Ph.D., current dean of the Woods College of Advancing Studies and Summer Session at Boston College, as SMU’s new president. Father Burns will officially take office on July 9.
Father Burns holds a doctor of philosophy degree in counseling psychology from Northwestern University, a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of St. Thomas, a master’s degree from St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, and an undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of St. Thomas School of Business.
“I am honored to have been chosen to lead this wonderful Lasallian and Catholic university, to help it fulfill its considerable potential, and to bring it to higher prominence by focusing on academic excellence, innovation, and community,” said Father Burns. “It is especially fitting that the announcement of my presidency is occurring in May, which we celebrate as the Month of Mary.”
SMU Board of Trustees Chair Mary Ann Remick announced that the board had selected Father Burns for the post. “Father Burns’ demonstrated success in the areas of enrollment growth, philanthropy, online education, and international partnerships — along with his dedication to research and academic excellence — made him an ideal candidate,” she explained. “His leadership related to mission and identity in Catholic education, and his reverence for Saint Mary’s Lasallian mission, made him an even stronger candidate.”
Father Burns’ work at Woods College boasts success in areas from finance to enrollment and retention. Over the past year, Woods College increased its revenue by 40 percent and nearly tripled the college’s contribution to Boston College over the past six years. First-year retention rates rose by 25 percent under his leadership as dean, and the school’s endowment grew from $21 million to $25 million. Before his work at Woods College, Father Burns was co-chairman and associate professor of the graduate school of psychology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. He worked as assistant professor in counseling psychology and religion at Boston University and completed his pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships at Yale School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.
Father Burns will replace outgoing SMU President, Brother William Mann, FSC, who has served as president for the past decade and who announced last fall he will step down at the end of May. Ann Merchlewitz, J.D., executive vice president and general counsel, will serve as interim president until Father Burns takes his post in July.
“I know my successor will come with gifts and talents and dreams and that’s going to be wonderful,” said Brother Mann. “But when those gifts and talents and dreams interact with the gifts and talents and dreams of this institution and of its people, my experience is something special happens and that would be my hope for my successor.”