The Rev. Harold Edward Ridley, an affable professor of English literature at a little known Catholic college, has been named the new president of Baltimore's Loyola College.
The Loyola board of trustees yesterday announced the appointment of the 54-year-old Jesuit priest, concluding a four-month search.
Father Ridley has the formidable task of succeeding the late Rev. Joseph A. Sellinger, a charismatic figure in the Baltimore community whose name became synonymous with the dynamic growth of Loyola during his 26 years as president.
"When we began the search process, we didn't want someone to fill Joe Sellinger's shoes," said Daniel J. Altobello, chairman of the Loyola board. "We wanted someone comfortable in his own shoes. We have found that person."
Father Ridley has spent the last 20 years at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., all but five of them in full-time teaching rather thanadministration. Members of the presidential search committee praised his intellect and easy good humor.
He admitted at a campus press conference yesterday that the Loyola trustees had concerns about his ability to raise money, an academic art form perfected by the gregarious Father Sellinger on golf courses and in board rooms across the state.
Father Ridley said that he once tried to solicit a gift for LeMoyne from a rich onion broker in the area and figured to bring back at least $50,000. Instead, he said, "I brought back a bag of onions."
Father Ridley will take office next July after finishing the academic year at LeMoyne, a mostly undergraduate liberal arts school with 2,500 students. At Loyola, he will take over a college of 5,750 students and a $71 million budget.
Until Father Ridley's arrival, Thomas E. Scheye will continue as acting president, as he has since Father Sellinger's death in April.
Under Father Sellinger, the campus grew steadily the last 25 years, from a local, all-male commuter school to a respected regional co-ed institution with extensive graduate school offerings. One of Father Ridley's first priorities will be to complete Loyola's $40 million fund-raising campaign. The college has already reached the $30 million mark, officials said.
Father Ridley began teaching at LeMoyne in 1973, specializing in 19th century British writers, particularly Victorian poets. He has taught there ever since, except for the period from 1980 to 1985 when he served as dean and chief academic officer. While dean, Father Ridley set up several student honor societies, brought more experienced faculty to campus and established a long-term salary structure for teachers. He left the dean's office after concluding that he would rather teach.
Father Ridley, who was selected by the Loyola board late Wednesday over one other finalist, said yesterday that he is ready for a new challenge in Jesuit higher education, even if it means giving up teaching.
"Even though I may be giving up some personal satisfaction -- I have always loved learning -- it will be equally rewarding to me to help this Jesuit institution," he said.
Father Ridley has been asked often to be a candidate for the presidencies of Jesuit colleges, but he hasn't applied until now, according to Mr. Scheye.
"Having watched Loyola blossom through the years, I've been extremely impressed with the fundamental strengths of this institution," Father Ridley said.
A committee composed of trustees, faculty, students and staff began looking for a new president in May. The only candidates considered were Jesuit priests. Loyola, like the other 27 Jesuit colleges in the United States, has never had a non-Jesuit leader. Based on recommendations within the Jesuit community, 45 men were contacted and 29 said they were interested. The search committee eventually selected two finalists -- Father Ridley and Father Robert Baumiller, a dean at the University of Detroit Mercy and a member of the Loyola board of trustees.
The two men met with some faculty and students earlier this month and interviewed with the trustees Wednesday.
The students were impressed by Father Ridley, according to Julie Teahan, a senior who attended that meeting. "He obviously seemed to be concerned with what we were saying," she said.
Father Ridley is the first president to be picked by the Loyola board of trustees. Prior presidents, including Father Sellinger in 1964, were selected by Jesuit officials outside the college.
Some Loyola supporters are concerned that the college not lose visibility following the death of Father Sellinger, the man who came to symbolize the campus in the outside world.
"It's important for 'Hap' to get out and be visible in the community," said Mr. Scheye, referring to Father Ridley by the nickname he's had since childhood.
The members of Loyola's high-powered board will be a help to the new president, Mr. Scheye added. "There aren't many doors they can't open," he said.
Board Chairman Altobello predicted that Father Ridley would hold his own in the hunt for donations. "He's a very effective spokesman," Mr. Altobello said. "I think that's what it takes, believing in your product."
Father Ridley attended the former Woodstock seminary in Baltimore County for several years in the 1960s and briefly taught humanities at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
His older sister, Judith, is a nun in the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill and an administrator at the John Carroll School in Bel Air.
Father Ridley, who stands 6 feet 4 inches tall, is an avid racquetball player and swimmer. He received his undergraduate and master's degrees from Fordham University and his doctorate from New York University.
He has served on the boards of trustees at two Jesuit schools, Fordham in New York and St. Peter's College in his home town of Jersey City, N.J.