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John Hurley to step down as Canisius College president next year

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local Canisius College graduation CANTILLON (copy)

Canisius College President John Hurley addresses graduates near the end of a graduation ceremony on May 19, 2018, at Koessler Athletic Center.

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Canisius College President John J. Hurley said Thursday that he will retire at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year.  

Hurley, who's entering his 12th year as president, will remain in office until June 30, 2022.

"The upcoming year will be my 12th as president and 25th overall at Canisius," Hurley said in a release. "It has truly been a labor of love for an institution that means everything to me.

"But, having just turned 65 and having led the college safely and successfully through the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s time to step down and move on to the next phase in my life. Everything that we have done over the past 12 years has been aimed at positioning Canisius to thrive in a disrupted higher education landscape. The stage is set for the next president to take Canisius to a whole new level of excellence."

Hurley is the 24th president of the college. 

The college's Board of Trustees will form a search committee to conduct a national search for his successor. 

Hurley is currently the longest tenured president among Western New York colleges and universities.

Hurley joined Canisius in August 1997 as vice president for college relations and general counsel after practicing law in Chicago and Buffalo for 16 years. In 2009, the college’s Board of Trustees selected him to succeed the Rev. Vincent M. Cooke, and he became the college’s first lay president in July 2010.

"John has done such an outstanding job at Canisius," said Lee C. Wortham, who has served as chair of the college’s Board of Trustees for the past four years. "His foresight and focus have positioned Canisius well for the future. His tenure is notable not only for many strategic, programmatic and student-centered accomplishments but also, importantly, for the manner in which he has led."

Last June, citing huge revenue losses due to ongoing enrollment declines and the Covid-19-induced shutdown of campus, Canisius' trustees agreed to Hurley's plan of major layoffs and program cuts. Canisius faced a $20 million deficit in a $75 million budget for 2020-21. The decision sparked howls of protest among students, faculty and alumni.

Hurley also played a prominent role in calls for changes in the Catholic Church and the Buffalo Diocese after a string of revelations regarding sexual misconduct by priests. In 2018, he called for a greater leadership role for women in the Catholic Church in the wake of the scandal.

In a letter sent to students, employees, donors and alumni of the Buffalo college, he said his call was precipitated by the news about decades of abuse of children by clergy. In a religion that has “marginalized” women and does not allow them to become priests, a stronger role for women might help to “protect children,” Hurley wrote.

In October 2018, Hurley and his wife, Maureen, and seven other Catholic lay people formed the Movement to Restore Trust in the wake of the Diocese of Buffalo's sexual abuse scandals. It was only the latest in a string of examples in which he spoke out on issues related to his religion, such as global poverty, hate speech, national anthem protests and support for students who came to the United States illegally as minors.

In an interview with The Buffalo News, he said it was important for him to make sure the public knew where his institution stands.

“I wouldn’t say this is a big business calculation, but I think it relates to the mission of the school,” Hurley said. “So if your mission is going to mean anything to you, you have to assert it in the positive and identify what you stand for and what you’re going for in the world.”

A native of Buffalo, Hurley is a graduate of St. Benedict’s Elementary School, St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, Canisius College and the University of Notre Dame Law School. He practiced law for 16 years, three in Chicago and 13 with Phillips, Lytle LLP in Buffalo.


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News Staff Reporter

Long Island native, University at Buffalo graduate, part of the breaking news and criminal justice team for two years. Hired by The News in 1999, I covered high school sports for 15 years before being named deputy sports editor.

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