By: Byron Hoskinson – Staff Writer
In honor of President’s Day, Monday, Feb. 17, Flyer News interviewed current president Dan Curran and former president Brother Ray Fitz.
“I never thought I’d be a president,” said current University of Dayton president Dan Curran.
“In fact, when I was an early professor, I would have protested any notion that I was going to be an administrator,” he said.
Curran succeeded Brother Raymond Fitz to become the 18th and first non-clergy president in UD history.
Curran began his undergraduate studies at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1973. His studies in sociology continued with a master’s at Temple University and, in 1979, a Ph.D from the University of Delaware.
As Fitz returned to UD, Curran returned to his alma mater in 1979 to teach and spent the next 23 years working in a variety of faculty and administrative positions.
Curran said his first major administrative role was as the director of graduate programs. Following that, he signed on for a year-long interim position as dean.
“I ended up being an interim for five years,” Curran said.
Curran also held the presidency of the faculty senate and remained engaged in academia as a professor and author in sociology and criminology.
On July 1, 2002, Curran officially began his presidential term at UD. In the 11 years since, UD has undergone dramatic development with the acquisition of the former National Cash Register headquarters and the addition of numerous residential and academic facilities, including the RecPlex, Science Center, Marianist Hall and Caldwell Street Apartments.
The university has also partnered with GE Aviation to construct a $51 million research center on campus and has opened the UD China Institute in Suzhou Industrial Park.
Despite its growth under his administration, Curran said he believes UD has reached the size it needs to be in regard to area and student population. As a result of the recent expansions, Curran said “I don’t see us needing to do any extensive building in the near future, but if we do, we have the space for it.”
Curran said there were a number of renovation and refurbishing projects planned for the next few years, including a restoration of the chapel and continued renovation of student housing.
Curran said he hopes to see the university continue to develop its capacity for social justice in the near future.
He pointed to UD’s Human Rights Center and associated major and outreach programs like the University of Dayton Summer Appalachian Program as key tools for engaging the community and making UD a positive force for social change.
Though he does not see retirement in his immediate future, Curran said he plans to return to teaching once he steps down as president.
“The bottom line is that you get into this profession to work with students,” he said.
Nearly 42 years before Curran became a UD fixture, Brother Raymond Fitz, an Akron native recently received into the Society of Mary, stepped onto the University of Dayton campus in fall 1960 to begin his career as an undergraduate electrical engineering major.
Nineteen years later, Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M., Ph.D, once again arrived on campus for the beginning of the school year, this time as president of the university, a position he said he never expected to find himself in.
In 1979, Fitz began his tenure as the 17th president of the University of Dayton. In 2002, he was succeeded by current president Daniel J. Curran and returned to teaching, making his 23-year presidential term the longest in UD history.
After graduating with honors from UD, Fitz pursued his M.S. and Ph. D. in electrical engineering at Polytechnic University in New York, then returned to UD to teach. After a decade as a faculty member, Fitz, then 37 years old, was selected for the position of presidency.
Fitz said his administration worked toward growing the university residentially, academically and financially.
When he accepted the presidency, Fitz said the university’s endowment was approximately $7 million. When he stepped down in 2002 the endowment had grown to $275 million, according to a Cincinnati Enquirer estimate from that year. The current endowment stands at $451 million, according to the UD Fact Book from fall 2013.
Fitz said the first five to seven years of his administration were focused on developing the residential areas of campus. Fitz continued the existing policy of purchasing houses in the surrounding neighborhood for student use and oversaw the construction of Garden Apartments and the renovation of other dorms.
“Previously, students were very much locally based and most commuted,” Fitz said. “We wanted to transition UD into a residential campus, so that became our first challenge.”
Fitz said he wanted to make student housing attractive to prospective out-of-state students to help UD become competitive at a state and national level.
Fitz stressed the importance of a well-rounded and interdisciplinary education and said the university grew in stride with its academic improvement.
“One of my favorite memories here is the dedication of the Jesse Philips Humanities Center,” Fitz said. “It demonstrates how vital a strong liberal arts education is to our Catholic intellectual legacy.”
He said breaking ground on the law school was a similar educational accomplishment that stood out in his mind.
Fitz currently serves as the Ferree Professor of Social Justice in the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community, which was named in his honor.