The Law Dean Thomas Mengler, of the University of St. Thomas, will become president of St. Mary’s University, in San Antonio. In a move that has but one other precedent for the Catholic university, they didn’t choose clergy to replace their celebrated previous president, Charles Cotrell, who served for 13 years, but elected Mengler based on his great achievements as a Dean.
Mengler received his bachelor’s in philosophy at Carleton College, his master’s in philosophy and his law degree at the University of Texas at Austin, worked the top administrative job at the University of Illinois College of Law for 9 years, and in 2002, took the bold move of leading the law school at Minneapolis. It was risky, as the school had only been open a year, and hadn’t even been accredited by the American Bar association, but Mengler used the position to win it its accreditation and even to raise $100 million in donation. Said Susan Huber, St. Thomas’s executive vice president and chief academic officer:
“Tom took a big chance when he came here as a dean of an unaccredited law school that had been open for only a year, and he has done a superb job. He hired an excellent faculty and staff, recruited top students, opened a new building, achieved accreditation and helped raise a significant amount of money.”
Experience like this, compounded with the time he clerked for a U.S. Court of Appeals in Kansas and his private practice in Washington, D. C., made Mengler a value prize in the eyes of St. Mary’s. He himself chose the school for his spiritual vision:
“I was drawn to St. Mary’s for its Catholic and Marianist mission and its dedication to developing graduates who are exceptionally prepared for their professional lives while also called to serve the common good,” said Mengler. “I embrace the Marianist commitment to promoting open and robust discussions of faith and reason, and I am eager to begin working with the Marianists, faculty, staff, students, and alumni to build on the outstanding foundation of academic quality, faith and service that are hallmarks of St. Mary’s.”
St. Mary’s University is Texas’ oldest Catholic University, founded in the 1800’s. The Rev. Marin Solma, chancellor of St. Mary’s University, identified their choice of Mengler as based in his faith in Catholic higher education, in high quality education in general, in social justice, and in “the formation of students as servant leaders — all facets integral to the Catholic and Marianist traditions of St. Mary’s University.”
Mengler will assume the presidency on June 1, 2012.