The Commons: Speaking of which, I know you served as president of the Jesuit Conference USA in the mid-1990s, so this is your second stint in D.C. What’s it like to be back in the Beltway?
Father Lucey: It’s interesting to live in a town where you hear the sirens going down the street and then you read about it in the paper the next day. I mean, you’re in it more when you’re in D.C.
The other interesting thing is, I live in a house with the fellow who runs the Jesuit Conference and his staff, the fellow who runs the Center for Concern, the fellow who runs the Jesuit Refugee Service in the United States, the fellow who’s my counterpart for Jesuit secondary education, and then we usually have guests moving through there all the time. We’ve had the head of Jesuit Refugee Service for the world stay with us for a week or 10 days. One day, we hosted all of the African Jesuits who are studying in the United States and Canada—40 young men doing theology or getting doctorates. You look at that group and they’re at the top of their game and you say, "This is the Church of the future."
The Commons: Looking back on the 10 years you spent on this campus, what’s your biggest take-away from that experience?
Father Lucey: I learned so much about running a school. I mean, if you’re sitting in a cabinet with Bill Sullivan and John Eshelman and Virginia Parks, you cover a tremendous amount of crises and issues. You just learn a lot. Bill Sullivan was such a strong, quality president. I learned a lot from him and built a lot of relationships here.
The Commons: And yet your vocational journey from here wasn’t necessarily a direct line to becoming a president. You had that interlude of nearly a decade between being vice president at SU and taking the reins at Spring Hill…
Father Lucey: Yes. Here’s a good story. I was here in 1988, and I was kind of thinking, Well, if you’re going to be a president, this seems like a good time. So, I was a candidate at two schools. And in one weekend, I got two calls, saying, “Thank you for applying, but…” The next morning, my secretary—a sweet, dear lady—put a card on my desk, and I open it up and here’s a little teddy bear coming down in a parachute, and I open it up and it says “God has a Plan B.” (Laughs)
So I left here in ’88 thinking that God doesn’t want me to be a president now, maybe ever. And after 10 years of raising money, I realized I wanted to be more pastoral, so I went to Weston (Jesuit School of Theology) and spent a year listening to theology professors. Then I became the rector at Marquette and started the Center for Ignatian Spirituality. And that was a wonderful experience, too.
The Commons: OK, I’m just going to put it out there—which of the 28 Jesuit institutions is your favorite?
Father Lucey: Gosh. (Pause) Well, it would have to be Spring Hill, when you’re president of a place for 12 years.
To read more about Father Lucey, visit AJCU.
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