The Austin College Board of Trustees announced today the appointment of Steven P. O’Day as the 16th president of Austin College, effective October 30, 2017. The announcement comes following a comprehensive national search. Interim president Michael Imhoff continues his role until October 30.
O’Day has more than 20 years of leadership experience in wide-ranging higher education administration.
He describes his career in higher education as “driven by a deeply held belief that we are called upon to personally educate and support the whole student—mind, body, and spirit—in the classroom and lab, on the athletics field, on the stage, in the studio, in the workplace, in the residence hall, throughout the global community, and in every facet of the student experience. This belief is grounded in a blending of the liberal arts and specialized training necessary for lives of significance, leadership, service, and integrity.”
He comes to Austin College from Lebanon Valley College (LVC) in Annville, Pennsylvania, where he serves as vice president of strategic initiatives and secretary of the college. During his four years at the private college with a student body of approximately 1,600 undergraduates and 200 graduate students, he also has served as interim vice president of advancement and special assistant to the president. He has held leadership roles at the college in institutional strategic planning and campus master planning and has overseen several major capital improvement projects, including the construction of a $20.8 million facility designed to house several of the college’s health professions academic programs. O’Day also has been instrumental in record-setting fundraising efforts, government and community relations, and has served as a member of the LVC senior leadership team. Prior to his work at LVC, O’Day spent 15 years at Franklin & Marshall College in a number of senior administration leadership roles.
Austin College Board of Trustees member Scott Austin, a 1983 graduate of the College, led the Search Committee for the 16th President of Austin College. “The committee worked very hard and very well together,” said Austin, “and it was clear all along the way that each of the eleven members was serving out of a deep felt love for Austin College. In addition to the committee, many members of the Austin College community, including faculty, staff, students, alumni and community leaders made significant contributions to the process. This search was about the Austin College community as a whole.”
O’Day’s professional career began in the field of law. Having received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Millersville University in Pennsylvania and a law degree from Temple University School of Law in Philadelphia, he spent 10 years as a practicing attorney. His background relates to a page from the Austin College history books: John D. Moseley, considered one of the most successful presidents (1953-1978) in Austin College’s history, also came to the presidency with a law degree.
Leaving the courtroom for the athletics field in 1997, O’Day took on the role of women’s soccer head coach at Franklin & Marshall College. Over the next 10 years, his teams amassed the most wins in the program’s history, and O’Day meanwhile made a permanent transition to higher education. While coaching, he also served as an adjunct professor of business law and as pre-law advisor, and was appointed associate dean for advisement, then associate dean for student academic affairs. Upon leaving coaching in 2007, he was appointed senior associate dean of the college, a position he held until 2013 when he left Franklin & Marshall to become special assistant to the president for innovative programs at LVC.
“As my wife, Cece, and I have gotten to know the Austin College community, we have met people who are truly committed to preparing students for rewarding careers and for full, engaged, and meaningful lives,” Mr. O’Day said. “We share this commitment and look forward to our work together to ensure Austin College’s place among the nation’s treasured liberal arts institutions for generations to come.“
Asked about family and faith, O’Day said that spirituality, faith, and service are important aspects of his life. He describes his own faith history as quite ecumenical, with family involvement in Catholic, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterian traditions. Lebanon Valley College is affiliated with the United Methodist Church; his parents were Catholic; his wife is a lifelong member of the Church of the Brethren. “I am very comfortable living and working in an environment that welcomes people of different faiths. I know Austin College shares this same ethos, and I deeply value the covenant between the College and the Presbyterian Church,” O’Day said.
Members of the Austin College faculty and staff served on the Search Committee for the 16th President. “Steven brings a wealth of valuable experience—strategic planning, fund raising, enrollment, student life—and a deep understanding of the role of liberal arts in today’s changing world,” said David Baker, professor of physics. “But what impressed me the most are his personal and professional qualities: collaboration, humility, and a genuine interest in students. Steven O’Day is a great fit for Austin College.”
“His diversified skill set and demonstrated success at small, private liberal arts schools make him uniquely qualified for our campus leadership,” said Michelle Filander, women’s basketball coach and staff representative to the selection committee. “We are confident and enthusiastic about his ability to lead Austin College as we face challenges both specific to our institution and those facing higher education at large.”
Second faculty representative Randi Tanglen, associate professor of English, echoed the approval. “Steven O’Day’s enduring dedication to liberal arts education throughout his career impressed everyone on the selection committee,” she said. “I was struck by something he said during the interview process: ‘Liberal arts education transforms students so they can transform the world.’ That was when I knew Steven’s values aligned with the mission of Austin College and our faculty’s commitment to the liberal arts.”
Other members of the Search Committee were trustees Bill Douglass, Mike Foster, Luan Mendel, Wes Moffett, and Ruth Whiteside, plus senior trustee Rebecca Gafford, and Austin College student body president Pranav Sheth.
The committee was assisted in recruitment of top candidates from around the nation in a comprehensive search led by Wheless Partners and senior partner Lisa J. Marks. “Wheless delivered a smooth and inclusive search process and I appreciate Lisa Marks’ attention to detail as she worked with our committee,” Scott Austin said. “The firm’s customized approach resulted in a winning candidate that truly fits the culture and mission of Austin College.”
Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, international study, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 40 percent of students representing ethnic minorities. A residential student body of approximately 1,275 students and a faculty of more than 100 allow a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. The College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. Founded in 1849, the College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.