Wheeling Jesuit to undergo name change

WHEELING — Wheeling Jesuit University will have a new name for the coming academic year.

The school’s board of directors and the Maryland Province for the Society of Jesus agreed this week to end the university’s Jesuit affiliation at the end of this school year. In a statement released Wednesday, Wheeling Jesuit officials said the move is being done to realign the schools programs “to better equip students for the 21st century economy, while refocusing to emphasize core academic programs in health sciences, business administration and education.”

However, ending the affiliation of being a Jesuit university “in no way impacts the academic credentials of past, present or future students, or changes (the school’s) distinctive Roman Catholic identity,” the board said. Wheeling Jesuit also said an agreement is being discussed with the Society of Jesuits to have an ongoing Jesuit presence on campus.

“As the university confronts challenging circumstances, our commitment to living our mission by serving our students remains steadfast. While an end to Jesuit sponsorship is difficult for all, refocusing our academic program on those areas that reflect the intersection of the faculty’s expertise, student and workforce demands, and financial sustainability is the best path forward for the university and our students,” University President Michael P. Mihalyo Jr. said. “We are grateful that we will be able to maintain a Jesuit presence and influence and continue our rich Catholic tradition.”

The decision follows financial constraints at Wheeling Jesuit. The university recently announced it was dropping 19 of its academic programs.

The name of the re-branded university has yet to be determined, but will continue to offer Mass and Catholic campus ministry at the Chapel of Mary and Joseph and the Ignatian ideals of service and Catholic teachings on social justice will also continue at the Appalachian Institute.

“The Jesuits are deeply grateful for the opportunity we have had to contribute to the important mission of Wheeling Jesuit University over many years,” the Rev. Robert Hussey, S.J., provincial superior of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, said. “The Maryland Province understands that a reorganization of the university is necessary to provide for a vibrant future and regrets that this will not allow our Jesuit affiliation to continue beyond the current academic year. We recognize this will be a difficult transition but wish the university much success in the years ahead of serving the people of West Virginia and beyond.”

The school was founded in 1954 by the fourth bishop of Wheeling, Archbishop John Joseph Swint, who named it Wheeling College and subsequently invited the Jesuits to administer the institution. In 1988, the Rev. Thomas Acker renamed Wheeling Jesuit College and in 1996, he again changed the name to Wheeling Jesuit University.