When the College of the Holy Cross trustees hired Jesuit Father Michael McFarland to be the college’s president 12 years ago, one of his former colleagues described him as having “a sunshine wink” and “a suppressed grin.”
At 63, Fr. McFarland still has a youthful grin, a twinkle in his eye and the slight build of a runner. His time at Holy Cross lasted longer than the 10 years trustees originally hoped for, but it will come to an end this year. In January, Jesuit Father Philip L. Boroughs, vice president for mission and ministry at Georgetown University, will take over.
During McFarland’s time at Holy Cross, the college added 400,000 square feet of building space; expanded its faculty and lowered its course load; grew its endowment by 61 percent; created new financial aid initiatives, including one that gives Worcester, Mass. students free tuition if their families earn less that $50,000; boosted recruiting in Worcester; helped launch the Nativity School of Worcester; fostered an affordable housing program in cooperation with the South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Corporation; gave the Worcester Tornadoes a rent-free summer home; won re-accreditation and bought and razed off-campus buildings where students once lived.
McFarland arrived already familiar with a number of aspects of a college president’s job: the academics side, athletics, student life and finance. He had a couple things to learn on the job: “I had done less fundraising,” he said. “And then I’m not a politician. I said that when they hired me, so dealing with multiple complex constituencies has been a learning experience.”
But a large part of his presidency has been his time with students. The president attends about as many games as the athletic director, and the marching band loves McFarland so much that they made him the inaugural inductee into their hall of fame. Lauren A. D’Abrosca, co-chairman of the Student Government Association at Holy Cross, described him as being the type of person you never needed an introduction to say hello to.
“As a student, it could be almost a nerve-wracking experience sitting down with the president of your college. … And he doesn’t make it like that at all,” she said.
Read more about the College of the Holy Cross’ transition to a new president at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.