PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ After 15 years, Providence College’s longest serving president is stepping down.
Father Brian Shanley is leaving Providence College in a much different place than he found it.
Throughout his tenure, five new buildings were added to campus, two others were renovated, and five athletic fields and facilities were created or refurbished.
While Shanley received unanimous support from the Board of Trustees to enter another five-year term, he said the Dominican Province of St. Joseph decided it was time for a change. He said he’s proud of what he’s accomplished.
“The way the campus looks…I look out my window and I see Huxley Avenue and now there is no Huxley, we’re just one campus,” he said. “The look and ability to unite the campus is probably the most important thing structurally that has happened.”
One of his favorite moments, Shanley said, was when the Friars men’s ice hockey team won the NCAA Hockey Championship in 2015.
“If you ask me my single best moment, it was sitting in the garden and when the red light went on and we were national champions in hockey,” he said. “I was jumping up and down.”
Shanley said Providence College’s athletics gave the school its national profile. He said one of his best hires was men’s basketball coach Ed Cooley.
He said Cooley, “has the charisma, the energy and the smarts.”
“I love Ed Cooley,” Shanley said. “Its been a blast what he’s been able to do here, and again, like me, he’s a hometown kid who used to sneak into things here and now he’s the head coach and top dog on campus.”
While sports brings enjoyment, Shanley acknowledged that we live in challenging times, as the nation grapples with racial injustice.
“I’m thinking it’s kind of sad that we had to get to this point to wake people up to the reality of racism in our country,” Shanley said. “What we’re seeing now is the kind of testimony of unfinished business that America has with the original sin of slavery.”
Shanley said he wanted the campus to look more like the world. He said when he started, it was “too white and middle class” and made it his goal to diversify the student population.
The other major challenge Shanley faced: COVID-19.
“All Higher Ed is going to be dealing with a recession economy for the next few years and that’s going to put pressure on every Higher Ed,” he said. “I think you’re going to see some colleges closing this year given what happens in the fall.”
Shanley said he won’t miss being on call 24/7, but he will miss the people he’s met during his time at Providence College.
“I’ve met some of the most amazing people that have impacted my life,” he said. “I will miss the opportunities, although I hope to still meet interesting people, but this job gives you a unique entry into people and that’s been the best part of my life.”
Shanley said he plans to take six months off to figure out his next move. Father Kenneth Sicard will become Providence College’s 13th president on July 1.