Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., to Serve as Principal Speaker at 2011 Undergraduate Commencement


This year’s commencement speaker is already well-known on campus. The University’s Board of Trustees has invited Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., the 24th president of The University of Scranton, to serve as the principal speaker at the 2011 undergraduate commencement on May 29.

“I am honored to speak at commencement,” said Father Pilarz. “ I have often said my service at Scranton has been the privilege of my Jesuit life. This promises to be an amazing moment in my life.”

The fifth longest-serving president at Scranton and third longest-serving Jesuit president, Father Pilarz has always kept a close connection to the students by living in a residence hall, attending student athletic, academic and social events, and teaching a class each semester.

An accomplished leader, scholar and teacher, Father Pilarz’s mark on Scranton will remain long after he begins his service as president of Marquette University this summer.

Since Father’s arrival at Scranton in 2003, the University has earned national recognition for academic quality, community engagement and student success. Under his tenure, 19 students have earned prestigious Fulbright fellowships, and for six consecutive years The Chronicle of Higher Education has ranked the University as one of the nation’s “Top Producers of Fulbright Students.” Scranton has also earned the highly selective 2008 Community Engagement Classification designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and, in the September/October 2010 issue of Washington Monthly, the University was among the leading service-oriented colleges in the United States.

Scranton has seen record applications for undergraduate admissions, with applications rising 42 percent from 2003 to 2010, while maintaining fall-to-fall freshman retention rates and graduation rates that far exceeded the national average. Graduate programs also have grown dramatically through online efforts and a renewed focus on campus-based programs.

Father Pilarz developed the President’s Colloquy for Presidential Scholars and established seminars focused on Jesuit education. In addition to missions to Mexico and Ecuador, trips were added to the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti and Jamaica. Students also journeyed to Kenya and Thailand, and Father Pilarz himself led trips to El Salvador, Haiti and Rwanda.

During his eight years as president, Scranton’s campus has changed significantly. Since 2003, the University has invested more than $237 million in improvements. Among those projects is the unified science center, which is scheduled to open in fall 2011. The $83 million, 200,000-square-foot building is the largest capital project in the University’s history. Scranton also built the 180,000-square-foot Patrick and Margaret DeNaples Center and the Christopher and Margaret Condron Hall. Also for the fall semester, the University will complete construction of a $33 million apartment and fitness complex on Mulberry Street, which will provide apartment-style units to accommodate nearly 400 juniors and seniors.

In addition to the more obvious physical changes on campus, Father Pilarz has enhanced the students’ experience at Scranton and furthered the University’s already strong academic reputation. Through the $125 million Pride Passion Promise Campaign, the largest capital campaign in the University’s history, five endowed chairs have been established that will ensure the school is able to attract top scholars.

Father Pilarz is a scholar of medieval and Renaissance literature and has written a book entitled “Robert Southwell, S.J., and the Mission of Literature 1561-1595: Writing Reconciliation,” which was published by Ashgate Press in 1998.

Father Pilarz earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Georgetown University; a master’s degree in philosophy from Fordham University; and a master’s degree in divinity and theology from the Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass. He earned a Ph.D. in English at the City University of New York. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1981 and was ordained a priest in 1992.

Prior to his service at Scranton, Father Pilarz was an English faculty member at Georgetown University before serving there as interim University Chaplain, a position that included membership in the President’s Cabinet.

Father Pilarz received numerous awards for teaching, service and scholarship, including the John Carroll Award from Georgetown University, which is the highest honor bestowed by the Georgetown University Alumni Association. In 2010, he was awarded an honorary degree from King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, and will receive an honorary degree from Marywood University, Scranton, in May.

 The University of Scranton 2011 undergraduate commencement ceremony will be held at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza at noon on May 29.

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