St. Anselm College marked many firsts on Friday, as it officially installed the first lay president in its nearly 125-year history.
In becoming St. Anselm College’s 10th president, Steven DiSalvo said, “Today, I officially became an Anselmian.”
DiSalvo said he is the first parent president in the college’s history, and his wife, Eileen, is its first first lady. He told the many faculty, students, alumni, dignitaries and his family that he has a true passion for education, and it is something he must be reminded of every day.
“If I forget, I need only look out my window and see students move across this quad between classes,” he said.
He said the college must show strong leadership and make its mark throughout New England and the United States. The path to fulfill that mission is through the college’s students.
“As an institution of higher learning, we must constantly ask ourselves one fundamental question: Are we doing our best to serve our students? That question must be answered affirmatively in regard to the students’ experience inside the classroom, during athletic competitions, in the residential environment, among social settings and in their faith formation. That task lies in our hands, and the future of our mission, and this great institution, lies in their hands,” he said. “Whatever else we do, we must guide our students each and every day.”
He described his blue-collar upbringing in Queens, N.Y., and how his parents, Arlene and Sal DiSalvo, worked hard to give their children a Catholic foundation and education. Through their sacrifices, he said, he received his bachelor’s degree, a master’s, a doctorate and is now president of a Catholic college.
“Taught by Jesuits and hired by Benedictines. This must be proof of Pope Francis’ first miracle,” DiSalvo said.
He remarked on the students’ moral compass evident in the 50,000 hours of community service they do every year through the Meelia Center. He also spoke of the college’s future and the programs that make it a vital place of learning.
“The Institute of Politics at St. Anselm is an absolute gem,” he said.
The institute shines a light on the college as future Presidents over the past 30 years have gotten their start, he said. The institute will continue to develop programs to provide opportunities of learning about the history of the presidency, summer camps for students, and extend programs to high-schoolers across the nation to show “what makes Saint Anselm so special.”
He said the future of the college is bright, but is not without challenges, and he is sure the students, staff, faculty and alumni are best-suited to meet the demands.
“I ask you to join me as we walk into the future,” DiSalvo said.
The ceremony began with a procession led by Grand Marshal Gary Bouchard, professor of English, and delegates from other colleges and universities. Speakers included the Rev. Jonathan DeFelice, past president; Bishop Peter Libasci of Manchester; and Thomas Horgan, president of the New Hampshire College and University Council; and Gov. Maggie Hassan.
DiSalvo was also congratulated by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, who both said some of their staff members are St. Anselm alumni.
There was also a special presentation of the National 9/11 Flag by police and emergency rescue workers from the college, New York City, Massachusetts, Goffstown and Londonderry.
The National 9/11 Flag flew above the wreckage at Ground Zero and was brought to St. Anselm specifically for DiSalvo’s presidential installation.
DiSalvo and his wife suffered the loss of friends on 9/11. Also, 14 young alumni of Fairfield University, where he worked, died in the World Trade Center.
DiSalvo helped arrange a major, anonymous donation for the New York Says Thank You Foundation, which sends volunteers to disaster sites across the country on the anniversary of 9/11.
DiSalvo has also placed a stitch in the flag. On President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 2011, a piece of the flag that he laid upon after his death was stitched into the flag. The flag will be placed at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center.