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Editorial: Murray to Dougherty / Duquesne's new leader inherits a stronger school

Saturday, August 18, 2001

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

John E. Murray's extraordinary tenure as president of Duquesne University makes the job of his successor, Charles Dougherty, at once easier and harder.

In 1988, when Dr. Murray reluctantly left his post as service professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh to assume the leadership of the Catholic college on The Bluff, Duquesne was in pretty dismal shape.

Student and teacher morale were low, enrollment was in decline and the financial situation was grim. Thirteen years later, the student population is at an all-time high of near 10,000, teacher salaries have been raised considerably, the endowment has been increased 15 times to $107 million and the campus has undergone an ambitious building program. The school has been transformed.

Through his hard work, Dr. Murray has smoothed the path for Dr. Dougherty, who became president of Duquesne this week. The new president can talk about moving the university to the next level of academic excellence because the school is already confident, strong and secure.

But his job will be made more difficult because he will be measured against a standard of excellence and achievement that is truly remarkable and may prove hard to equal.

Dr. Dougherty comes to Duquesne from Creighton University, an independent Catholic school in Omaha, Neb., where he was vice president for academic affairs. A graduate of St. Bonaventure University, with a doctorate from the University of Notre Dame, Dr. Dougherty is a seasoned administrator who has written extensively about health-care ethics.

As Dr. Dougherty begins his service at Duquesne, Dr. Murray's powerful presence not only will be a living memory, it also will be a living reality. While he no longer has any day-to-day responsibilities for running the school, Dr. Murray will stay on as chancellor, a position from which he can continue to exercise his considerable fund-raising talent.

Dr. Dougherty says he is relieved by that arrangement, which certainly could work to his advantage thanks to Dr. Murray's very cordial relationship with the city's foundations and corporate and political leadership.

But Dr. Dougherty also needs room to grow, make his mark and exercise authority in his own right, a fact that Dr. Murray says he understands and to which he will be sensitive.

Dr. Dougherty has set three goals for his tenure. He wants to deepen the school's Catholic commitment and the heritage of the Holy Ghost Fathers who teach at the university. He wants to build on the strong finances and positive community relations developed by Dr. Murray. And he wants to work toward making Duquesne one of the nation's greatest Catholic universities.

It is an ambitious agenda in keeping with the vision of the previous president and made more achievable thanks to his impressive accomplishments.

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