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John J. Hurley announces retirement as president of Canisius College


John J. Hurley, the 24th president of Canisius College, announced on July 8 he will retire at the end of the upcoming academic year after serving 12 years as president. Hurley will remain in office until June 30, 2022. A search committee will be formed by the college’s board of trustees to conduct a national search for Hurley’s successor.

Hurley is currently the longest tenured president among Western New York colleges and universities. He joined Canisius in August 1997 as vice president for college relations and general counsel, after practicing law in Chicago and Buffalo for 16 years. In 2009, the college’s board of trustees selected Hurley to succeed Father Vincent M. Cooke, SJ, and he became the college’s first lay president in July 2010.

“The upcoming year will be my 12th as president and 25th overall at Canisius,” said Hurley. “It has truly been a labor of love for an institution that means everything to me. But, having just turned 65 and having led the college safely and successfully through the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s time to step down and move on to the next phase in my life. Everything that we have done over the past 12 years has been aimed at positioning Canisius to thrive in a disrupted higher education landscape. The stage is set for the next president to take Canisius to a whole new level of excellence.”

Since becoming president, Hurley has led Canisius through a series of bold, comprehensive strategic assessments of academic programs and administrative functions aimed at enhancing academic excellence and the student experience, while stabilizing the college’s financial position.

“John has done such an outstanding job at Canisius,” said Lee C. Wortham, who has served as chair of the college’s board of trustees for the past four years. “His foresight and focus have positioned Canisius well for the future. His tenure is notable not only for many strategic, programmatic and student-centered accomplishments but also, importantly, for the manner in which he has led. John epitomizes the Jesuit value of men and women for and with others; service is a life priority for him.”

Since 2010, Canisius has introduced or modified more than 50 undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs. Under Hurley’s direction, Canisius took its first steps into the allied health field with its introduction of a Physician Assistant Studies program in 2021. He also placed special emphasis on the development of creative professional and personal development courses to advance lifelong learning. Canisius also introduced graduate programs in Data Analytics, Cybersecurity, Finance and Business Analytics.

As president, he oversaw the successful development and execution of two strategic plans, A Transformational Education (approved in 2011) and Canisius 150: Excellence, Leadership, Jesuit (approved in 2016), that built upon Canisius’ commitment to academic excellence, Jesuit values of social justice, and innovation. The latter also saw the completion of a new Facilities Master Plan and the college’s first-ever plans for Environmental Sustainability and Racial Equity and Inclusion.

Throughout his tenure, Hurley has placed a special emphasis on the college’s connection to the city of Buffalo, creating the Employer Assisted Housing program to provide forgivable loans to employees who purchase homes in the city of Buffalo, and the Hamlin Park Initiative designed to refurbish and return college-owned homes in the Hamlin Park neighborhood to buyers who agreed to be owner-occupiers. Most recently, he announced the establishment of the New Buffalo Institute at Canisius to align the college’s extensive outreach activities toward defined areas of focus to address the persistent challenges and injustices in the community, with an emphasis on the East Side of Buffalo.

Hurley oversaw the completion of Imagine Canisius, the largest capital campaign which concluded in 2000 with $38.8 million raised, surpassing the goal by $8.8 million. He led the college’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, A Legacy of Leadership: The Campaign for Canisius College, which concluded in 2012 with a record $95.5 million raised. Today, the college’s endowment stands at $160 million, more than double its $74.4 million value in 2010.

Prior to his appointment as president, Hurley served as executive vice president of Canisius from 2007 to 2010 and vice president for college relations from 1997 to 2010.


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