SVC President Emeritus James F. Will Honored with Award for Bringing Vision to Reality

by Public Relations | Nov 17, 2017

Nov. 17, 2017

James F. Will and Br. Norman W. Hipps O.S.B.

Saint Vincent College President Emeritus James F. Will was named the seventh annual winner of Saint Vincent College’s Projektenmacher Award in recognition of his initiatives that, in the spirit of Saint Vincent founder Boniface Wimmer, “have brought vision to reality through hard work and perseverance.” The award was presented by Saint Vincent College President Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., during the Founders’ Day Honors Convocation on Nov. 16 in the Saint Vincent Basilica.

Seven years ago on Founders’ Day, Br. Norman announced his intention to begin honoring a member of the Saint Vincent College community annually with a Projektenmacher Award.

Projektenmacher is a strange sounding German word which was used by Boniface Wimmer’s confreres in Bavaria with a pejorative negative meaning,” Br. Norman explained in making the presentation. “They saw him as a dreamer and unrealistic idealist who was always talking about going to America and doing great things. Well, at the end of life, after more than 40 years in America and the establishment of seven monasteries, 75 schools and 152 parishes, the word took on a more literal meaning – project maker – someone with the capacity to get things done… to realize visions, to enlist the support and collaboration of his fellow monks and lay colleagues.  Today we celebrate a Projektenmacher in our time.”

“Jim Will became president of Saint Vincent College in 2000 and in six years, he built Saint Benedict Hall, renovated and expanded the Robert S. Carey Student Center to include the Performing Arts Center, fitness center, Mary Mother of Wisdom Student Chapel, created a new entrance to Alfred Hall with reception area for the Admission Office, renovated Aurelius Hall as a home for the McKenna School and broke ground for the Fred M. Rogers Center,” he continued. “Undergraduate student enrollment increased from 1,200 to 1,600 students with a corresponding growth in faculty; and graduate programs in business and education were added. The endowment increased 44 percent.”

“The Loe China Studies Center, the Kennametal Center for Operational Excellence and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media were all initiated under his leadership,” Br. Norman added. “I have known Jim for more than 30 years; he has always impressed me with his inquisitiveness, his interests in religion and history, business and engineering, gardening and tractor pulling. I am deeply grateful for the friendship and the mentorship that he has extended to me. Thank you and congratulations to the 2017 Projektenmacher, James F. Will.”

“I humbly accept the Projektenmacher Award and hope that together we will all continue to dream and accomplish great things in the spirit of our Benedictine founder, Boniface Wimmer,” Will commented on his acceptance of the award.

Will studied mathematics at Saint Vincent College and completed a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering through its 3/2 cooperative engineering program with Penn State University in 1961. He also earned a master’s degree in business administration at Duquesne University in 1972.

He began his career with United States Steel and later left to become director of the Adolescent Program at the Pressley Ridge School. He rejoined the steel industry in 1974 and worked in a series of leadership positions at Miami Industries, Kaiser Steel Corp., Cyclops Industries and Armco Inc. where he was chairman, president and chief executive officer.

He is a former member of the American Council on Education, Association of American Colleges and Universities, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

In addition to his many years of service on the Saint Vincent College Board of Directors and its Investment and Institutional Advancement Committee, he also served as a member of the board of advisors of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College.

Will has received numerous awards for his service to the community, church and his profession. He has been recognized twice by Saint Vincent College, with a Presidential Medal of Honor in 1990 and with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree in 1994.

He and his wife, Mary Ellen, are the parents of two daughters, Mary Beth and Kerry.

Will became the first lay president in the history of Saint Vincent College in 2000 and served in that post until 2006. Under his leadership, Saint Vincent College made major progress in every aspect of its operation, most notably in academics, student life, financial management and institutional advancement.

In the area of academics, a reorganization of 20 separate academic departments into four distinct schools was completed with the creation of The Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government; The School of Humanities and Fine Arts; The School of Social Sciences, Communication and Education; and The School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing. A new undergraduate degree program was added in bioinformatics and master’s degree programs were initiated in business and in education.

More than $40 million in campus improvements were implemented during his tenure including construction of Saint Benedict Hall, a freshman residence hall; The Robert S. Carey Student Center, which encompasses the gymnasium, performing arts center, fitness center, student lounge, athletic department facilities, wellness center, bookstore, and the Mary, Mother of Wisdom Student Chapel; a new main entrance to Alfred Hall administration center; the renovation of Aurelius Hall as the home of the McKenna School; and the construction and renovation of  outdoor athletic fields and facilities.

A $75 million comprehensive capital campaign was implemented that included $12 million for the construction of The Fred M. Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media and an adjacent Conference Center.

Other accomplishments of the College during his presidency include the establishment of the Loe China Studies Center, The Kennametal Center for Operational Excellence and the expansion of the athletics programs for men and women.

Previous recipients of the Projektenmacher Award include Br. Nathan Cochran, O.S.B. (2011), Lisa Poponick (2012), Rita Catalano (2013), Kelly King (2014), Angela Belli (2015) and Dr. Nancy Rottler (2016).

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Photo: Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., right, president of Saint Vincent College, presented the Projektenmacher Award to James F. Will, left, president emeritus, recognizing his creative initiative inspired by founder Boniface Wimmer.

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