A message from our new President, Rev. James J. Greenfield, OSFS ’84, Ed.D.

by Rev. James J. Greenfield, OSFS ’84 | Jan 02, 2018

Father James J. Greenfield DeSales University's Fourth President

Happy New Year!  As I officially commence service as the fourth president of DeSales University, and return here to serve in this ministry as its first alum, it is an honor for me to begin working alongside the amazing people who make DeSales the rich, vibrant educational community that has formed more than 18,000 alumni who now grace the world with their joy-filled, upbeat, optimistic embrace of life. 

This perspective, grounded in and grown from our Catholic, Salesian mission, energizes and animates the relationships of our students, professors, coaches, and staff. This mission empowers them to learn and develop gentle hearts and strong minds. The rich spirit of St. Francis de Sales attracts students of all faith traditions to deepen their love for God, neighbor, and creation. 

As DeSales’ new president, I am excited to lead a growing community where innovative teachers and curious learners ask important questions to construct new ideas. 

My experience as a graduate—the first to serve as president—allows me to know firsthand the foundational values of DeSales: an abiding Gospel respect for the human person that unfolds into a strong gentleness and gentle strength. 

This respect is seen and celebrated in our classrooms, labs, courts, fields, stages, dining hall, and chapels. What’s more, it is most evident in the personalities of our students and graduates. 

A favorite maxim of the gentleman saint who is our namesake is simple:   Be who you are and be that well!

As the new president, I thought it might be helpful to introduce myself. I came to DeSales in 1979—then Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales—as a freshman after graduating from Philadelphia’s Father Judge High School, which was run by the same priests, brothers, and seminarians of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales at the college. 

I majored in Politics and quickly met new friends getting involved in student government, intramurals, and other campus activities. 

My younger brother, Gerry, came a few years later, and I really enjoyed coming to know his friends, whom I still see regularly, more than 30 years later. I have another brother, Tom; I have three nephews and two nieces. My dad, Bud, lives in Newtown, PA, after my mom, Nance, died in 2016. I still miss her. 

I went on to study theology and psychology, earning masters degrees in both divinity from DeSales School of Theology in 1990 and counseling psychology in 1992 from George Washington University, both in D.C. In 1998, I earned a doctorate in human development, also from George Washington University. 

I have taught at Salesianum School in Wilmington, DE and was the campus minister at George Washington University where I also taught. I also valued my teaching experience at Catholic University of America and Washington Theological Union. 

I have been privileged to work for my Oblate community over the years as the director of recruitment, formation of young Oblates, coordinator of spirituality programs, and provincial superior. 

My most recent ministry for the past 10 years, provincial, afforded me the opportunity to meet Pope Francis. Along with five other priests and brothers representing religious orders of men in the United States, we conversed for almost an hour; it was an incredible experience! 

For almost 30 years, I have loved being an Oblate priest as I am welcomed into the lives of so many people through the sacraments, counseling, teaching, mentoring, and friendship. I enjoy playing the piano, running, and spending time with my family and friends, especially over a good meal. I would like to know your story, and I hope to hear it soon. 

I conclude with one more quote from St. Francis de Sales, who exhorts us to…

Live today well!

Fr. Jim Greenfield, OSFS


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