Father Donald J. Harrington to step down as St. John's President

The Torch/NY Daily News

Harrington assumed the presidency of St. John's University in 1989.

Father Donald J. Harrington, C.M. has announced his intentions to step down as President of St. John's University, effective July 31st.

Harrington notified administration, faculty, and students on Friday afternoon with an email stating that he has notified the Board of Trustees that he will retire. As reported throughout this year by the Torch, St. John's student newspaper, Harrington has been under investigation for his connection with cases involving former dean Cecilia Chang and University Chief of Staff Rob Wile.

"I write to inform you that I have today advised the University's Board of Trustees of my intention to retire as President of St. John's," Harrington stated. "I do this with the firm conviction that the vision that I held for this institution has largely been fulfilled."

In his 24 years at the helm atop St. John's administration, after five years spent as President at Niagara University, Harrington did accomplish many things at the University. The conversion of the University from a commuter-exclusive to a resident school, expansion of facilities on the Queens and Staten Island campuses, enhancement of academic programs, and increase in global presence in Rome and Paris are just a few of Harrington's accolades since he took over in 1989.

Yet the perception of Harrington, who is celebrating the 40th anniversary of his ordination as Vincentian priest this month, has drastically changed since the financial fraud of Cecilia Chang was first reported over a year ago.

Harrington informed the student body on March 8th that the University had engaged a law firm for advisement on issues stemming from the Chang case. Chang committed suicide in her Jamaica Estates home in November.

A New York Magazine story was released in February exposing Harrington's reception of improper gifts and paid vacations over the past decade, at least one in which Wile accompanied him to Turks and Caicos.

Wile also submitted his official resignation from the University on Friday, sources confirmed.

"The difficulties for everyone during the past year have convinced me, after much prayer and reflection, that the time to leave the presidency has now come," Harrington said, admitting that his decision has been greatly influenced by the tribulations that have occurred in recent months.

A letter from Peter D'Angelo, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, was also sent out to the University on Friday afternoon, reflecting on Harrington's achievements and strengthening of the Vincentian mission at St. John's during his tenure.

As many university presidents are, Harrington was heavily involved in the hiring of Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin in March of 2010, along with that of Brian Mahoney, Fran Fraschilla, Mike Jarvis, and Norm Roberts in years prior.

Harrington also served as the leader of the 'Catholic 7' presidents as they eventually moved on their decision to leave the current-standing Big East Conference and create the new Big East.

There is no indication as to whether St. John's will seek its next President internally or externally. Father J. Maher, who spent 22 years in administrative positions at St. John's, was recently named President of Niagara University. DePaul University is also a Vincentian-missioned school.

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