Franciscan U. picks Pivonka for president


STEUBENVILLE — The Rev. David Pivonka, TOR, has been named the president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, officials have announced.

Pivonka, a 1989 graduate,who will be the school’s seventh president, was chosen by its board of trustees Tuesday. He will succeed the Rev. Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, served as president from 2013 until his recent retirement.

“I congratulate Pivonka, TOR, on his election to the presidency. As Franciscan’s first alumnus president, he brings a unique array of perspective, experience and qualifications to this role. His work as a nationally known preacher and evangelist combined with prior senior-level administrative experience at Franciscan will serve the university well. I assure him of the support and prayers of his Franciscan brothers in the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus as he assumes his new duties,” said the Rev. Malachi Van Tassell, TOR, ’93, chairman of the board of trustees and minister provincial of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Province of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance.

Members of the board were resolved “to find a president who was led by the Holy Spirit, a champion for dynamic orthodoxy, and an exceptionally strong executive who understands and values the unique culture and demands of academia and the importance of strong collaboration between the president and the faculty, said David DeWolf, vice chair of the board of trustees and chair of the board’s governance committee and a 1996 graduate of he university.

“After significant prayer and a robust interview process, it quickly became clear that Pivonka possesses all of these qualities as well as meeting all the requirements of our job specification,” DeWolf said. “We are confident God has prepared him well to lead Franciscan, and we are excited about his presidency and what it means for the future of the university — a future full of hope.”

For the last seven years, Pivonka served as the director of Franciscan Pathways, an evangelistic outreach of his Franciscan, TOR, community. In that role, he has hosted and produced “The Wild Goose” video series on developing a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit, a documentary on St. Francis of Assisi titled “Sign of Contradiction” and “Metanoia,” a new series on conversion that will be released later this year. Pivonka preaches at approximately 50 events annually, including retreats, workshops, pilgrimages, parish missions and the university’s youth, young adult and adult conferences.

At the university, Pivonka held a number of pastoral, leadership and administrative positions from 1996-2008. He also served on the faculty as an adjunct professor of theology from 1996 to 1998.

Pivonka worked as vice president for mission and planning from 2003 to 2005, serving on the president’s cabinet and leading a team of faculty, staff and students in strategic plan development and building mission awareness on and off campus. In addition, Pivonka served as director of household support (1996-1998), assistant to the president under then-President the Rev. Michael Scanlan, TOR (1998-1999), director of youth outreach conferences (1999-2003) and director of the study abroad program in Austria (2005-2008).

From 2008-2012, Pivonka served as director of post-novitiate formation for the Franciscans in Washington, D.C., forming student friars in their spiritual, educational and psychological development.

“It’s both humbling and an honor to be chosen to lead Franciscan University of Steubenville,” Pivonka said. “More than 30 years ago, I first arrived at Franciscan as an undergrad and received an outstanding education as well as life-changing spiritual formation as part of a dynamic, Catholic intellectual and faith community. A lot has changed in our culture in the last 30 years, but Franciscan University continues its mission to provide a superior education in a vibrant faith community where students and parents alike can be confident in their choice of Franciscan University.”

Pivonka continued, “I look forward to working with one of the finest faculties in the country and an exceptional staff to assure that our Franciscan University graduates are prepared intellectually, professionally, and spiritually to be a light to a world in desperate need.”

Pivonka was born in Durango, Colo., graduated with his bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University in 1989 and went on to earn an MDiv and MA in theology from the Washington Theological Union in 1996, writing his thesis on the indissolubility of Christian marriage. He earned a doctorate in education from the Graduate Theological Foundation in 2005, with a doctoral project focused on Catholic education in a post-modern world. He also earned an executive juris doctorate from Concord University School of Law of Purdue University Global in 2011.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1996.

He has written six books, the two newest being “Breath of God: Living a Life Led by the Holy Spirit” and “Sign of Contradiction.”

Since 2008, he has served on the board of renewal ministries, and he is a past member of the board of trustees for St. Francis University (2000-2012) and a past board member for the National Service Committee.

Pivonka will assume the duties of president effective immediately, and he will be formally installed as the president during an inauguration ceremony that will be held later this year.