For the first time in almost 180 years, a Black-American man is leading the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. Vincent D. Rougeau has become the 33rd president of the college, and also the first lay and first Black president in the college’s near 180-year history.
Rougeau, who was named as the president of the Worcester college in February, was inaugurated in a formal ceremony Friday, October 22, with students and dignitaries present. “This is our enduring mission, guided by our Catholic faith, and reflecting the changing times,” said Rougeau at the ceremony.
“This is a moment of opportunity, of audacious hope, and belief in the transformative power of education. This is a day when a Black layman from the south can lead a Jesuit college in New England.”
The inaugural ceremony was held at the Hart Center at the Luth Athletic Complex. Rougeau took over from Rev. Philip L. Boroughs in July. After nine years leading the college, Boroughs announced last year that he would step down in 2021.
Rougeau, who currently, serves as president of the Association of American Law Schools, is an expert in legal education and Catholic social thought, according to masslive.com. He was dean of the Boston College Law School and the inaugural director of the new Boston College Forum on Racial Justice in America.
Rougeau also served as a tenured professor of law at Notre Dame Law School, and from 1999 to 2002, he was that school’s associate dean for academic affairs.
“Through a dynamic expression of today’s Jesuit mission, we will lead Holy Cross to realize its full potential as one of the finest liberal arts institutions in the world,” said Rougeau. “At Holy Cross, we accept that our world is knotty and imperfect. We believe that the best preparation for the challenges of the 21st century is a broad liberal education rooted in discovery, and amplified by our Catholic intellectual traditions.”
Students and staff at Holy Cross have welcomed their new president. Armstrong Lidonde, the grounds general foreman at the school, said he is blessed to have witnessed the ceremony.
“I am thankful to witness this first Black president taking the helm,” he said, according to Telegram & Gazette. “Taking the helm during a pandemic is a daunting task but I have faith and trust that God will grant our new president the knowledge to steer our ship safely through. I promise him my prayers.”
Richard H. Patterson ‘80, the chair of the Board of Trustees, said Holy Cross is lucky to have a leader like Rougeau.
“With Vince Rougeau, we have a leader whose intimate knowledge of higher education, whose faith and commitment to Catholic social teaching … whose ability to communicate effectively to diverse audiences … and whose perspectives on today’s complex global issues will serve us very, very well,” Patterson said.
Rougeau was selected after a national search and was approved unanimously by the Board of Trustees on February 9.