As another graduating class received their diplomas this May, the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) bid a fond farewell to two retiring administrators who have led thousands of students to success.
Dr. Denise Doyle, most recently the university’s chancellor, held many leadership positions during her 27 years at UIW. She served as provost, vice president for Academic and Student Affairs and professor of religious studies. In addition, she played a vital role in the creation of the UIW Adult Degree Completion Program, known as ADCaP. She served as its first director and as the dean of the School of Extended Studies (EAP).
When she began developing the ADCaP program in 1994, Doyle realized the need to help working adults go back to school. These adults may have taken some classes, but then got involved with their career, family or other responsibilities that prevented them from finishing college. To help them get their diploma, ADCaP offered evening and weekend classes to provide convenient class hours for these students.
“There’s a surprising number of people in San Antonio with some college credits but no degree,” Doyle said. “Having some college is the same as having no college. Employers want to know what your degree is.”
The ADCaP program accepted its first class in January 1995, enrolling about 25 students. The program took off quickly, and by September, 100 students were attending classes. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the program, with the past 12 years under the leadership of Dean Vincent Porter. Over those 20 years, ADCaP has graduated several thousand students and has grown to offer eight locations around San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Killeen, Texas. In August, ADCaP opened a new location in the heart of Corpus Christi’s Southside.
“Denise’s work in spearheading ADCaP during its early days in the 1990s, especially in gaining faculty support, provided the solid foundation for it to grow into one of UIW’s signature academic programs,” said Dr. Louis Agnese, UIW president. “It’s not a stretch to say that ADCaP has improved the lives of thousands of people in San Antonio.”
“Looking back, establishing ADCaP was the most satisfying initiative to me,” Doyle said. “I really got to know a lot of students, and I realized how much it meant to them to get a college degree.”
Students like Kate Crosby, who in 1996 was the first undergraduate to earn a degree from the ADCaP program. Crosby’s younger sister recently joined the ADCaP family, now working toward her degree through the online program. She began her studies at UIW more than 30 years ago, but family life and other obligations prevented her from finishing. Now that she’s back in the workforce, she wanted to complete her degree, just like her older sister did 20 years ago.
“I am thrilled that UIW was the best fit for her,” Crosby said.
When Doyle left her position as dean of Extended Studies to become the vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, she missed being directly involved with students. But even as vice president and later as provost and chancellor, Doyle continued to support UIW students. During Doyle’s tenure the Feik School of Pharmacy, the Rosenberg School of Optometry and the School of Physical Therapy were all established. She was instrumental in helping the optometry school earn accreditation.
“As a leader, Dr. Doyle created an environment primarily focused on the best possible outcomes for our students,” said Itza Casanova, current administrative assistant to the provost who also served in the position when Doyle was provost. “Her contribution to university initiatives created opportunities for faculty and student development and achievement while also establishing her leadership nationwide as a collaborative university administrator.” Casanova has been with Incarnate Word nearly 23 years, first as Incarnate Word High School office staff and subsequently as Doyle’s administrative assistant in 1999.
“Denise has also been superb in her various administrative positions,” said Agnese. “She did a terrific job filling in for me when I was on sabbatical last year, something for which I’ll always be grateful.”
As she retires, Doyle plans to maintain a ministry she enjoyed the entire time she worked at UIW—promoting the Mission of the university. She now serves as the director of education and formation as the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word develop the Heritage Center. The center will offer a variety of programs, workshops and retreats, and houses the Sisters’ archives.
In 2015, the Denise J. Doyle Excellence in Teaching and Service Award was established, awarded to CHASS part-time faculty.
Doyle credits several colleagues in her success at UIW, including another retiring administrator, Dr. Bob Connelly, professor emeritus of philosophy, who began working at the university in 1972. Along the way, he served in many capacities, including as assistant to the associate provost, the dean of the College of Math, Science and Engineering, the assistant director and director of assessment, and the dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.
“I turned 76 in August and that’s a lot of time to spend in one career,” Connelly said. “It’s been a wonderful career, and I plan to continue with other worthwhile volunteer projects and anything else I can do in the wider community.”
In addition to his titled positions, Connelly took on several important projects, such as assistance in the founding of the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership, establishing the university’s strategic goal for sustainability, maintaining the Faculty Handbook, and developing the Headwaters at Incarnate Word. For the past nine years, Connelly served on the board of the Headwaters, a nonprofit sanctuary of protected land adjacent to the university that provides many volunteer and learning opportunities for students and faculty. Because of his involvement in various and numerous initiatives, the university created the The Robert J. Connelly Faculty Leadership Award in 2009 to honor a professor who has served as a model leader of the UIW faculty.
“Bob has been a strong advocate of the faculty, a caring professor, and a leader in our sustainability efforts,” said Agnese. “Equally as important was his steady leadership during UIW’s SACSCOC re-accreditations. It was critical to the continued well-being of UIW because it allowed us to keep functioning as an accredited university.”
Not only was Connelly continuously dedicated to the faculty, but also to supporting student successes, both in and out of the classroom. Connelly credits his involvement with the university’s sustainability goals to one curious and persistent student. At the time, UIW provided recycling bins, but they were inconveniently located and rarely used. One senior, Maria Duran ’08 BA, approached Connelly about increasing the emphasis on recycling and stewardship. That led to a recycling committee and then to a group with a broader objective—the Sustainability Committee.
“What was so exciting about this, was that one student who was really persistent about making things better, she started making things happen,” Connelly said. “It’s a message we’re sharing with students and faculty: One person can make a difference.”
Along with others at the university, Connelly wanted to get students, like Duran, more engaged in service learning all around San Antonio, spurring the idea of the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership. He and the late Sr. Dorothy “Dot” Ettling, CCVI, the center’s namesake, approached Agnese and the administration at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System in 2012 to gain support, and the center was born the next year. Since then, the center has provided internships and community involvement opportunities. Even after retirement, Connelly continues to be involved, co-teaching a pilot course called Social Justice Leadership through the Ettling Center—an opportunity he’s thrilled to have.
“In my heart the thing that’s always been the most rewarding is the classroom experience,” Connelly said. “I’ve been teaching for 40 years, and there’s nothing like it. Administration is important because it supports that, but to be in the classroom and engaged with students has got to be one of the best jobs ever. Getting back into a classroom now after 13 years is icing on the cake.”
By Ashley Festa