Dr. Louis J. Agnese, Jr.
30th Anniversary as UIW President
I smile when I tell people that I was enjoying my first European trip with my dear friend Sr. Dot Ettling when Lou Agnese was hired. I had nothing to do with it! I did, however, work with the man for 26 years in at least five different capacities. As I write, I’m in St. Louis, Mo., 900 miles from San Antonio, serving my fourth year as the president of Incarnate Word Academy. From these clarifying perspectives of longevity, distance and time, not to mention the inevitable passage of years, the history/myth/portrait of the man honored in this publication for his 30-year leadership of UIW emerges.
The underlying concept that anchors Lou Agnese’s legacy is singular dedication. Nobody, with the exception of Mother Columkille Colbert, who literally built Incarnate Word College, and Sr. Margaret Patrice Slattery, who shaped it into a modern institution of academic excellence, has worked harder or maintained more constant focus on building the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) than Lou. His tenure has been the unfolding of an early marketing message: “How A College Develops A City’s Brainpower.” Only now this development reaches far beyond San Antonio!
Dedication has been coupled with another characteristic of Lou’s leadership—respect for the foundation and sustained sponsorship of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. Some reading this might not realize that Lou recognized the importance of naming the residence halls in the Village of Avoca and other campus landmarks after Sisters who had dedicated their lives to Incarnate Word College. Similarly, not a Commencement, Light the Way, or any other public event goes by without the acknowledgement of the Sisters’ presence in and influence on the soul of UIW.
This respect has been recognized by the congregational leaders who have danced upon the precipice with Lou—a skill and art required to steer the Mission through challenging cultural changes as well as events over which no one had much control. Sr. Dorothy Ettling, Sr. Carol Ann Jokerst, Sr. Teresa Stanley, myself, Sr. Yolanda Tarango, Sr. Teresa Maya—all working alongside Lou to balance the interests of a campus and city shared by many CCVI ministries, each working to “make God’s love real in the world by the promotion of human dignity.”
Even for those most doubtful of Lou Agnese’s vision, the sheer expansion of UIW and its growth in size and prestige cannot be denied. I was there when the enrollment numbered 1,900. I joined many other voices, questioning the use of marketing techniques to “sell” a college education. I lamented the rapid growth and speed with which changes emerged. Challenge is good, and Lou experienced plenty of it! But recognizing UIW as the third largest private university in Texas, with an enrollment of 10,984 students in three countries, certainly silences any negative voices.
Let there be no doubt. Progress and years have taken their toll. In my mind’s eye, I fondly see the friends we’ve lost. I’ve lived through the moments of doubt and hurt, times of serious illness, misunderstanding, and costly conflict. And I’ve witnessed the resilience of the man and, even more, the resilience of the community he leads.
Some special people need to be mentioned here. No president can function without the support of a strong board of trustees chair. I invite you to pause for a moment, remembering the legacy of Dr. Amy Freeman Lee, Dolores Mitchell, Kathleen Martin Watson, Ruth Eilene Sullivan, James “Fully” Clingman, Charles Amato, and Charlie Lutz. How much credit these fine individuals deserve for their steady governance oversight and balanced approach!
The decision to hire Lou in 1985 was a risk. He was a bold young man from Brooklyn, thankfully accompanied by a wife and family we loved immediately. Risk has been a constant over the past 30 years. But risk is what the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word do best. I think it is that pioneering spirit that stokes the fire of the CCVI Mission and has transformed Lou’s early interest in becoming a college president into a life-long vocation of service.
And that brings me to the last quality of Lou that has contributed to his success. He has consistently surrounded himself with extremely talented people who share that commitment to service. These are too numerous to mention, but we all know who they are. A tenure of 30 years is a tribute to many people. Lou would be the first to acknowledge that. We who have worked with him over this era take pride in the UIW of 2016. To live a life dedicated to helping students “make the world a better place”—a phrase Lou uses at almost every Commencement—is a gift indeed. For that, we say “Thank You, Lou. We salute you! It’s been a wonderful ride!”
By Sr. Helena Monahan, CCVI ’68 BA
Sr. Helena Monahan, CCVI, is currently the president of Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis, Mo. She is a graduate of Incarnate Word College and retired from UIW in May 2012 after 31 years of service to the university. She holds the title of Chancellor Emerita. Monahan served the university in many capacities, first as a professor of English and later becoming the assistant to then Incarnate Word College President Sr. Margaret Patrice Slattery, CCVI. She later served as executive vice president of UIW before being elected Congregational Coordinator for the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. Prior to her retirement, she held the position of chancellor at UIW.
30 Milestones of Agnese’s Presidency
Louis J. Agnese, Jr., a 33-year-old native of Brooklyn, NY, hired as the eighth President of Incarnate Word College. When he began his term in August, enrollment was 1,296 and IWC was 19th largest private university in Texas (pictured left)
Agnese inaugurated as the eighth President of Incarnate Word on March 25 (pictured right)
Light The Way celebrated for the first time
Intercollegiate athletic programs are added
Establishment of the first international “sister school” agreement for reciprocal education
Agnese named one of the 10 Outstanding Young Persons of the World
Adult Degree Completion Program (ADCaP) begins, which allowed working adults to complete college at an accelerated pace in the evening
Incarnate Word College becomes the University of the Incarnate Word (pictured left)
Opening of first academic site outside of San Antonio (Corpus Christi)
Start of first doctoral program (Ph.D. in Education)
Opening of China Incarnate Word (pictured right)
Launch of the Virtual University (online)
Dedication of the Dreeben School of Education. It becomes the first named school at UIW
Opening of Centro Universitario Incarnate Word in Mexico City (pictured left)
Men’s soccer team attains a No.1 national ranking, the first time that any UIW sports team has been ranked No.1 in an NCAA poll
James “Fully” Clingman becomes the first male Chairman of the Board of Trustees
The Cardinals adopted as the new school mascot
Groundbreaking for the Feik School of Pharmacy (pictured right)
Agnese receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ford Salute to Education
Father Mateo Ma. J. De Jesus is named President of San Beda College in The Philippines, becoming the first graduate of the Ph.D. program to become a university president
First football game at UIW
Classes start at the Rosenberg School of Optometry (pictured left)
UIW accepts invitation to join NCAA Division I
Opening of the Saidoff Center, home to UIW’s new School of Physical Therapy (pictured right)
Opening of the European Study Center in Heidelberg, Germany
UIW announces plans to build a medical school at Brooks City Base
Opening of campus in Irapuato, Mexico (pictured left)
Global enrollment reaches nearly 11,000. UIW is the largest Catholic university in Texas and the third largest private university in the state
For second consecutive year, UIW is No. 1 nationally among private universities in conferring the most bachelor’s degrees to Hispanics
UIW named a Great College to Work For in the United States for the seventh consecutive year (pictured right)
Agnese Through the Years