For the first time, the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne will be led by someone other than a religious sister.
The Rev. Eric Albert Zimmer, a Jesuit-educated, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend priest, will succeed Sister Elise Kriss from the Order of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration when she retires June 30 after 27 years with the institution.
The announcement came Monday morning from the university board of trustees and the sisters.
Zimmer now serves as associate teaching professor at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. He also leads St. Patrick Catholic Church in Walkerton.
“This marks the first time in our history that a sister will not serve as president,” said Sister M. Angela Mellady, provincial superior. The sisters are “deeply grateful for Father Zimmer's experience and willingness to serve,” her statement continued.
Kriss said Monday afternoon she met Zimmer when he was named president by the school's board.
“I don't know him,” she said. “But I hope to get to know him better as he comes on board and sharing my knowledge about the university. I am really looking forward to that.”
Zimmer will continue to teach at Notre Dame and work at the Walkerton parish during this academic year.
Zimmer brings to the job expertise in higher education, nonprofit-sector funding, health care and finance, according to University of Saint Francis officials.
In the news release, he was credited as founder and leadership director of Creighton University's School of Medicine, a medical school offering medical education based in Roman Catholic teachings.
The school has a campus in Omaha, Nebraska, and another in Phoenix.
Other credentials include serving on the papal Secretariat for the universities section of the Congregation on Catholic Education and as attache for the Vatican's Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
Zimmer, who is a captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, is CEO for Jesuits.net with affiliations with Georgetown University and Loyola University's board.
He speaks five languages and has served the church in Nepal, India, Chile, France and Italy. He also has provided pastoral care with Omaha's Hispanic community and New York City's inner city and Ground Zero communities.
Zimmer has a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, a master of business administration from the University of Chicago, a master of arts from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor of arts from Loyola University, New Orleans.
He also is a avid cyclist and professionally trained bicycle mechanic who rode across the United States in 2003 to raise money for Project Rachel, an abortion-recovery and reconciliation ministry of the Roman Catholic church.
Bill Niezer, chairman of the University of Saint Francis Board of Trustees, applauded the choice.
“Father Zimmer well understands the challenges facing higher education and, I believe, possesses the skills necessary to meet those challenges and to advance the mission of the university,” he said in a statement.
Because of incorrect information provided to The Journal Gazette, a previous online version of this story misstated part of the background of the Rev. Dr. Eric Albert Zimmer, newly named president of the University of Saint Francis. He is a Jesuit-educated, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend priest.