By Darek Lambert
Last week, President Robert Gervasi appeared on QUTV’s This Week on Q for his final farewell to students.
We are less than a month away from Commencement. How are you feeling as your tenure at Quincy University is about to come to an end?
“Well, as you can imagine there’s a lot of feelings mixed in there. Certainly pride. I’m very proud of what we’ve all been able to accomplish together– faculty, staff and
students– these last nine years. Sadness of course, to leave so many good friends we’ve made over this time. Excitement to go to a new opportunity that will be in familiar territory, since, you know, Jen and I both lived in Ohio earlier and will be closer to our children and grandchildren. That’s exciting as well. Bottom line is gratitude. I really am very, very grateful to have had the privilege and the opportunity to serve as QU’s president these nine years.”
With this being your first university president position, what were some things that surprised you in such a role?
“It wasn’t totally a surprise because I’ve been fortunate to have pretty responsible positions up to this point, and I’ve also been fortunate to have gotten to know quite a number of college presidents even before I started here at Quincy, so I knew what I was getting into. I had a great briefing from trustees and others here at the university before I started. But, seeing it from the outside is always different from being on the ground and I guess that was not so much of a surprise. I just sort of had to hold my breath for a while, there are just so many different aspects to being a college president and leading an institution that there are so many things coming at you at once. You just sort of have to sort it all out and focus on a strategic vision and get the support you need to make that vision happen. That was definitely a very exciting time.”
What are some of the things that you have learned at QU that you will take with you to Ohio Dominican University?
“I think what I have really learned is two things, one being managing issues and the other being leading people. There are always going to be crises. It is very easy to get caught up in the crises and only deal with crisis management, but if you do that all the time, you lose sight of the long term goal of the institution and the mission. I have learned that it is very important to not let what is urgent get in the way of what is important. You have to keep your eye on what is most important.”
Compared to the other schools you have worked at, what are some things that are distinctive about QU?
“Our identity as a Catholic, Franciscan, liberal arts institution, to me, has been an amazing bedrock of Quincy University. It is a very unique characteristic.”
In hindsight, is there something that you wish you would have done differently while president at Quincy University?
“That is always a great question. I always like to turn it around. I know that you cannot change the past, but you can learn from it. I don’t think about what I would’ve changed. I think about how I can learn from the past to make decisions in the future. Learn from it and never to regret it.”
What did you and your wife, Jen, think of your time in the city of Quincy while you were here?
“There are so many opportunities in the city of Quincy. Of course, Jen has served on numerous boards here in town. There are opportunities for professionals in any field and the chance to get involved in many different kinds of activities. This is unique because smaller communities do not have the resources and then larger communities have everything professionalized. Here, everything is great. It is very impressive for the arts and service.”
You have been here since 2008. What would you say is your favorite memory?
“That is very tough because in nine years there have been so many wonderful memories. I would like to chose two, one that happened on campus and one that happened off campus. The one that happened off campus was a personal revelation. At the invocation at a formal president of a university, Loyola University in Chicago, I was invited to represent Quincy and I was able to meet the Dalai Lama. This was a personal note because the Dalai Lama has been one of my heroes since I was little. I looked up to him religiously and politically. I just thought that he has been such an inspiration to me, and it would not have happened without Quincy University. My experience on campus is that some years ago we had a student who was a football student athlete and was in a serious car accident and almost died. He eventually came back and had just one semester left. Everyone on campus got behind him to help him back on to campus. We had just built the Student Living Center, so he was able to have a special room and he was really cared for. He was confined to a wheel chair because of this accident. Jen and I actually got to know him and his family fairly well because we went to visit in the hospital a number of times. He graduated at Commencement and, with the help of some faculty members, was able to walk across the stage and receive his diploma. There were tears in everyone’s eyes. The entire assembly stopped and cheered for five minutes. This was a representation of what this university is all about.”
With all the changes happening at Quincy University, what do you think is in store for the future of the institution?
“I think that the best of Quincy University is yet to come. But I think we have a plan in place to get beyond and have a team of internal leadership that is very robust and a great team of the Board of Trustees that I am confident will find a very talented president to succeed me.”
What words of wisdom might you have for your successor at Quincy University?
“Don’t let the urgent distract you from the important. Don’t let relationships get away from you either. Relationships with students as well as those relationships with faculty. It’s all about relationships and all about focus.”
What would your last words to the student body be, as you are leaving Quincy University?
“I will pass on two words of wisdom that have been passed on to me as well as countless others in history. Those words come from Francis of Assisi as greeting and farewell. Pax et bonum. Pax meaning peace and bonum meaning good. His wish for everyone is that you live in peace and live striving for what is good. That is a real challenge. It is easy to have conflict with others. Peace-keeping takes hard work. I wish peace and good to all of our students.”