Interim President Dr. Lance Richey believes the foundation and mission of the University of Saint Francis guarantee it has a bright future in the competitive field of higher education.
“We are an outstanding example of how Catholic higher education continues to be relevant to our community, not only in such diverse fields as the arts, health care and business, but also in creating educated and involved citizens committed to the greater good,” he says.
Dr. Richey, a native of Greenville, South Carolina, came to Saint Francis as an associate professor of theology in the fall of 2011. Over the last 12 years, he has served as a professor of theology, dean and vice president. When the Rev. Dr. Eric Albert Zimmer announced his decision to step down as Saint Francis president at the end of the 2022-23 academic year, Dr. Richey accepted the position of interim president.
He will remain in the role while the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration — the university’s sponsor — and the Board of Trustees search for the next permanent president.
“The Sisters and the board have asked me to strengthen our commitment to the university’s Catholic, Franciscan mission, and to make sure we are using our financial and human resources in the most effective, sustainable way to carry out that mission,” Dr. Richey says.
Dr. Richey is the first of his family to earn a college degree, earning a bachelor’s degree in history at Furman University in Greenville. After considering a possible call to the priesthood, earning a certificate of pre-theological studies at Conception Seminary College, he went on to earn doctorates in philosophy and religious studies at Marquette University.
While studying at Marquette, he met his wife, Carol. The Richeys have five children: Emma, Madeleine, Karl, Louis and Zoe. The oldest four have earned degrees from Saint Francis and Zoe enters her junior year at Saint Francis this fall.
“I love the University of Saint Francis because it’s rooted in the Catholic, Franciscan tradition, and is true to those values and tries to share them with everyone, regardless of faith,” Dr. Richey says. “That’s what I wanted for my children, which is why we sent them all to this university. They all followed their own paths and each of them had a wonderful experience because everyone they encountered was driven by those values.”
With his background as a professor, dean and vice president, Dr. Richey brings a wealth of knowledge of higher education and understands how a university president needs to meet the varying needs of students, faculty and staff. During his time as vice president for academic affairs, Dr. Richey was a key leader in navigating the transition to online instruction during COVID-19, and helped usher in new degree programs and new delivery modalities to help expand enrollment and geographical reach in Health Sciences, among other achievements.
Dr. Richey hopes to establish new ways to connect with students as interim president.
“This is an exciting time to serve in this role because higher education is changing so quickly, and the University of Saint Francis has a lot of opportunities to carry out its mission in different ways if we respond to those challenges with hope and creativity,” he says.
Dr. Richey believes Saint Francis offers not only a wide variety of choices for students — more than 60 academic degree offerings — but provides additional worth through its focus engaging students holistically. Saint Francis students are encouraged to be involved in a variety of ways beyond the classroom to cultivate their faith and values, and to prepare to make a difference in their communities after graduation.
“At a time when a lot of people are questioning the value of a college education, our best response is to make sure our degrees genuinely have value, both for professional success and personal growth,” Dr. Richey says. “That’s what it’s all about.”
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