Dr. A. Gabriel Esteban has been named permanent president of Seton Hall University, as announced Tuesday in a broadcast e-mail sent to the University community.
“It’s a very humbling experience to be named president,” Esteban, 49, told The Setonian in a telephone interview. “I feel like I’ve really been blessed, especially as an immigrant coming to this country. It’s a dream come true for an individual such as myself.”
Esteban referenced his family background in education. His late father was a college professor, and his mother was a high school teacher.
Esteban’s appointment makes him the 20th University president. His appointment also is a change to the University by-laws which mandate that a Roman Catholic priest should “always” be Chief Executive Officer of the University. According to a University webpage dedicated to Esteban’s appointment, the Board of Trustees made an exception to the by-laws.
“That’s why it (the appointment to presidency) was very humbling,” Esteban said of the exception to the by-laws, which placed a layman as University president for the first time since the 1980s.
Esteban assumed the duties of interim president in July 2010 after Msgr. Robert Sheeran announced he was stepping down from the presidential position after 15 years.
According to The Star Ledger, campus officials have said that Esteban has been offered a five and a half year contract for his position. The newspaper’s report also said salary was not announced but that it would be “comparable” to other university and college presidents in the Big East conference.
During his first academic semester as interim president, Esteban was very active with campus life. He was seen frequently at basketball games on campus and helped the Hall celebrate the Christmas season with a tree lighting ceremony.
He also became the face of the University in the wake of tragedy after the off-campus shooting death of sophomore student Jessica Moore.
“Dr. Esteban has successfully navigated through many challenges during his interim presidency; we are extremely fortunate to have such a proven, compassionate leader at the helm of our University,” Patrick Murray, chair of the Board of Regents, said in the broadcast. “He is ideally positioned to carry on Seton Hall’s Catholic Mission and its tradition of academic excellence.”
The announcement of Esteban as interim president originally came via broadcast e-mail to the University community on June 16, as well as in a release on the Seton Hall website.
Kurt Borowsky, who was chair of the Board of Regents at the time of the announcement, said Esteban’s tenure as interim president would be one year long.
Esteban came to the University in 2007 where he served as Provost and chief academic officer. During his time as Provost, he oversaw eight colleges and schools, the University libraries and enrollment services, according to his biography on the Seton Hall website.
The biography also says Seton Hall has recruited the largest new class in 30 years under Esteban’s leadership. The class was more than 1,300 students and has an average increase of 33 points in SAT scores.
The last president of the University, Sheeran, was named to his position in December 1995.
Esteban said he had a inclination that he might be named president “before the holidays,” and he was “pretty sure” around Thursday when the Board of Trustees met.
“I think that part of the fall (semester) … there was uncertainty about leadership, and some of that has gone away (with him becoming president),” Esteban said.
Esteban thanked “Newark Archbishop John Myers (chair of the University Board of Trustees) and Mr. Pat Murray (chair of the Board of Regents) for their belief that I can do the job.”
As president, Esteban said he wanted to create a stronger social environment and more of an on-campus presence. He also said there was a possibility of an activities fee, which would have a strong impact on activities funding.
He also referenced his fiscal ideology – described as somewhat conservative – and that some funds could be used soon for campus upgrades, such as in the residence halls.
Additionally, Esteban mentioned the success of 2010’s Christmas tree lighting, which he proposed. According to him, the ice skating rink was a success.
“We will double the skating rink in size next year,” Esteban said. “It was a hit with the students who participated.”
Esteban emphasized the importance of the University’s students.
“Seton Hall is always about the students,” Esteban said. “It’s fairly straight-forward. When there’s questions, they’re answered with the best interest of the students in mind.”
As the University’s 20th president, the former Provost has hopes for his new job.
“I hope to live up to expectations that come with such a job,” Esteban said.
Brian Wisowaty can be reached at email@example.com.
Jessica Sutcliffe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.