Historic moments from La Salle presidential inaugurations

October 4, 2022

The inauguration of La Salle University’s 30th President, Daniel J. Allen, Ph.D., is set for Oct. 27-28.

The next in a monthly series celebrating La Salle University’s rich history and the forthcoming 160th anniversary of its charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In preparation for this historic moment, it’s a chance to look back at how other former La Salle presidents were welcomed into office. This retrospective is collected primarily from a 2015 exhibit, This Work is Ours: A Century of Welcoming Presidents to La Salle, curated by staff and archivists at La Salle’s Connelly Library.


Inauguration celebrations were not held for La Salle presidents prior to the mid- to late 1960s. And until 2015, every prior president had been from the Brothers of the Christian Schools teaching order.

In the early years of the institution, Christian Brothers would learn of their teaching assignments for the approaching school year by reading a large bulletin board on the last day of the annual spiritual retreat each August. Although some of the incoming presidents, principals, or directors likely were informed earlier and individually that same summer, others may have found out their leadership posts in the same way that the teaching Brothers did.

In a larger gesture of honoring La Salle presidents, Explorer staff dedicated the 1953 yearbook to two consecutive presidents, Brother Gregory Paul, FSC, and Brother Erminus Stanislaus, FSC. Of note, Br. Gregory increased La Salle’s postwar enrollment to new heights, while Br. Erminus took on the task of expanding La Salle’s physical presence.

1969-present day

In 1969, La Salle began holding presidential inauguration events. These modern inaugurations, typically, have been open to the entire La Salle community, in addition to selected outside guests.

Special invitations and tickets were sent to prominent attendees and public invitations were issued to the campus. Political and educational leaders from around the state and country sent congratulations to past presidents. University Archives holds a number of these congratulatory letters.

University Archives, on the lower level of Connelly Library, is presenting an exhibit of Presidential Inauguration artifacts, including congratulatory letters from other colleges and universities, invitations and reply cards, and more. The main exhibition contains two display cases outside of the Archives. A smaller sister exhibition is on the second floor, which includes Collegian coverage of new presidents from 1932–2015.

Oct. 19, 1969

La Salle held its first modern presidential inauguration event for Brother Daniel Burke, FSC, Ph.D. The event looked similar to modern inaugurations with a formal ceremony, addresses, the attendance of representatives from other institutions, a celebratory dinner, and a reception.

Br. Daniel’s speech was included in the Fall 1969 issue of La Salle Magazine. His inauguration address spoke on the themes of community, access to a college education, and higher education adapting to the times.

March 20, 1977

Unlike the ceremony for Br. Daniel, the inauguration ceremony for Brother Patrick Ellis, FSC, Ph.D., was held in the spring. This was the second of La Salle’s modern inauguration ceremonies. About 740 invitations were sent out, according to University archives.

Br. Patrick’s speech, reprinted in the Spring 1977 issue of La Salle Magazine, centered around “a renewal of the courage, faith, and values practiced by St. John Baptist de La Salle.”

March 21, 1993

The inauguration of Brother Joseph Burke, ’68, FSC, Ph.D., came with more fanfare as it closed out Charter Week—the annual celebration of La Salle receiving its charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Br. Joseph was the first alumnus of La Salle to become president. The 1993 Explorer yearbook was dedicated to outgoing President Br. Patrick and incoming President Br. Joseph. The students stated they were “looking forward to an exciting and prosperous future.”

During the inauguration ceremony, the mace was carried by Major General William F. Burns, ’54, father of William J. Burns, ’78, the current Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Br. Joseph’s inaugural address reaffirmed La Salle’s commitment to its community and to the City of Philadelphia, according to the Spring 1993 issue of La Salle Magazine.

Sept. 24, 1999

The inauguration of Brother Michael McGinniss, ’70, FSC, Ph.D., featured a series of events. According to a Sept. 22, 1999 edition of The Collegian, an event-packed weekend included an inauguration ceremony at Tom Gola Arena. About 1,350 people were invited, including 70 representatives of other colleges. Organizers had hoped that close to 700 students would attend, and it was estimated that more than 1,000 students did.

Br. Michael’s speech centered around the advancements the University had made and the “priority that La Salle places on the relationship between student and teacher, colleagues and administrators,” according to the Fall 1999 issue of La Salle Magazine. Br. Michael spent part of his inauguration weekend joining hundreds of members of the University community participating in La Salle’s Branch Out Day volunteer activities.

Oct. 9, 2015

The inauguration of Colleen Hanycz, Ph.D., marked a first in La Salle’s history, as she became its first woman to serve as President and first non-Brother.

A week of events and activities were planned for Hanycz’s inauguration celebration. Inauguration Mass was held at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul and an inauguration ceremony followed at TruMark Financial Center. Dr. Hanycz’s address discussed the Lasallian ties of faith, community, and service.

—Meg Ryan