Last Monday I had dinner with Robert Emanuel and his wife at the Vincentian Residence in Chicago. Robert will start as president of DePaul on 1 August 2022. It was a delight to meet him and his wife.

I am a higher education junkie for the most part—collecting several college degrees, working, teaching and serving on boards in the field for 46 years. I have written books on Higher Ed, published articles and chapters. I really looked forward to spending some time with our new president; there he was across the table from me as we ate our steaks.

I welcomed him not only to the largest Catholic University in the U.S. at almost 125 years old but also to the worldwide Vincentian family—a 400+-year tradition in the family founded by St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660) to serve the poor.

I attended the board interviews of the three finalist candidates via zoom a few weeks ago and immediately liked Robert. I found him to be far superior to the other candidates and I look forward to what he can do to move DePaul forward during these tricky times in higher education in the U.S. I have confidence in him and wish the very best for him as president and personally for his wife and three daughters.

Inevitably, the fact that Robert is not Catholic came up; this worries some people at DePaul, befuddles others and I do not know quite what to make of it. As I got to know him, I found him to hold our DePaul values of being Vincentian, Catholic, and urban—but, perhaps, without yet using our words. He has some good experience with the Jesuits, which is good—after all, the Pope is a Jesuit. But I found our new president to be a catholic, Catholic—belonging to the universal catholic community in all things important. He will bring that to our cornucopia of values, Catholic and Vincentian; I look forward to it. He will join the 60+ percent of our non-Catholic students.

My only wonder is who will explain to the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago why the largest Catholic University in the United States could not attract a Catholic president in 2022. Perhaps no explanation will be necessary. Welcome to DePaul, Dr. Robert Emanuel.

Fr. J. Patrick Murphy, C.M., Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Public Service at DePaul University and Values Director for Depaul International, an organization that serves homeless people in seven countries.