As Tom Flynn steps down after 14 years leading Alvernia, the university welcomes John Loyack as its seventh president.
by Richard Bader
It’s no secret to those who know him well that Alvernia’s sixth president is a big fan of classic rock. The Who, the Rolling Stones, the Byrds—these iconic bands that helped shape the music landscape more than half a century ago remain fixtures on the playlist that runs through Tom Flynn’s head.
And while Flynn may have been president of Alvernia for only a fraction of the time that radios (and, now, streaming services) have been playing the tunes of these immortals, his influence—on the university, in his case, not the music world— has been no less profound. During his 14 years as president Flynn helped transform what had been a modest, local, mostly commuter college into a robust and thriving regional university that’s established itself as an anchor institution in Berks County. Under Flynn’s leadership, Alvernia has launched new programs that expand and reinforce the university’s mission and Franciscan values, such as the Reading Collegiate Scholars Program. The O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership, and Public Service and the Holleran Center for Community and Global Engagement have had major impacts on and beyond the campus. Alvernia exceeded its target goal in completing its first-ever comprehensive capital campaign, has enjoyed 15 straight years of budget surpluses and has seen enrollment grow to its highest level ever. In fall 2018 the university welcomed the largest, most diverse and best prepared first-year class in history.
These would be noteworthy accomplishments for any university, but they are especially so for one in the demographically challenged northeastern part of the country, where many colleges struggle to hit enrollment targets and keep budgets in the black. “What the university has been able to accomplish during very turbulent times, that’s been both the biggest challenge and our greatest success,” Flynn said. “What a long, productive trip it’s been.”
Tom Flynn’s last day as president is June 30, 2019. The consensus is that he will be a tough act to follow. Which raises the question: just how do you follow him?