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Board of Trustees announces new president for 2020-21 academic year

The Misericordia University Board of Trustees has appointed Kathleen Cieplak Owens, Ph.D., to serve as president of the institution for the 2020-21 academic year. Dr. Owens’s term as president will begin on July 1, 2020 and end on June 30, 2021. Dr. Owens is president emerita of Gwynedd Mercy University in Lower Gwynedd Twp., where she served as president from 2002 until her retirement in Aug. 2017.

Dr. Kathleen Owens

“The Board believes Dr. Owens’s extensive professional accomplishments and experience with the Mercy Mission in Catholic higher education will serve our university well as we manage our presidential transition and the planned recovery from the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis,” said Christopher L. Borton, chairperson of the Misericordia University Board of Trustees.

Gwynedd Mercy College transitioned to university status in 2013 during Dr. Owens’s tenure as president. She led the development of new academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including doctoral programs in nursing and education, as well as additional online degree and international programs. She completed a campus master plan and transportation improvement plan, added several new and renovated campus facilities, and helped to drive enrollment growth, which included the establishment of new instructional locations in Pennsylvania, including Center City Philadelphia, East Norriton and Bensalem. While leading Gwynedd Mercy’s first comprehensive capital campaign, Dr. Owens secured the largest gift in the institution’s history which resulted in the Frances M. Maguire School of Nursing and Health Professions, and exceeded the campaign goal nine months before the end of the campaign.

 “I am both excited and humbled to have the opportunity to serve the Misericordia University community during this transition period,” said Dr. Owens. “There is likely no other circumstance that would call me to take a sabbatical from my retirement than my commitment to the mission and core values of Misericordia University and the Sisters of Mercy. I am well aware of the university’s extraordinary accomplishments under the leadership of Dr. Tom Botzman, and I look forward to engaging all constituents in building upon the university’s legacy by supporting the core values of Mercy, Service, Justice and Hospitality.”

Dr. Owens served in leadership roles on several national and regional boards, including as board chairperson for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. She was also board chairperson for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education, vice chairperson/executive committee member of the Council of Independent Colleges, board chairperson for the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Universities, board member for the Conference for Mercy Higher Education, executive committee member for the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, presidential sponsor for the American Council on Education’s Pennsylvania Women’s Network, and board chairperson/trustee emerita for Project Home, a Philadelphia-based organization dedicated to serving people who are homeless. She completed service as a trustee at Medaille College in Buffalo, New York, and a term on the NCAA Division III Presidents’ Council.

Dr. Owens was recognized for her leadership and service in Pennsylvania as the recipient of the Philadelphia Smart CEO Award for Top Female CEOs, Outstanding Leadership Award presented by Synergis Education, Montgomery County Foundation’s Woman of Distinction for 2016, and Montgomery County Community College Foundation’s Woman of the Year in 2017. She was awarded citations from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Pennsylvania Senate in 2017 for exemplary service to higher education in the Commonwealth. Dr. Owens currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Lewis University, a private Roman Catholic and Lasallian university in Romeoville, Illinois.

Earlier in her higher education career, Dr. Owens served as vice president of academic affairs at Saint Francis University in Loretto, as well as dean and professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Lewis University. She received her doctoral and Bachelor of Science degrees from Loyola University Chicago, and her master’s degree from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Owens will replace Thomas J. Botzman, Ph.D., as president of Misericordia University. Dr. Botzman is completing a highly successful seven-year term as Misericordia’s president. He has accepted the president’s position at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio. The search for Misericordia’s president for 2021-22 and beyond will begin in late summer as the Board of Trustees will conduct a national search to select Dr. Botzman’s long-term successor.

Dr. Owens currently resides in the Chicago area with her husband, Don Zamborsky.