The King's College community celebrated the inauguration of its 10th President, Fr. Thomas Looney, C.S.C., on May 6 at the William S. Scandlon Physical Education Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Fr. Looney had been named President of the College back on January 8, 2021, succeeding Fr. John J. Ryan, C.S.C., who had served as president since 2011.
A string of speakers praised Fr. Looney’s long commitment to King’s College, which began back in 1986 when he professed his Final Vows in the former King’s College Chapel of Christ the King. A few weeks after his Final Profession, he began teaching Theology at King’s and serving as a deacon at St. Nicholas Parish in Wilkes-Barre. He was then ordained a priest on June 13, 1987. Over the years, Fr. Looney has served as Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Theology, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of the Faculty, as well as Associate Vice President for Academic Success and Director of Campus Ministry.
Among those who spoke were Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown, a King’s graduate himself; Kathleen McCarthy, the Vice Chair of the King’s Board of Directors; Sister Mary Persico, President of Marywood University; and the Most Rev. Joseph Bambera, Bishop of the Diocese of Scranton.
The keynote address was given by Michelle Asha Cooper, now an acting Assistant Secretary with the U.S. Department of Education. In her remarks, Cooper recalled her time working at King's College as Director of Multicultural and International Affairs. In speaking to the new President, she said: “Father, you have been called to serve at this moment in history because you have the capacity to lead. ... I encourage you to lead both with your head and your heart.”
King’s Board of Directors Chair Thomas Smith then put the bronze “Chain of Office” around Fr. Looney’s neck symbolizing his office as College President. Fr. William Lies, C.S.C., Superior of the United States Province of Priests and Brothers, conducted the Rite of Commissioning and blessing.
Fr. Looney cited the support of his family, especially his father who was in the crowd, and mom, who intercedes for him and the college from heaven.
In his remarks, Fr. Looney harkened back to the educational vision of Blessed Basile Moreau, the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross. He connected that vision with the founding of King's College in 1946 to help the sons of miners get an education so they could improve their lives. In many ways, Fr. Looney says the College continues that founding mission of education many first generational college students as they seek to improve their lives and the world in which we live.