President Emeritus Stephen A. Privett is truly a man of education. From serving as president of USF to working with immigrants on the Arizona-Mexico border, Privett has a history of not only incorporating Jesuit education in the classroom, but also in the field. After handing off the presidency to Rev. Paul Fitzgerald in 2014, Privett took a one year sabbatical to travel in Colombia. After a year of learning Spanish — which he admits is not so good — he was eager to teach again. Privett became chancellor for USF upon his return, keeping the University accredited while also educating the Board of Trustees on Jesuit tradition. On Sept. 30, after having served the position for two years, President Emeritus Privett stepped down as chancellor. We sat down with him to discuss his last official act of service for the University.
Gabriel Greschler: What did you do as chancellor?
Stephen Privett: I pretty much did whatever the president [of USF] wants. My analogy is it’s kind of like being the queen mother. It’s a title with no work other than what’s assigned by the president. So what he asked me to do was to work with trustees to develop a program that would educate trustees in the Jesuit Catholic tradition. Which I did. I put together a program for them and ran that. And then […] we went through this process which culminates in our being verified as a Jesuit Catholic institution. It’s a process that runs through the Jesuit system and it requires that the university or the institution prepare a report specifically with regard to its Jesuit Catholic character. And then three outside reviewers who have experience in Jesuit education come in. They review the report and they say “yes, this is accurate.” Then a letter goes to the provincial. From the provincial it goes to the general in Rome. The general in Rome reviews these materials by the university. Reviews the report of the visitors, the letter from the provincial and then writes back and says “I’m happy to certify you as a Jesuit Catholic institution.” And then I showed up at some events [President Fitzgerald] wasn’t able to make. Just to have somebody from university there. So those were the two big ticket items. But in addition to that I also had the position as assistant to the provincial for higher education. That’s five universities and four social ministries. So that includes work with immigrants on the border in Nogales [Arizona]. With gang kids in Los Angeles. [And] with prison ministry in Seattle and LA.
GG: What made you choose to step down as chancellor?
SP: Well, it was mutually agreed [between] myself and the president. We thought this would be a good time.
GG: What are you most proud of would you say?
SP: I think the fact that we got certified as a Catholic institution is significant. But […] you know, these jobs are always the result of lots of folks. So I just kinda orchestrated the thing. But I think that’s an accomplishment that benefits the university. And also you know the trustees the more they know about the Jesuit Catholic tradition of the institution, the better prepared they are to advance that tradition and to ensure that that tradition stays vibrant and alive at the university.
Featured Photo: Father Privett recently stepped down from his two-year tenure as Chancellor of USF. Gabriel Greschler/FOGHORN